This Sunday, I'll be volunteering in support of the Massachusetts Transgender Equal Rights Bill, which would add gender identity and expression to the state civil rights laws which prohibit employment/housing/education discrimination and establish penalties for hate crimes.
One of the most common objections raised to this sort of legislation is also sort of silly--the public bathroom issue. People are concerned that it'll be easier for people to get into the "wrong" bathroom and make people uncomfortable or perv on them or even assault them. Which I think is ridiculous on its face; it contains the unspoken assumption that trans people are dangerous, and that bathroom segregation is a crucial safety measure. Plus, there's been no epidemic of people dressing up as cis members of the other gender to sneak into bathrooms. (I think guys have actually caught on that we just pee in there. All we do is squat and pee and ideally wash our hands. It is not exciting.)
But this raises a major objection to bathroom paranoia: what about teh cis people?
Because, let's face it, there are some women assigned as women and living as women who, by fashion choices and/or genetics, look awfully masculine. (Ditto feminine men.) If we decide that bathrooms have to be used according to assigned sex, how are these people going to prove they belong? How does a stranger, on casual observation of a clothed person, know their assigned sex? Sure, the spectre of cis people having to somehow prove their gender in order to take a leak is as ludicrous as it is offensive... but so is the spectre of evil trans people hiding in bathrooms waiting to strike.
Personally, I'd like all bathrooms to be unisex, and I think they'd quickly become no more dangerous or awkward than a unisex reading room or unisex elevator. But failing that, we should at least not enforce the bathroom thing. Not only is letting people use whatever bathroom they want a reasonable accommodation for trans people, not only is it a reasonable accommodation for many cis people, but it also helps guarantee the safety of both cis and trans people. Because I have a suspicion that far more people have been assaulted or threatened in the context of bathroom enforcement than have ever been menaced by cross-dressed bathroom lurkers.
I've been fascinated lately by the slipperiness of gender, and this is just another example of how impossible it is to enforce rules based on the idea that gender is not only binary and biological--but binary, biological, and obvious.