Bathrooms as the frontier in equal rights

Janson Wu is a staff lawyer with GLAD (Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders) who last year won the David Carliner Public Interest Award given by the American Constitution Society for his work for equality. He played a key role in persuading the New Hampshire legislature to pass marriage equality legislation in 2010 and more recently worked with a 12-year old trangender girl named Nicole Maines in beating back an attempt to create an exemption to Maine’s anti-discrimination laws that, if passed, would require trangender people to use the bathroom that matched their sex at birth.

In a profile of him in the February 2013 issue of The Progressive (not available online), Wu wryly quotes Kate Clinton’s joke that “You know you’ve arrived as a movement when they go after you about bathrooms”. The article goes on,

He points out the “sad truth” in the joke, that black civil rights leaders had to fight to desegregate restrooms, feminists had to argue in the courts about the lack of women’s facilities in the workplace being an insufficient reason not to hire women, and disability rights activists who had to lobby for accessibility in restrooms.

In some ways this is not surprising. Using bathrooms, eating at lunch counters, drinking at water fountains are everyday basic needs that any person can identify with and feel empathy with those who are denied them. Fighting for equal access for such things is more likely to be successful than fighting for equal rights in gaining access to (say) corporate boardrooms or executive positions.


  1. says

    Because, of course, as with homosexuality where they tend to only ever think about gay men (which makes their arguments based on rates of STI transmission particularly hilarious because if orientation was a choice, that would be an argument in favour of lesbianism), they also tend to only think of trans women when it comes to transgender rights arguments. I wonder how long that requirement would last when it would force trans men to use the women’s washroom.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *