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Feb 08 2012

Conservatives In Baltimore Up In Arms Against Trans Rights Law

I am a bloody idiot.

I spent all day lying around in bed watching Sherlock and eating junk food. It’s now quarter past midnight and I have absolutely nothing scheduled to go up in the morning. I am now going to attempt to crank out three posts before my brain shuts down from sleepy.

-sigh-

First we have this awful business coming out of Baltimore. A new law is being proposed in Baltimore County that would outlaw discrimination in the workplace, housing and public spaces on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. Effectively, it’s a “bathroom bill”, the kind of legislation designed to allow trans people to access basic services, rights, opportunities and necessities without our lives being needlessly complicated by the irrational fears of others. It protects us from the instiutionalized discrimination we typically face on a daily or near-daily basis, such as the inability to rent apartments, land a job or go pee in a safe, non-humiliating space.

The Christian Right, exemplars of reason and compassion that they are, are naturally fighting this legislation with everything they’ve got. How dare the liberal elite discriminate against them and strip them of their basic human right to discriminate against other people!

They certainly have some extremely well-reasoned, logical, emotionally measured arguments on their side:

“I have not had good sleep in the past few weeks because of this bill,” said Tina Siegert, a Catonsville resident. “The thought of a man being in a [women's] restroom just unnerves me.”

Oh my my my. Terribly sorry our existence unnerves you, Tina. We’ll just go back to quietly being oppressed and murdered and stuff so you don’t have to be bothered.

All the usual tropes are being pulled out: kids being taught how to lube up a cock before anal sex, and to remember to ease into things slowly at first! Evil “perverts” putting on lipstick, declaring themselves transgender, then holing up in a women’s restroom to record the sound of YOUR DAUGHTER peeing! The moral fabric of America will completely fall apart if we don’t rigidly impose our gender binaries in every single possible instance, and make life as difficult as conceivably possible for queer and trans people!

All of these arguments have exactly the same abundance of compelling evidence as usual. Which is to say none at all.

But sadly this ridiculous reaction and the surrounding debate, which has a very real chance of crushing this legislation, is getting incredibly little media attention. Instead, the Bible-thumping gender police are being permitted to control the discourse in the spaces that will side with them, and keep the conversation from happening at all in the spaces that may not.

Or rather: it’s receiving similar attention and well-researched, compelling journalistic coverage as did the recent rash of transphobic violence in the Maryland / D.C area. Which is to say none at all.

Readers who live in Baltimore or Maryland, please contact the city council, the county legislature, your representative in congress, or whoever you can think of, and make sure that the only views being heard here aren’t those of the “unnerved” cissexist majority. Please let them know that the fears being played up by the opponents of this law are completely groundless, and there has never been any credible evidence to suggest there is any meaningful risk associated with passing such laws. Other than the risk that trans people may be treated as equal citizens, deserving of equal rights and equal protections, anyway.

Cheers.

 

29 comments

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  1. 1
    James K

    Fear truly is the mind-killer.

    Incidentally, I may not have been to Baltimore but if The Wire is even half-way accurate I would have thought they’d have bigger issues to deal with.

  2. 2
    Anders

    How much of a problem is bathrooms anyway? Someone on another forum said the debate was ‘overblown’ but I’ve heard horror stories. And I can imagine it causing difficulties… neither ‘a guy on a forum’, ‘horror stories’ nor ‘my imagination’ are exactly reliable sources, however.

    1. 2.1
      Anna

      Bathroom rights are kind of a key right for trans people. I will give you the trans woman perspective since thats my perspective. I live 24/7 as a woman. When I am in public I will occasionaly need to use public washrooms. Where I live (Ontario) there are not an abudance of family/single stall washrooms so usually my only choices are gendered washrooms.

      Using the mens room dressed as a woman puts me at serious risk of violence. It also automatically outs me as trans every time I need to use the washroom. Using the womans room puts me at risk of being read as “male” and having secuirty called or being abused also. However the risk of abuse being dangerous for me in the womans restroom is much lower.

      I would also like to note that a. I am required to live full time as a woman including using womans facilities to qualify for SRS b. I am a woman in spite of what anyone else thinks and i have the right to use my appropriate washroom.

      Im fortunate that where I live laws provide for me to use the restroom of the gender which I present as. Most places in the US and some in Canada are not so lucky. Many trans people develope bladder related health issues from trying not to use restrooms at all because of fears for safety, physically, mentally and legally.

      Bathrooms are anything but a non-issue. Many of the violent attacks on trans people have bathrooms as the root cause. It’s a matter of dignity, respect, health and safety.

      1. Goodbye Enemy Janine

        When a friend of mine transitioned, the corporation that she worked for was not going to fire her. (This was in the early nineties.) In fact, in a lot of ways, the corporation was helpful to her. But they built a separate bathroom just for her use.

        For some reason, I never asked her how this made her feel.

        1. Miri

          It would make me feel pretty horrible. Like I’m a kind of thing, neither male nor female, but something they want to segregate from the rest of the company. I’m a woman, I want to use the women’s bathroom. It is no more or less complex than that. Any “alternative”, no matter how aimed at ensuring my safety, in offensive and ungendering, and makes me the problem to be fixed, rather than the reasons underlying why something so simple as using the bathroom is fraught with danger.

    2. 2.2
      Pteryxx

      A few examples out of my stash:

      Victim of McDonald’s beating speaks out

      A transgender woman beaten at a Baltimore County McDonald’s spoke out on Saturday, saying that the attack was “definitely a hate crime” and that she’s been afraid to go out in public ever since.

      “They said, ‘That’s a dude, that’s a dude and she’s in the female bathroom,’ ” said Chrissy Lee Polis, 22, who said she stopped at the Rosedale restaurant to use the restroom. “They spit in my face.”

      Frakking Bathrooms

      Even in cases where there is no reason to segregate our bathrooms, we do so. It is simply something that is done, because that’s what a public restroom is like. We can’t seem to imagine a society where going to the bathroom isn’t gender segregated. Instead it is where one must decide male or female and where one is encouraged to sort others by male or female to decide whether they “belong” there or not.

      This makes bathrooms fraught, alienating, and deeply troubling. Instead of being able to crap and leave, one if transgendered must make complicated calculations of passing and face internalized demons of gender presentation and acceptance. Others are encouraged to enforce the place unthinking and more importantly carry that thinking into all public spaces. Male and female must be seen as different and distinct in public spaces, because that’s how the very public spaces are built. If we don’t know where you belong, where will you crap? Where will you change? Where will you go?

      1. Anders

        Very troubling. Are there other danger areas you would encounter during a night at the local club?

        1. Miri

          Where I live, going to the club, or a pub, or any other drinking establishment is kind of risky, for anyone. There is a increasingly violent drinking culture here, where people will attack other people just fun. In this kind of environment, being visibly trans would be almost like asking for violence, since in any given establishment, there is a good probability there would be a few people who would jump at the chance to beat down a trans woman. And it’s unlikely they would be stopped to quickly. The looks I’ve been given, entering these places with my friend, by the bouncers, presenting male, even pre-HRT, have made it quite clear that if anything happens, and my friend isn’t around, I’m pretty fucked…

  3. 3
    StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

    @ ^ Anders : “How much of a problem is bathrooms anyway?”

    Depends if you’re Michelle Bachman or not! ;-)

    A normal, decent human being person – not an issue.

    A transphobia homophobic sack of santorum – yeah, then you’ve got issues – the worst of which is NOT being in the same bathroom as a trans-human.

  4. 4
    Anders

    Ok, that gave a new perspective on something I always took for granted. And in order to qualify for a vital treatment you have to expose yourself to grave danger? Yeah, I’m getting mad now.

  5. 5
    Anders

    *Muppets enter the room*

    *One of them sneaks up to the bed and another one, at the back, whispers*

    “Is she asleep?”

    *The muppet by the bed looks at her, waves his paw in front of her eyes, then nods*

    *The muppet by the bed tucks her in, smiles and says*

    “Sleep, little one. Rest from your wearies and your strife. And dream about the day Dr. Whoof came to Ponyville.”

  6. 6
    TV200

    Reading the bill, it seems like a good one. It seems to be expanding the current definitions of discrimination by adding sexual preference and gender identity. The whackaloons are trying to prevent it from passing. Unfortunately, Baltimore City and Baltimore County are separate entities, so as a city resident, I am not a constituent in any real sense of the word, but that didn’t stop me from emailing every member to encourage them to pass the bill. I hope it helps.

  7. 7
    peicurmudgeon

    There were a couple of places I worked where the bathrooms were unisex (ala Alley McBeal). Everyone went into a stall and exposed their genitalia only to themselves. Interactions with others were limited to standing at the sink washing your hands. Nobody complained.

    Not everywhere is like that, and I have been criticized for using a single toilet washroom with a lock on the door that was labelled “women”. I was alone, the door was locked. Who fucking cares.

    1. 7.1
      Miri

      You were defiling a sacred womyn’s space with your evil man-cooties. Obviously… :D

  8. 8
    carolw

    I remember the story of that poor woman who got beaten for using the women’s room at the McDonald’s. How terrible.
    More people should mind their own business. I never pay that much attention to anyone in a public bathroom or fitting room with me, and the last thing I would think is, “is she really a woman?” But then, I’m not a paranoid busybody fundie. Live and let live. But I guess that’s too hard when the Wholly Babble says to be all up in thy neighbor’s shit.

    1. 8.1
      Anders

      I think that one got attention because there was a guy filming it, not (I think) because the assault was particularly violent. Am I right, oh ye who actually know anything about this?

      A sad thing is that when I tell my friends that I’m interested in trans activism the first thing they’ll think is that I’m a trans woman. I’m not, I’m cisgendered. But should one really have to be a trans person to be interested in stopping violence against innocent citizens? Maybe that’s the attitude we need to change.

      1. Natalie Reed

        Absolutely. The sad truth is that we just don’t have numbers or power on our own. We’re completely dependent on allies.

        1. Anders

          That’s where the Sekrit Project comes in.

      2. Miri

        This is a huge part of the problem. There is a stigma attached to even simply wanting to know about trans issues. If people are discouraged from even knowing about our issues, how can anyone be expected to help…

  9. 9
    beardofpants

    *sigh* Just think, not that long ago, we were peeing & crapping in holes in the ground. No signs to indicate which hole to use based on gender. What did the ninnies think we did then? Oh wait… the earth was created 6,000 years ago, and magically came equipped with porcelain potties that were clearly labelled “for a man” and “for a woman”, respectively. ::eyeroll::

    1. 9.1
      Anders

      It makes me wonder when we started labeling bathrooms. Does anypony have an idea? My guess is that it was a bragging exercise in the beginning – space was expensive and having two sets of bathrooms must have been a luxury.

      It’s so ingrained in me I can’t even remember whether the places I go to typically have M/F bathrooms or unisex. Although there was an article about it in the local newspaper some years ago… the local LGBTA pushing for unisex bathrooms everywhere I think.

      Y’all can come to me and pee, cause my bathroom is definitely unisex.

      1. Arctic Ape

        Upper-class urban people’s lives were heavily gender-segregated as soon as first cities arose several thousand years ago. Common people were less prudish and some early public bathrooms were indeed (I think) unisex. There weren’t stalls either, btw.

        I’d guess bathroom segregation was initially a measure to avoid building so many separate and well-enclosed stalls. Later, when people became more iffy about their privacy, we had to start building those stalls anyway.

        Then there’s of course the possibility of rape and harassment whenever a strange man and woman happen to be alone in any enclosed space. Rape has always been a problem and the traditional solution was to segregate women from men as much as possible. Naturally it wasn’t very practical or indeed possible for other than upperclasswomen.

  10. 10
    StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

    BTW.

    I am a bloody idiot.

    No, you’re not. I don’t think so anyhow.

    {{Hugs}} if you want them.

    (I’ve been known to procrastinate and not do the stuff I’m supposed to be doing at the time on occassions too – I am going to give up procrastinating though – tomorrow!)

  11. 11
    Tualha

    A very dear friend of mine does live in Maryland, though not in Baltimore, and I’d like to ask her to drop them a line, but I actually don’t know why the Baltimore County Council would consider the opinions of people who neither live nor work in Baltimore. Help?

  12. 12
    Pteryxx

    @Tualha: I just called the Baltimore County Council, even though I’m in Dallas, and they were very nice. (I did say I’m looking at moving to the area, which is true.)

    The measure will be discussed on Feb 14, goes for a vote on Feb 21 and it’s on their page here, bill 3-12 Human Relations:

    http://www.baltimorecountymd.gov/countycouncil/legislation/pending%20legislation.html

    Their contact page has local phone and fax, email, and a direct comment form:

    http://www.baltimorecountymd.gov/needtocontact/countycouncil

    Call/write, say you’re supporting bill 3-12 and the conservatives are fear-mongering with no evidence.

    1. 12.1
      Tualha

      Hmm, come to think of it, I’m at a bit of an advantage there, because we went through a similar debate where I live, so I can point that out to them. Thanks.

  13. 13
    Pteryxx

    (bumping topic) The vote on this bill is tomorrow at 6 pm, everyone who’s willing to call or write regardless of genitalia. *ahem*

  14. 14
    Pteryxx

    GOOD NEWS EVERYONE

    Baltimore County approves transgender protection bill

    The vote followed a series of heated public meetings that started last month, when Catonsville Democrat Tom Quirk introduced the legislation. The bill will add both gender identity and sexual orientation to the county’s existing anti-discrimination laws, which protect people in the workplace, housing, finance and public accommodations.

    “Everyone deserves to be treated fairly,” Quirk said before he and is colleagues voted. “This bill is a human rights bill, and I’m proud of Baltimore County tonight.”

    The council’s approval comes nearly a year after the high-profile attack on Chrissy Lee Polis, a transgender woman who was viciously beaten last April when she tried to use the restroom at a Rosedale McDonald’s.

    The vote was 5-2 along party lines. The council also declined to add a provision specifically allowing public bathrooms, locker rooms and such to remain discrimination zones.

    See also, this article on the meetings leading up to the vote, and links in sidebar therein: Further reading

    scuse me, something’s in my eye. *snif*

  15. 15
    Chrissetti

    I’m genuinely baffled that there are such issues with bathroom use. In Britain it’s not uncommon at all to find women (cis or otherwise) using the men’s bathroom or (much more rarely) men using the women’s bathrooms. I admit there’s usually a moment of awkwardness but not much more than trying to pass somebody in the street and both parties trying to let the other pass.

    Perhaps I just frequent incredibly tolerant venues and there’s a huge problem I’m ignorant of, though.

  1. 16
    Lazy Sunday: Can We Start Again? | Sincerely, Natalie Reed

    [...] an optimistic note, despite the conservative backlash, Baltimore have successfully passed their expanded trans rights [...]

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