For the previous articles in this series please click on the links below.
Chapter one: Transgender: Hell bound or Holy?
Chapter two: Gender Optional?
North Carolina. Those are two of the most incendiary words in the english language right now to transgender people. Who knew the newest and most earth shaking front in the culture wars would be the same place we go “number 1 or number 2”. Are you as bewildered by this whole thing as I am? I did a little digging and what I found might surprise you.
For starters public facilities haven’t always been separated by gender, that’s actually a relatively recent change. In ancient Rome most of the public restrooms were best described as long benches with open holes and no barriers between them. You could literally be sitting arm to arm with another person while you’re trying to work out your business. There is some evidence that the wealthy aristocracy was able to provide separate, semi-private facilities for guests at private events, but you’d have to be a member of the aristocracy to be invited to one of those. By the way, it’s worth saying that the public facilities were really intended to be only for males. It’s no secret that until very recently if you were a woman you didn’t really leave the house unescorted except to do the shopping, you certainly did not to work!
Beginning in the Victorian era the proliferation of sex-specific restrooms followed the proliferation of opportunities for women to contribute to society outside the home. While almost anyone who has presented this information up to the moment you’re reading this has presented it as a case for bathroom labeling being a gender-oppressive, politically relevant, civil rights consideration I think open minded readers will see it for what it most logically actually is, facilities created for the expression of a biological necessity engineered to separate its users based on the most relevant biological difference. In other words, Males and Females use different parts to go pee pee so we made different facilities for them to do that in. It’s obvious that there are no mammoth engineering differences between the fixtures in the Men’s and Women’s restrooms, but the fact remains that when women began entering the workforce in significant numbers a demand for separate restrooms manifested because it was well understood that biological sex and gender were not separate concepts.
This is why, even if it’s a purely internal exercise, we ought to be asking some questions. Why have public restrooms at all? Perhaps we need to create and accept a reality where workplace restrooms are privatized and companies use their own judgement as to regulation and we only go at home or work. On the other side, if privacy could reasonably be insured within the public restroom is there any reason gender neutral facilities couldn’t be accepted? Can we admit to ourselves and our peers that there exists in our hearts some degree of bigotry around this issue? Maybe it’s just the background dislike of that which we do not understand, or maybe we’ve come to think of certain classes of people as reprobate (unable to receive salvation from their sins, predestined for hell). The most important question we should be asking is, is this little more than a distraction from the real issues? I think in many ways it is and here’s why: I’ve been trying to make the point across this long series of articles that I think we’ve rushed to meet a foe on the battlefield without knowing for what or why we’re fighting. We haven’t thought deeply and thoroughly about the issues.
Locker rooms and shower facilities are an altogether different topic of discussion in this debate. I’m sure, if it came to it, that most of us could get used to gender neutral public restrooms where no one is ever completely disrobed in the presence of others, but these other facilities serve precisely that purpose. When unavoidable nakedness comes into play a more pronounced moral dimension comes with it. I can not recall ever being subjected to seeing another man’s private parts in a public restroom. Despite the fact that you may be very close in proximity to another person efforts are made to avoid seeing and being seen in those situations and I anticipate the same would be true of gender neutral restrooms were they to become the norm. In locker room and shower facilities, however, being unclothed in the presence of others is the norm. The moral dimension for Christians is not ambiguous. “Anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:28, NIV) The revolutionaries, however, will not allow the issues to be separated within the debate, and it’s understandable why from their perspective, the transgender person’s feelings must be regarded above all others and their rights have been violated. Nevermind that maintaining the link between the two separate issues highlights the inherent falsehood within their sex/ gender dichotomy paradigm.
I’d imagine that you’ve likely been screaming inside your head about the safety of our women and girls for most, if not all of the time you’ve been reading this article up to now. I hear you. The questions I asked myself from the very beginning of my thought on the transgender issue were, “are there potential dangers in mixing genders in restrooms and locker rooms beyond mere discomfort?”, and “Is the threat of predatory violence credible and demonstrable?” The argument is that opening these facilities up to all gender identities and limiting questioning of people’s motives provides greater opportunities for people who would prey on women and children anyway to have greater and easier access to them. As Christians a central doctrine of our faith is that people have a sin nature from birth. The evidence seems overwhelming that some are bent toward more heinous sins than others, and so it is no real surprise that there exist in our world people who take pleasure in harming others and actively look for the easiest ways to do so. Before we get too trigger happy about the opportunity transgender bathroom access might afford these predators let’s acknowledge that they’re notoriously disrespectful of laws in general and they find ways (maybe thousands of times a year) to get access to women and children in these facilities anyway. In this way the evidence doesn’t necessarily lend itself against opening access to restrooms on the basis of gender identification, but restricting the ability of responsible parties to ask common sense questions about the motives of suspicious individuals does create an atmosphere where predators can have free reign.
Two stories that have been featured prominently as evidence of the danger created by desegregating restrooms are from November 17, 2015 and April 1, 2016 concerning men who dressed as women to access a women’s room to secretly film women and/ or girls. It goes without saying that these men committed these acts in areas where bathroom access is still very much segregated, and as soon as they were discovered they were arrested and charged, not with being in a restroom of the opposite gender from the one they were assigned at birth, but for committing acts that breached the privacy which those facilities were intended and designed to provide. In other words, the men were charged with sexual crimes just as they would have been if they had sought to surreptitiously film these same women in their homes in similar states of undress. Opening access to these restrooms to transgender individuals would change nothing of the circumstances of these stories except the need for a disguise, and would change nothing about police response to the crimes committed. The incident that was reported from Washington state in February of this year of a man going into a locker room designated for women and undressing is quite a different matter. When asked by the staff to leave the man retorted that the law was on his side and reportedly returned later the same day to repeat the performance. Police were not called and no arrests were made because, ofcourse, the man was correct in asserting that the law was on his side. In late 2015 the Washington Human Rights Commision passed regulations guaranteeing the right of individuals to use the facility that matches their gender identification. Reports say the man never indicated his particular gender identification.
What do we learn from this man’s actions? That the natural reaction to having someone biologically of the opposite sex openly disrobing is not just uncomfortable but fear inducing. And that access was granted without any barriers including having to state an actual gender identity. Perhaps this is an indication that there is something to the questions of safety concerning these laws? So the final question is do we need to just get over it and give in? Largely yes. Or at least we need to stop huffing and puffing and stuttering our disagreement. This is an issue that calls for clear headed christian men and women to speak less and act more. If a person is trans and committed to their new identity, in many cases you will not know without close inspection if even then. If it’s obvious that a predatory situation is taking place, speak up! Scream and shout! Who cares what a law or regulation says if a person is legitimately in eminent danger? Be willing to suffer the consequences of speaking up if you do, and do not waver. Otherwise, call, write to, and visit your representatives at all levels of government. Make it difficult to be ignored, but understand that this issue is being used as an anchor point to drag the rest of the culture toward a different way of thinking about gender and sex. Above all, educate and equip yourself before you go try to take action.