It’s a surprisingly fraught issue, and it may get worse. The South Dakota legislature wants to pass House Bill 1008. The Republicans there seem to be obsessed with who is using the bathroom.
FOR AN ACT ENTITLED, An Act to restrict access to certain restrooms and locker rooms in public schools.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF SOUTH DAKOTA:
Section 1. That chapter 13-24 be amended by adding a NEW SECTION to read:
The term, biological sex, as used in this Act, means the physical condition of being male or female as determined by a person’s chromosomes and identified at birth by a person’s anatomy.
Section 2. That the code be amended by adding a NEW SECTION to read:
Every restroom, locker room, and shower room located in a public elementary or secondary school that is designated for student use and is accessible by multiple students at the same time shall be designated for and used only by students of the same biological sex. In addition, any public school student participating in a school sponsored activity off school premises which includes being in a state of undress in the presence of other students shall use those rooms designated for and used only by students of the same biological sex.
I foresee some problems with the implementation, however. First is this definition of “biological sex”, defined by genitalia and chromosomes. Do the legislators even realize that those two criteria can conflict with each other? There are people with two X chromosomes and a penis, either by genetic accident or surgical modification; there are also people with XY chromosomes and a vagina, by similar causes. What will South Dakotans do in those cases?
Oooh, ooh, I know! Since those are really rare cases, screw ’em. The law is all about serving the majority and punishing the minorities. You will conform. It’s up to those people to get surgery to align their genitals with their chromosomes, right?
Well, how about a more common situation? A “biologically female” person by both criteria is psychologically male, has been getting testosterone shots, comes to school in stereotypically masculine clothes, is beginning to grow that wispy high school beard, and is cultivating a macho strut. They need to use the bathroom. Where does the homophobic/transphobic school administrator send them?
Likewise with the “biologically male” student who comes to school in a dress, with face prettily made up, and breasts budding thanks to their estrogen injections. Do they get commanded to enter the boy’s restroom, and face the mob of teenagers who’ve learned about sexuality from watching cheesy R rated movies on cable?
Again, those trans men and women are a minority, so you could just argue that the law doesn’t give a damn about them anyway — this is all about making them suffer. But twist it around a bit and think of all those cis boys and girls who are going to be exposed to gender fluid individuals! Why, they might get warped into being more accepting and tolerant, or possibly even having confused sexual feelings stirred up! All that sexual ignorance Republican policies try to instill in young people might be compromised.
But let’s keep everything focused on those important cis boys and girls. How is this policy going to be enforced? Will there be genital inspections? Mandatory karyotyping of all students? How does this make any sense?
I went through high school myself, and no, teachers and administrators didn’t get to take a peek in my pants. The one exception was our terrible awful physical education teacher, who would stroll through the shower room making rude comments about student penises. But he was a macho manly man and all-around asshole, so I guess that made him “safe”. Otherwise, though, we’re able to use the restroom without concern that our genitals will be scrutinized and evaluated, and that’s the way it should be — except when blue-nosed twits start having these weird moral panics, and then suddenly it becomes all important to have Official Crotch Inspectors.
I have some general suggestions for these bathroom problems. They involve plumbing changes, which is hard enough, and social engineering, which is even harder. The whole problem rests on these arbitrary requirements to segregate bodily functions by gender, which doesn’t even correlate all that well.
My first idea was that instead of having two rooms labeled Gentlemen and Ladies, we have two rooms labeled Stand Up and Sit Down. You have to excrete in a way that you can do standing up, then there’s a room with urinals or a trough. Quick and easy. You need to sit down? There’s another room with stalls and toilets. Only problem with that is that it favors men, who have one excretory act that’s easy to do standing up, so they get most of the benefit of the Stand Up room (I know, there are ways for women to do that, too). So it’s a little unfair.
My second idea, though, is two rooms, one labeled Open and the other labeled Private. The Open room has a trough for peeing and a long bench with holes for sitting. No stalls. No restrictions. This one would be quick and easy for either sex to dart in and get the necessaries done, but it would be more public. Lest you think that is terrible, it’s the way men’s room urinals are laid out now, and it’s never been a worry that some guy will stare at you. There’s a convention of avoidance.
The Private room would be nothing but stalls with doors and toilets. Pee-shy gentlemen could use it, as well as modest women. I can guarantee that there are plenty of men who would prefer that to the Open room for all functions — even now, when you go into a men’s public restroom, there are men who’d rather not use the urinals and will wait for a toilet stall.
These are difficult solutions requiring a lot of social and architectural changes, but they’d be good for us. Right now there is a bizarre association between sexual behavior and peeing/pooping — which might be a fetish for some few, but for most of us, really isn’t there, except for this unnecessary cultural taboo.
And, actually, my suggested changes are less problematic than the South Dakota solution, which requires even greater invasion of privacy and rather obsessive fiddling over the contents of young people’s pants. But then there’s a fetish for that, too. Maybe it’s something too many Republican legislators in South Dakota share?
Of course, there’s an even simpler solution to all of this. Just make all bathrooms unisex. Change a few signs, and voila, conflicts resolved.