Okay, I’m about to get on a writing roll over the next couple of days or so, for I have quite a few links and thoughts I’m really eager to share. I’ll start with this old picture, which relates nicely, I think, to a distressing development from here in Wisconsin. Here’s the pic:
That’s me in June of last year, posing alongside the *ahem* euphemism. Oh, okay, I’ll use the actual terminology: It’s a portable restroom. Last year, there was quite a bit of utility and paving work being done in my neighborhood. Of course, roads can’t repave themselves, nor can electric cables put themselves underground, so manned crews were out to do all the work. And when the men on the crews (and the crews were mostly made up of men, though most of them were cute) had to *ahem* do their business, they just couldn’t knock on someone’s door and ask, “hey, do you mind if we use your bathroom?” So, the above portable restroom was set up on a spot in the work area.
But you notice a little something there? Oh, it’s so obvious; I mean, I’m pointing at it. It’s the universally recognized icon for “women’s restroom.” This was the only portajohn in the work area, but it had a feminine icon. So what, you ask? Well, exactly! Men are men, but more pertinent to the situation, they’re also human beings. And when human beings, uh, *ahem* gotta do what they gotta do, they do it in a… you know. So, the crews (men and women) paid no mind to the icon on the side and did their business — making it a true gender neutral restroom.
This portajohn had already been set up for a week or so when I finally noticed that, oh, there’s a women’s icon next to the door. And that’s when the gears started turning in my mind. So, one hot June Saturday, when no crews were in sight and I was already taking a few photos dressed up (they’re in this Flickr album, by the way; I’m in the turquoise shirt and red wig), I walked over to the outhouse, set up my camera tripod, and snapped a couple of photos, the best result of which you see above.
Yes, you do see me pointing to the women’s icon. You also see me pointing to the serious look on my face. Not only am I having a little bit of cheeky fun (it’s an outhouse after all), I created this photo to prove a point. I am indeed presenting myself as female in not just this blog and my Flickr stream… and this photo in particular, staged in full view of of the general public (this spot was literally a stone’s throw from one of Madison’s many biking/walking trails). And if I am indeed presenting myself as a female in front of the general public, would you treat me as a woman? Well, I would sure hope so. Say there would be a point when I’m presenting myself as a woman and I had to… you know, do my business. If that’s the case, I would naturally be inclined to use, absent of a gender neutral washroom, the women’s facilities.
I hope you’re understanding my point here: Even if I were presenting as a woman and I were to be read as male, I would want to be treated and regarded by others as female as much as possible. From the pronouns to the courtesies to, yes, the use of the restrooms, it helps transgender people as a whole, and crossdressers like me in particular, if we are treated with the respected afforded with the gender we are presenting ourselves as. Sadly, not everyone gets that, and with that I direct you to the distressing portion of this post: This week, two lawmakers (yes, they’re both Republicans) in the Wisconsin Legislature announced a proposed bill to restrict use of bathrooms or similar facilities in public schools by birth gender. How so? Well, I’ll let the following paragraph from this Wisconsin State Journal story lay it out for you:
The bill defines gender as being “the physical condition of being male or female, as determined by an individual’s chromosomes and identified at birth by that individual’s anatomy,” according to an analysis of the bill from the Legislative Reference Bureau.
So, simply put, if you were born as a male and you’re at a public school, you’d be restricted to using the male restroom if this proposed law were to go into effect; if you were born female, you’d have to use the girls’ room. It would allow requests (in writing) for “special accommodations” by students who identify “as a gender that is not their biological gender.” However, it would also allow parents to file a written complaint “if they feel their student’s privacy is being violated because of transgender students’ use of a school’s bathroom or locker room.” The school district would have to investigate and resolve the situation within 30 days, but the parents could still file a lawsuit against the district if they’re not satisfied.
One of the lawmakers proposing this… crap (pardon the expression) claims that his idea was the result of “a school in his district” being asked by a TG student to use the mens’ restroom, because the student identified as male (he was permitted to use a faculty restroom). Supposedly, this proposed law would aim to establish a set model decision for every school district in Wisconsin in regards to gendered restrooms for students, and to ensure “safety [and] privacy” of those using the… *ahem* euphemisms. The lawmaker also insisted that “the measure is not designed to discriminate, but rather prevent discrimination.” That’s an argument I personally don’t buy, and with that I redirect you to the State Journal article and something that same lawmaker stated in a memo to his colleagues:
“This bill reinforces the societal norm in our schools that students born biologically male must not be allowed to enter facilities designated for biological females and vice versa,” [Rep. Jesse] Kremer wrote in a memo sent Tuesday to lawmakers seeking co-sponsorship.
“Reinforce the societal norm”? If you read between the lines there, the lawmaker’s request is just code for “We lost the homosexual marriage battle, but we may still win the argument against transgenders.” What makes this really distressing is that this involves kids in school, an age group in an atmosphere where they already can and do face harassment and difficulties well outside the bathroom (I should know, I got teased a lot as a kid in school). If they’re kids who are facing gender identity situations, that harassment may explode. This proposed law (and it’s only a proposal at this point) would be equal to permissible harassment. That’s not just my opinion, but that of several LGBT and school advocates who have already criticized the proposed bill.
Of course, there’s always the possibility that this law may never see the light of day. At the moment, the proposing legislators are only seeking sponsors for the bill. Should it reach sponsorship and then gain hearings and votes, it will certainly face criticism. It would also have to reach the desk of our governor (yes, the very same doofus whose presidential aspirations recently fell down and went boom), who has said the proposal is worth considering (*UGH!*), though to his credit he hasn’t gone right out and endorsed it. The proposal, should it become law, would likely also have to go up against Title IX. For the uninitiated, Title IX is the 1972 federal law that barred discrimination on the basis of sex in matters of educational opportunities. (Yes, it’s the same law that was the springboard for women in athletics, but it really impacts education as a whole.) Last year, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights stated that Title IX covered discrimination on the basis of sexual identity. Earlier this year, the Justice Department determined that the rights of a transgender male student in Virginia were violated due to his school’s policy that required him to use separate facilities rather than the communal washrooms (meaning he could use the boy’s room when he had you… *ahem* do his business).
Hopefully, a proposal this rash and likely discriminating will never see the light of day. At least there has already been rational thinking on display here in Wisconsin regarding issues of gender identity in public schools. Here in Madison, the school district already mandates that transgender students “have access to the restrooms and locker rooms that correspond to their gender identity, if that is their choice” (and if anyone complains, accommodations are made for them, not for the TG students). The Middleton-Cross Plains School District (those communities neighbor Madison) has at least one gender-neutral restroom in each school, or at least the ability to convert an existing restroom into one if need be. And last year, the school district in Baraboo, which is northwest of Madison, amended its curricular policy (athletics included) to prohibit discrimination against TG students.
These moves by those on the front lines of education — and not the holier-than-thou legislators — are all signs of what really matters: That kids go to school to learn and not to be discriminated against. They know that students are students, regardless of the gender the present themselves as; that they go to school in order to learn, not in order to be bullied and harrassed; and that they’re not immoral or unclean nonconformists, which is what the prudes of this world may think of them as. Here’s hoping this line of thought rubs off on us adults and how we treat TG adults, including crossdressers like me. Let me remind the world that (1) we prefer to use the restroom for the gender we’re identifying as, and (2) we’re not using the restrooms to put the sexual moves on someone, nor are we a threat to society (two claims that a presidential candidate — a presidential candidate?! — claimed on the campaign trail earlier this year). Simply, we’re human beings just like you, and we have to heed the *ahem* call of nature when we hear it (I know you know what I mean, because you have to heed it as well).
And if anyone still doesn’t understand what I’m getting at, let my pose in the above photo serve you as a reminder: I’m identifying as a woman, I prefer to use a women’s or gender-neutral restroom when doing so… and I’m very serious about it.