Bathrooms and Gender Ambiguity

This is about a question that’s bothered me for a long time that may come up as a serious issue soon: How should gender segregated bathrooms deal with gender ambiguity? We have a very well established system of male and female bathrooms that is not necessarily well suited for the transgender individual. There was recently a debacle in Evergreen State College where a transgender woman, biologically male, wandered around the women’s locker room nude. As Jezebel points out, its a bit of a Catch 22. On one hand, she has a right to declare her own gender identity and all the rights that go along with that. On the other hand, girls as young as six were uncomfortable with what they saw as a naked man wandering around while they were changing. The college sided with Colleen Francis, the woman in question, and offered a smaller auxiliary locker room to anyone who did not want to use the main locker room with Francis. This has been spun a number of different ways. There’s been a tendency to interpret Francis as a man in order to disagree with the situation. Some feminists have framed this as an issue of sexism and called on Title IX:

Colleen Francis’ right to express a self-concept of his penis’s “Gender Identity”, and his right to be free from discrimination for his psychiatric “Gender Identity Disorder” diagnosis should NOT override Federal Title IX protections for females. Girls should NOT be shuttled off to inferior sports facilities in deference to one male’s feelings about himself

Somewhat ironically, right wing blogs agree with the feminist position that Francis should be fundamentally interpreted as a man. They spun it as a story of a voyeuristic male exposing himself to young girls, something that is nice and easy to feel righteously angry about. Unfortunately this situation is obviously much more complex, as is part of a much larger question.

Ideologically, everyone deserves to have equal facilities and not be discriminated based on gender identity or sexual orientation. Practically, you can only have so many different bathrooms. Finally, ethically, everyone deserves to feel safe when they use a bathroom or locker room. I heard of an anthropology student who presented a theory that we should shift to a system of eleven genders, based on all the possible biological and psychological presentations. Eleven bathrooms would be absurd and the pronouns would be impossible. On the other hand, a unisex bathroom, while fine in a home or dormitory, could be uncomfortable to dangerous in public. An incident of sexual harassment in a public place could turn into sexual assault in the privacy of a bathroom. Finally basing bathroom segregation on biological sex is unfair to transgenders who are being excluded from normal gender categories and particularly unfair to transgenders who are biologically ambiguous. So, what should be done?




This women’s urinal also confuses me. Why does this exist?


4 thoughts on “Bathrooms and Gender Ambiguity

  1. My first instinct on reading this was regardless of identity, a male body should not be walking around nude in the female locker room. (using a bathroom is different, there is less.. y’know, walking around nude and more just using the facilities and leaving)

    But what to do about it was far fuzzier in my mind… insist male bodies wear *something* to cover or insist male bodies use male locker rooms, regardless of identity?

    I could see three bath/locker rooms. Biologically male, biologically female, and one specifically for people who don’t feel comfortable in one or the other, or who would through biologic body make those in the other two uncomfortable or be dangerous to themselves.

    Allow those who don’t identify as one gender but don’t biologically fit as the other use a third option, while sparing those who feel uncomfortable with nude bodies of the opposite gender from their own discomfort.

    But no matter what I come up with, I see downsides to it. I guess I’m not saying a third is the best option, I just see it as *an* option. More implementable than 11, anyway.

  2. He is a male. He’s a male with a loooooong history of on-line bragging about his various sexual fetishes. He’s a scary-creepy dude that belongs in JAIL for flashing and waving in front of little girls.

    Back when people had common sense, he WOULD have been tossed in jail for his behavior. Instead, all a creep like him has to do now is declare himself a “real female” and all the morally bankrupt adults around him start doing back-flips to accommodate his sexual fetishes and provide him with an endless supply of unwilling victims.

    Question: When did everyone go insane?

    • I think its important to remember that people have had about the same level of sanity throughout history. Everyone’s actions made sense to them at the time and at least now genocide and slavery are socially unacceptable (in most of the world).

      As for Francis, I think declaring one’s self female is a much larger commitment than changing one’s name. In a culture where masculinity is often defined as non-feminine, she (because people can pick their pronouns if they really want to) has to deny a lot of her potential masculine identity. And an estrogen patch is a lot of commitment for someone just trying to be a creep.

      On the other hand, her unwillingness to not accomodate others’ desires to not see male genitalia in their locker room is rude, unnecessary, and kind of sketchy.

      • “Kind of sketchy” doesn’t even come close.

        Why have adults abdicated their responsibility to protect children from predators?

        Men who flash women and children to get themselves off are predatory and it is a myth that they always stop at “mere” flashing — very often it is a companion behavior or stepping stone to much worse.

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