Tuesday, April 12, 2016

More on the Toilet Thing

I was just going to let yesterday's post rest, and talk instead about the sparkly ball gown I bought to wear to the Newbery Awards dinner. Then I saw another person's comment online, "This [North Carolina] law is about bathrooms the way racial segregation was about water fountains," and I agreed with it so completely that hell, here I go again.

People behaving inappropriately in public facilities should face legal consequences. No doubt at all about that. I'm quite comfortable with separate male and female bathroom facilities. Always have been.

Here's the problem: the North Carolina law states that people must use the public facility that conforms with their biological birth gender. That's not only whack, it requires some people to either break the law or publicly disclose information that is quite frankly nobody's business.

I just finished reading a book by a fellow Smith alumna: Becoming Nicole: the Transformation of an American Family. It's nonfiction, the story of a middle-class couple from Maine who adopted identical  twin boys (born to an extended family member who was unable to raise them). One of the boys self-identified as a girl starting at age 2, strongly, clearly, and consistently. His twin referred to him as his sister, from an equally early age.

The parents, who had no other children, struggled with this, as I imagine most of us would. They put their child into therapy early; they educated themselves and they loved their children. In the end they allowed their child to change her name to a girl's name and present herself to the world as a girl. Nicole started puberty-suppressing drugs at an appropriate time, and, when she was old enough, had sex reassignment surgery. She's in college now. If you looked at her naked, you'd see a female.

For this family, the bathroom issue came up early. They moved to a new city when the twins were about to start high school. They discussed Nicole's gender identity with the new school's administration but Nicole did not want to be public about it--all she wanted to do was go to high school. What bathroom should she use? No worries that she'd be displaying her genitals--her genitals were something she very much wanted to disguise. Should she use the boys' bathroom at her new high school?

Should she use the men's restroom for the rest of her life?

Most doctors require transgender people to live for at least a year as the gender they're transitioning to before they undergo any type of surgery. Should they carry little cards with them: "I look like a man, I talk like a man, I'm becoming a man, but for now, and also forever, I'm using the ladies' room. It's okay, I promise."?

What do we do with babies born with the genotype XXY? Or the ones born with ambiguous genitalia, who are randomly assigned a best-guess gender at birth?

The current estimates are that 0.3 to 0.5% of the population in the United States is transgender. That's not a lot--but it's 3 or 4 people in my daughter's public high school. It's about 120 people in my smallish home town. These are real people with real histories, and they deserve to be treated with humanity, not discrimination.

Think you don't know anyone who's transgender? You're probably wrong. Thing is, it's really not any of your business.