Friday, May 20, 2016

Tempest in a Pee Pot?

Public bathrooms have been in the news a lot lately, and the issues being discussed are not likely to dissipate soon.
One question is why they are called bathrooms in the first place. Quite clearly the issue being discussed is not places where people take baths. But for some reason people seem to think that the word “toilet” is maybe a little uncouth, so some better-sounding word is used.
Last month on our ANA flight to Japan, the “bathrooms” were called lavatories in English and “keshōshistu” (literally “makeup rooms”) in Japanese—and, of course, there were no separate facilities for men and women.
In addition to being called “loos” in Great Britain, a toilet there is often referred to as a “water closet.” It is also common in Japan, and other Asian countries, to see a public toilet identified simply as a W.C.
The issue now in the U.S., of course, is not what the public restrooms are called but who can use what facilities. The “bathroom bill” that recently became law in North Carolina has stirred a nationwide debate, and it looks as if the dispute is far from over.
Having just been in Japan for three weeks, however, the bathroom hullabaloo in the U.S. seems to be a “tempest in a teapot”—or maybe we should say “a pee pot.”
Through the years the use of public restrooms in Japan has not been universally separated according to gender, although there are generally completely separate facilities now. Before we first went to Japan 50 years ago, though, some American who had lived there “warned” us about the “co-ed” public toilets—and sure enough, from time to time there would be men and women using the same W.C.
However, I never heard of “inclusive” public toilets causing harm to anyone.
During our time in Japan earlier this month, June and I had the opportunity to meet a young trans man whom we had known many years ago as a girl. He now looks very much like a man—and seems much happier than when he was a young “male trapped in a female body.”
If our young trans friend were to go to North Carolina, however, legally he would have to use public toilets labeled “Women.” The women he would see there, however, would no doubt be greatly discomforted to meet someone like him, who looks fully like a man, in their facility. 
Those with little understanding of, or sympathy for, transgender persons tend to deal with the issue in a simplistic manner. For example, this week I heard talk-radio host Mark Levin pontificating about the bathroom issue, which he said shouldn’t be an issue at all.

Who uses what bathroom, Levin said, should be determined solely by what is between people’s legs, not by what is between their ears.

Recently I have seen some good and important things written by Russell Moore, the head of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty. Last week, however, he wrote an opinion piece (see here) in which he intimated that the bathroom question is settled by not violating the Bible’s words as found in Genesis 1:27.

Both Levin’s and Moore’s arguments for traditional bathroom bifurcation are not only simplistic, they also disrespectful of and insensitive to the needs of trans men and women. 

Gender identity, including how people think, look, and act, is determined by more than genitalia.
Rather than creating a tempest in a pee pot, we should acknowledge the existence of transgender people and respect their need to use public restrooms that match their identity.


  1. And welcome home. We're glad you're back.

  2. The problems with postmodernism, the suer system, religion, and politics. How does one define "is" - facts or feelings.
    I have encountered the system 3 times this week, plus countless over a lifetime. It is ugly. Some folks are just out to intentionally cause trouble and burn bridges.

    There could be common sense approaches to dilemmas. I could illustrate some for this instance. But if personal gain is involved... avoid the trouble makers. I have encountered and observed it way to often. Avoid people and organizations who seek to cause trouble - but they come looking for it. Support those who stand in the gap to shut them down. Life has enough problems without people intentionally causing more.

    Of course common sense cannot prevail, because too much is at stake.

    1. Anonymous, I don't know who you have in mind as the trouble makers, but it seems to me that the lawmakers in North Carolina, and those who nosily support HB2, are the trouble makers in this case.

      Supporters call it a "common sense bill," and it may be "common sense" for most people--but not for trans men and women.

      We need legislation, and common sense, that protects and values all people, including those of small minority groups such as trans people.

  3. I much appreciate the comments of Thinking Friend Glenn Hinson:

    "Well said, Leroy. This is one of the most helpful articles I have read on this issue. Your international perspective is very helpful."

  4. I was happy to receive the following email, and then permission to post it here, from local Thinking Friend Gayle June:

    "'Tempest in a pee pot.' Hilarious, Leroy! I totally agree with you on this. It seems to me that many people lump gay or trans life with pedophilia, which is not the case at all.

    "I've met many trans folk and found them to be very loving and kind. But they are scared. They live in constant fear of being beat up, even killed, for expressing their felt gender.

    "As boys, we were all conditioned from childhood to disdain any feminine impulse, sometimes to the point of being beaten."

    "I feel each human being has both masculine and feminine qualities regardless of biology, and we need the freedom to explore wherever our God-given talent and gifts lead us.

    "Thank you for your article. You constantly surprise me given the many Southern Baptists I know!"

  5. There always has to be some issue to motivate the "hot button" people to show up when it is time to vote. Making bathrooms the issue this year helps people forget the issues from the past such as "don't ask don't tell" and "same sex marriage."

    1. Yes, the Religious Right is always stirring up something to get people to vote for Republican candidates. I expect to hear the bathroom issue mentioned often at the Faith & Freedom Coalition's "Road to Majority" conference I will be attending some of next month in D.C.

  6. Long, long ago, in a high school far, far away, I had a young German teacher who spent her summer in Germany. When she came back the next fall, she told us the story of a trip to a public (gender integrated) German restroom. As she did her business, she thought she was talking with the woman she was traveling with, but upon exiting the stall discovered she had been talking with an unknown man. Which she found hilarious! Why are the people who talk so loudly about "the land of the free, and the home of the brave" so afraid of catching cooties? Will Americans ever grow up? The safety of transgender and intersex people is far more important than the imaginary fears of conservatives.

    As for basic overall safety, anyone who has ever watched a horror movie, or the news, knows that sometimes terrible things happen. Banning "men" from the women's restroom will do nothing to stop the occasional monster. What it would do is, if enforced, is force transexual men, who were by definition born women, to march into the women's restroom. That makes about as much sense as creating "safety" by allowing open carry guns in a family restaurant. Oh, wait, they are advocating that, too! How can you stop cooties without a gun?

  7. I just read an article related to the underlying issues. See link:

  8. Craig, thanks for your comments and for the link to an article I found quite interesting. I also appreciate you emphasizing the main point: "The safety of transgender and intersex people is far more important than the imaginary fears of conservatives."

    It is a matter for grave concern that the author of the Slate article concluded that the Oklahoma "lawmakers are conceding what so many anti-trans activists strive to keep secret: All this anger, all this loathing, all this cowardice, this pseudoscientific argle-bargle--it’s about religion and very little else."