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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

OSU transgender bathroom sex desegregation and microaggressions

OSU transgender bathroom story in Barometer Mar. 13, 2017, p. 4-5

PHOTO: "Despite a decision by the Trump Administration to rescind federal protection for transgender students, Oregon State University has continued their commitment toward the inclusion and safety of all transgender students," says the student newspaper story by Jamie Chin, "OSU commits to continued inclusion of transgender students: Announcement follows U.S. Department of Education's recent change in guidance regarding access to restrooms and facilities for transgender students," Barometer, Mar. 13, 2017, p. 1, 4-5 and Jamie Chin, "OSU commits to continued inclusion of transgender students," Barometer, Mar. 13, 2017, p. 1, 4-5 Reader version. (See previous posts OSU 'gender inclusive' bathrooms hit front page of student newspaper (2/3/16) and Transgender bathroom politics today is similar to anti-gay politics of 50 years ago (5/23/16))

The title of this post, "OSU transgender bathroom sex desegregation and microaggressions," was inspired by the recent shift of conservatives and Christian Republicans from mostly opposing gay marriages to instead mostly demanding that public bathrooms be segregated according to the sex listed on your birth certificate. I assume that this shift in Republican political talking points is because gay marriage has become so normalized, it no longer motivates people to vote Republican, whereas the transgender bathroom issue still resonates, even with many Democratic swing coters.

The title of this post was also inspired by a student newspaper post by Sydney McHale, "Students encounter microaggressions," Barometer, Mar. 6, 2917 that discussed the concept of microaggression, which appears to have become a popular concept on college campuses across America. (For an example of a mircoaggression, see previous post Affirmative action bake sale at OSU ignores business case for diversity (3/14/17))

To check up on how the word "microaggression" is being defined today, I did a Google search define:microagression accessed Mar. 18, 2017, which defined a microagression as, "indirect, subtle, or unintentional discrimination against members of a marginalized group." One of the top Google search results linked to the article, "Microaggression," accessed Mar. 18, 2017, which states, "A microaggression is the casual degradation of any marginalized group. The term was coined by psychiatrist and Harvard University professor Chester M. Pierce in 1970 to describe insults and dismissals he regularly witnessed non-black Americans inflict on African Americans."

Although the term microaggression was originally applied to black issues, it has clearly become a term more broadly applied, which led me to ask, "Is the segregation of bathrooms by the sex listed on your birth certificate an example of a microaggression by the cisgender people directed at the transgender?" For example, cisgender Christian Republicans have been exploiting the tansgender bathroom issue as a way to anger voters so that they will oppose granting equal rights to transgender people.

While thinking about the politics of transgender bathrooms, it occurred to me that rarely does anybody discuss the deeper question, "Why are public bathrooms segregated by sex, either by custom or even by law in many places?"

I recall asking my mother, when I was a child, why there was a separate men's lavatories and Lady's restrooms (often with couches), especially because she would insist on taking me with her into the women's restroom while telling me it was only for my own protection from bad men -- without answering my original question about why.

For example, I vividly recall one time when my mother took me into a women's bathroom while we were shopping in a large downtown department store, and an older lady took one look at me and screamed, "You are too old to be in here!" My mother instantly looked embarrassed, quickly ushered me outside and let me use the men's room from that day forward.

The practice of mother's taking their children into the women's room was common when I was growing up in the 1950's. The only places I see this today is where they have designated "family restrooms" used by either a mother or father with their child. These so-called family bathrooms are sometimes designated also for use by transgender people because they are supposedly unisex.

It wasn't until I became a teenager when I learned from reading the newspaper police reports that a few men had been arrested for "indecent behavior" in the downtown public library, where I had often visited with my mother and she would never explain to me what the "bad men" in there might do to me, nor would she tell me what they did to get arrested.

In fact, I didn't learn the details of these arrests until I read a book documenting the sociology of "Tearoom Trade" that described how many homosexual men would loiter in public restrooms looking to give or receive oral sex, or more rarely anal sex. Prior to the Stonewall riot in1969, many gay men thought tearooms were their only option to find sex because gay bars were often raided and there were few places where a gay man could hookup without being noticed. Today, out and proud gay men have much better places to hookup, but tearooms are still being used by those with a fetish for it and famously by a few closeted gay men who see it as a way to get sex anonymously.

In the early 1970's I bought a gay guidebook that included a list of tearooms, across America, and it said tearooms were often located in public libraries and Greyhound bus stations, including the Bus Station in Corvallis. In addition, the guide book listed two isolated bathrooms in the OSU Memorial Union as being hot tearooms. These rooms have not been changed by any remodeling, but I am not aware if they are still being used as tearooms.

As an accommodation to transgender students, OSU has designated many unisex bathrooms for students of all genders. Although this action has been well received, a few transgender people see it as being a microaggression by the cisgender because in their mind, all bathrooms should be accessible, instead of just designating certain ones.

This brings me back to the original question I asked as a child, "Why are bathroom segregated by the sex listed on your birth certificate?

Illogically, one reason might be that many people are disgusted by the idea of a transgender person using the same public bathroom, which is the reason a relative of mine gave me.

Even though this relative of mine usually rejected any logical argument concerning emotional or religious topics related to sex, I went ahead and asked her if she would want a transgendered man, who looked like a man, forced by law to use the same bathroom as her, just because female was listed on his birth certificate?

As expected, my relative's reaction was to look perplexed and physically agitated by my question. She reluctantly agreed that somebody who looked like a man in the lady's restroom would upset her even though they had been born a female.

This is why, at a minimum, transgender people should be allowed to use the hathroom they feel the safest in -- one that is congruent with their gender expression.

Of course, another reason some people oppose allowing a transgender person in their bathroom is because they worry perverts will pretend to be trans and sexually leer at the opposite sex.

My response to this reason is to acknowledge that sexually leering at another person is bad behavior, and this bad behavior is what should be forbidden, instead of barring all transgender people from the restroom of their gender.

For example, I asked the relative of mine, "How do sex-segregated bathrooms prevent gay women from coming in and starting at you sexually?" She went silent and gave no reply.

Gay men learn at a young age that sexually leering at straight men in a locker room will often result in physical violence toward them.

When I grew up and became an adult, I recall reminiscing with my mother about our experience taking me with her to the women's restroom as a child. She was able to laugh about how she was embarrassed by the women who yelled at me that I was too old be in the women's room with my mother. I then asked my mother again why she thought that so many people wanted bathrooms to be segregated by the sex listed on your birth certificate. The first reason she gave was her fear of a man sexually leering at her while she was undressed.

Other people have shared with me their more practical reason for wanting all bathrooms segregated by sex. For example, men want to have more urinals than toilets, whereas women want more stalls and they hate having to put the toilet seat down after a man has used the toilet standing up.

One man, who told me he had worked his way through college by cleaning restrooms, said that women were much messier than men, in his vast experience in many restrooms. I've heard women say the exact opposite reason to have sex-segregated bathrooms.

Although the practical reasons for sex-segregated bathrooms have some truth to them, I believe that the Freudian sexual hang-ups most people possess are the primary reasons for wanting bathrooms segregated by sex. This is clearly based on emotional logic instead of mathematical logic.

According to my Swedish Grandmother, all of the Swedes she grew up with in the 1800's considered the prudishness of Americans to be silly and puritanical because Swedish culture saw nudity as being natural -- it was culturally expected that you would go to a Swedish Sauna and bath naked with your whole family -- children and their parents would routinely see each other naked. My Grandmother told me about this custom of Swedes after she had discovered how modest I was about being seen naked as a boy when I refused to get undressed in front of her to take a shower. I was also embarrassed to watch her laid down naked on her deck sunbathing, despite the fact she could be seen from a major road running near her home. Unlike most other Americans, my Grandmother truly saw nothing wrong with nudity.

The present day transgender bathroom issue at OSU is described in the student newspaper article by Jamie Chin, "OSU commits to continued inclusion of transgender students," Barometer, Mar. 13, 2017, p. 1, 4-5. I've selected a few quotes below:

Despite the decision by the Trump Administration to rescind federal protection for transgender students, Oregon State University has continued their commitment toward the inclusion and safety of all transgender students.

An email was sent out to all students on Feb. 24 by Susie Brubaker-Cole, vice provost for Student Affairs, and Scott Vignos, director of Strategic Initiatives, to ensure protection and continuing support of all gender non-conforming students. The email mentioned several things, including the expansion of gender inclusive bathrooms and the availability of cultural resources throughout campus. . . . .

The Pride Center, one of the OSU cultural centers which provides programs and support services to the LGBTQ community, started leading the ongoing #illgowithyou campaign about a year ago, an important OSU initiative that ensures security for transgender students who feel threatened, especially in bathrooms or locker rooms. (Photo of "I'll Go With You Button") . . . .

A significant thing that the university itself has done to help with the inclusion of trans students is build transgender bathrooms, which are now located throughout campus. There are single-user restrooms in the dining hall and on every floor of the residence hall. OSU has provided students with a campus map of all 125 gender-inclusive bathrooms and facilities, and are still continuing the expansion of these bathrooms. . . .

For those who are exploring their identity or identify as queer or transgender, Counseling & Psychological Services offers group therapy for transgender students called TransForm, which is led by Beth Zimmermann. . . .

(Quoted from Jamie Chin, "OSU commits to continued inclusion of transgender students," Barometer, Mar. 13, 2017, p. 1, 4-5)

(See previous posts OSU 'gender inclusive' bathrooms hit front page of student newspaper (2/3/16) and Transgender bathroom politics today is similar to anti-gay politics of 50 years ago (5/23/16))