I thought urinals were for men!

Posted: Jun 23, 2004 12:00 AM

 Are you a boy or a girl? Ask any 3-year-old that question, and get a straight answer. But in a society riddled with political correctness, that very simple question could be -- non-exclusive-deity forbid! -- "insensitive." And so, the first big fight of the new century has begun: Should transvestites-transgenders have the right to use whatever bathroom they choose?

 Harvard University's Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian, Transgender and Supporters Alliance (BGLTSA) asked this vital question during "Gaypril," a month it dedicated to exploring the ins-and-outs of sexual orientation. The centerpiece of "Gaypril" was a screening of "Toilet Training," a documentary about "discrimination linked to gender-segregated bathrooms." The political chair of the BGLTSA spoke out against this massive injustice perpetrated against the gender-confused by "signs on bathroom doors that restrict basic freedoms from members of the community." Will the atrocities never cease?

 Students at Beloit College are fighting the good fight, as well. The Gender:Queer Committee of the Women's and Gender Studies program has taken the lead in this vital battle. As Catherine Orr, chair of the Women's and Gender Studies department at Beloit puts it, "There are people for whom that is a very troubling and unfair burden in terms of always having to identify themselves when they walk through a door to relieve themselves." At Wesleyan University, students have more than gender-neutral bathrooms, they have gender-blind dorms, which do not assign roommates according to sex.

 In Thailand, one vocational school has solved the problem of insensitivity in bathroom segregation by adding a third bathroom to their campus for transvestites. After transvestite students were harassed by both men and women for entering bathrooms, the school added the "Pink Lotus" bathroom. The bathroom carries a sign showing male and female symbols intertwined. The college registrar explained: "We don't support their decision to be transvestites. We are just trying to solve the problems of one group that is unhappy at school."

 Silly me. I thought that deciding which bathroom to use was a relatively simple operation: Check a few inches below your belly-button, and use the restroom that corresponds with your particular set of genitalia. That solution should cover 99.99 percent of human beings, no? If you are a guy but enjoy wearing women's clothing -- well, don't be shocked when people make fun of you. That's life. If you're a girl and you want to use the urinal, don't be appalled when the men in the bathroom seem perturbed.

 But my solution is passe these days. Men dressed as women, women dressed as men, people of either sex who would like to exchange genitalia -- everyone must feel "comfortable." The goal of society is no longer preserving an amorphous social "good." It's making sure that no single person's feelings are injured, even if protecting the feelings of the individual take precedence over protecting the feelings of an enormous group.

 That's the reasoning of the Harvard Crimson editorial board, which criticized the Harvard University administration for failing to take up the BGLTSA's request for gender-neutral bathrooms: "We urge the immediate implementation of the BGLTSA's recommendations -- the fact remains that there are some in the Harvard community that experience extreme discomfort and pressure when going to the bathroom." The horror, the horror!

 That's the reasoning of the Americans for Civil Liberties Union, which sued a New York commercial building owner for declining to renew the leases of the Hispanic AIDS Forum. The owner had received complaints from other tenants after transgender clients of the Forum began entering the "wrong" bathrooms. When the owner asked the Forum to sign a contract stipulating that clients would not use bathrooms on the premises, the Forum refused, leading to its eviction. During the legal proceedings, the building owner asked the New York State Supreme Court judge to force the Forum to hand over records showing whether clients were anatomically male or female. The judge declined, stating that the physical anatomy of transgendered people is not relevant to gender identity.

 It has finally come to this: A person's physical status is irrelevant to how others should perceive them. If a woman wants to use a urinal, we're supposed to look the other way. A man can dress up as a woman, and the rest of us are supposed to call him "she" and open cab doors for him.

 Do any of the gender-neutral bathroom advocates remember the old fairytale "The Emperor's New Clothes"? In it, the emperor walks around naked, and all the citizens are expected to pretend that he is wearing a fabulous new suit. Only a young boy has the guts to point out the obvious: "The emperor is naked!" What an insensitive little twerp.