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February 27, 2013 8:17 AM   Subscribe

The Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund has filed suit on behalf of six year old Coy Mathis, who was pulled out of her elementary school after being told by the administration that she was no longer allowed to use the girls' bathroom.

Coy and her family recently appeared on the Katie Couric show.
posted by roomthreeseventeen (800 comments total) 33 users marked this as a favorite

 
She is however able to use the Nurse's office private bathroom, so it isn't like she has to hold it all day.

If the school, church, business, beach, park, care to recognize the transgendered then they have to offer a gender neutral option. Three choices should be enough for everyone.
posted by Gungho at 8:22 AM on February 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


This is completely dumb. In 16 years of schooling (including a college dorm with completely co-ed bathrooms), I never once saw another person's genitalia in the bathroom. When you consider the fact that she'd be using the urinal-free girls bathroom there is even less of a chance that a female classmate might be exposed to her private parts.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:22 AM on February 27, 2013 [46 favorites]


The key point being that Colorado law directly addresses bathroom access in public accomodation and defined public accomodation to include schools.
posted by hoyland at 8:25 AM on February 27, 2013 [7 favorites]


She is however able to use the Nurse's office private bathroom, so it isn't like she has to hold it all day.

Using a nurse’s bathroom is a huge problem for trans kids. It opens them up to the stigma of being different (especially if they are not “out” to their peers as trans) and bullying. For older trans kids or children in big schools, it’s also a logistical problem of being able to access a bathroom that might be on another floor or at the opposite end of the school.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:26 AM on February 27, 2013 [60 favorites]


My wife is a teacher at a rougher high school in the lower mainland of BC, where a transgender student is using the girl's washroom with boy parts. The girl was offered a key to staff bathrooms around the school, but won't use them because she won't participate in her own segregation. Recently the teachers had a session with a counselor of sorts to discuss the girl and how they handle her (mainly so they're prepared to squash any anti-transgender bullying they see), and were told "give the staff bathroom key to the girls who complain about her in the girl's bathroom. Most students don't care; let the ones with a problem segregate themselves."
posted by fatbird at 8:27 AM on February 27, 2013 [254 favorites]


"took into account not only Coy but other students in the building, their parents, and the future impact a boy with male genitals using a girls' bathroom would have as Coy grew older," attorney W. Kelly Dude said.

I have to agree. The stigma on using the nurses bathroom is heavy.
My concern is for females who know the child is male. What about thier rights, can they use the nurses bathroom. Interesting case, I hope it comes to a good end for all.
posted by clavdivs at 8:28 AM on February 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


She is however able to use the Nurse's office private bathroom, so it isn't like she has to hold it all day.

If the school, church, business, beach, park, care to recognize the transgendered then they have to offer a gender neutral option. Three choices should be enough for everyone.


She is not gender neutral. She is not "other". Separate is inherently unequal.

She's not using the girl's bathroom for some sort of sexual thrill. She's not there to spy. She's there to go to the bathroom. End of story.
posted by inturnaround at 8:31 AM on February 27, 2013 [29 favorites]


clavdivs, I’m not sure I understand your concern. Just because Coy has a penis that means that she’s going to use it to sexually assault girls in the bathroom? Do boys assault each other in the bathroom at your local elementary school?
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:31 AM on February 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


clavdivs, the child is female.
posted by no relation at 8:32 AM on February 27, 2013 [38 favorites]


Wouldn't it be easier on everyone if we just allowed boys to wear dresses and play with dolls if they wanted (and do what is necessary to address the bullying and stigma associated with that) than to try to do gender reassignments on kids who haven't even reached puberty yet?

It just feels like deciding that your child is transgender is just a way of complicating the issue of having a kid who doesn't fit society's gender norms. We need more kids who don't fit gender norms so that those gender norms go away.

I'm black. If I had gone to my parents and told them that "I think I'm white", and my parents had taken me to a doctor, a responsible doctor would have referred me to a therapist to help me accept that I am black (and also awesome), as opposed to sending me to a dermatologist for skin lightening treatments.
posted by sparklemotion at 8:32 AM on February 27, 2013 [18 favorites]


But I should add -- Coy should totally be able to use the girls bathroom if she wants, because really... why is this a big deal?
posted by sparklemotion at 8:33 AM on February 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


A quick note about talking about transgender persons for reference for anyone who might be confused: referring to someone by their preferred pronoun is basic courtesy and civility. Coy Mathis, in this case, is she, since she's indicated that's her preferred pronoun. She is a girl. We can talk about her having what's socially considered as male-presenting genitalia in the context of her bathroom usage, but that doesn't matter. Other females do not "know the child is male," because she isn't. They know she has a penis and testicles. That's different.

You don't have to care about this. But if you care about transgender rights and justice, that includes personal, small things, like correctly gendering them and talking about their bodies in a way that's fair to them. And it took me forever to piece together how the hell to navigate these discussions in a way that trans people seem mostly to be comfortable with, so I thought I'd share with other people who may not be aware.

Anyway, I really like fatbird's idea of letting those who are bothered segregate themselves by using a different bathroom. I bet that number will be far fewer than school administrators expect.
posted by WidgetAlley at 8:34 AM on February 27, 2013 [61 favorites]


I found it strange that one reason the school gave was that, basically, at some point in the future, things would get awkward (presumably, adolescence). Well, that day is not today, and not even this school year. If that day comes (and she's not taking hormones or hasn't had sex reassignment surgery or whatever the options are in a few years) there's nothing developmental that kids who may experience awkwardness will have to have "gone through" in order to experience the awkwardness these adults assume kids will experience.

I think what they mean is "we don't actually want girls getting used to sharing a bathroom with her -- because when they hit adolescence, they might actually NOT find it awkward.
posted by vitabellosi at 8:34 AM on February 27, 2013 [5 favorites]


Gungho: "If the school, church, business, beach, park, care to recognize the transgendered then they have to offer a gender neutral option."

Transgendered is not neutral-gendered.

I'm not sure I've ever seen a public school with "stall free" toilets. Is that really a thing? How can that be a thing.
posted by boo_radley at 8:35 AM on February 27, 2013 [8 favorites]


attorney W. Kelly Dude

Epony...something.
posted by no relation at 8:37 AM on February 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


clavdivs, I’m not sure I understand your concern. Just because Coy has a penis that means that she’s going to use it to sexually assault girls in the bathroom? Do boys assault each other in the bathroom at your local elementary school?posted by roomthreeseventeen

Based on your assumptions which I cannot even parse into my comment I will ignore that. The child is female is fine and I understand that but has JAMA? My concern is for the other children or is that not a valid question.
posted by clavdivs at 8:37 AM on February 27, 2013


Wouldn't it be easier on everyone if we just allowed boys to wear dresses and play with dolls if they wanted (and do what is necessary to address the bullying and stigma associated with that) than to try to do gender reassignments on kids who haven't even reached puberty yet?

It just feels like deciding that your child is transgender is just a way of complicating the issue of having a kid who doesn't fit society's gender norms. We need more kids who don't fit gender norms so that those gender norms go away.


No one is talking about doing gender reassignment surgery on children. Most transgender people never have surgery.

And the parents didn't decide that their child was transgender, the child *is* transgender. It's not a decision. It's a reality.
posted by inturnaround at 8:39 AM on February 27, 2013 [29 favorites]


My concern is for the other children or is that not a valid question.

I'm confused. What are you concerned about? That the other children just won't be comfortable? Then it's a pretty great time to sit them down and talk about gender diversity and bodies and how no bodies are shameful. Or did you have other concerns?
posted by WidgetAlley at 8:39 AM on February 27, 2013 [9 favorites]


you see, while you and others may see and treat the child as female, others may not understand and may not want to understand. How do you address that?
posted by clavdivs at 8:40 AM on February 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm black. If I had gone to my parents and told them that "I think I'm white", and my parents had taken me to a doctor, a responsible doctor would have referred me to a therapist to help me accept that I am black (and also awesome), as opposed to sending me to a dermatologist for skin lightening treatments.

You know that transgender people actually EXIST, right?
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:40 AM on February 27, 2013 [80 favorites]


My concern is for the other children or is that not a valid question.

It's not clear what your concern is. Why should we be concerned that she use the same bathroom as her fellow students when it's not concern she sits in the same class as them? I mean, she either will infect them with her trans-ness or not. It's not like there are magic trans germs that exist only in bathrooms. Or, you know, magic trans germs at all.
posted by hoyland at 8:41 AM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


What are you concerned about?
Thier rights and Coys, she and her parents have rights too.

What are you concerned about?
posted by clavdivs at 8:41 AM on February 27, 2013


I don't feel like I can have an intelligent opinion on this issue until I know why we actually have gendered bathrooms at all, and now that I'm thinking about it, I can't think of any particularly good reason that we do.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 8:41 AM on February 27, 2013 [21 favorites]


I'm black. If I had gone to my parents and told them that "I think I'm white", and my parents had taken me to a doctor, a responsible doctor would have referred me to a therapist to help me accept that I am black (and also awesome), as opposed to sending me to a dermatologist for skin lightening treatments.

This is a very imperfect analogy because it suggests that the problem of transgenderism is entirely psychological. Part of the session my wife attended included a discussion of how transgenderism arises biologically in the womb. I'm not an expert so I won't try to repeat it, but it comes down to Coy Mathis and my wife's student really do feel like they have the wrong genitals in just the same way that you feel you have the right genitals. This isn't a talking-cure issue, it's an issue of accommodating a significant, biological mismatch in the parts that make up an individual.
posted by fatbird at 8:41 AM on February 27, 2013 [16 favorites]


I don't really understand what on earth is so important about this need to ensure that the parts in the underwear "match" the parts on the door of the restroom. I've never actually encountered a bathroom situation where genital police stand at the restroom doors to make sure that penis-equipped folks go in one room and vulva-equipped folks go in the other room.

Folks of all sorts should be allowed to go into the restroom that seems most appropriate to them, mind their own business, attend to whatever need they went in there to address, and interact minimally (but respectfully) with the other people in that restroom. Why is this so difficult?
posted by which_chick at 8:43 AM on February 27, 2013 [7 favorites]


you see, while you and others may see and treat the child as female, others may not understand and may not want to understand. How do you address that?

Not by hiding her away, or by pretending that she's wrong.
posted by no relation at 8:43 AM on February 27, 2013 [15 favorites]


Thier rights and Coys, she and her parents have rights too.

Umm... the only right of anyone's at risk that I see here is the right to use a bathroom appropriate to one's gender identity, which is a right guaranteed by Colorado law. Colorado law doesn't guarantee you the right to never acknowledge the existence of trans people.
posted by hoyland at 8:43 AM on February 27, 2013 [8 favorites]


Also: these days, when kids exhibit gender identity disorders, they generally DO get therapy. But its aim is not to convince them that they're really just confused- it's to figure out what's going on with them. And they do not even begin hormone therapy until they hit 18- the most they do is use hormone blockers that temporarily delay puberty.
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:43 AM on February 27, 2013 [7 favorites]


I see here is the right to use a bathroom appropriate to one's gender identity

Well, if you're binary-gendered anyway. (But let's pretend I didn't say that, given that the existence of trans people is apparently a difficult concept.)
posted by hoyland at 8:44 AM on February 27, 2013 [13 favorites]


Not by hiding her away, or by pretending that she's different or wrong.

Now where getting somewhere. But before that happens we must address the concerns for all involved.
posted by clavdivs at 8:44 AM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Folks of all sorts should be allowed to go into the restroom that seems most appropriate to them

If this is the case, why do we have genitally-separated bathrooms at all?
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 8:45 AM on February 27, 2013 [5 favorites]


you see, while you and others may see and treat the child as female, others may not understand and may not want to understand. How do you address that?

By letting them not understand and deal with it? At this point, that's their problem, not Coy's. I mean, to take a more socially acceptable example, let's say I'm really really uncomfortable with single-occupancy unisex bathrooms. At that point, it's my problem. We don't have to suddenly restructure the entire bathroom system just because I don't want my butt to touch where some dude's butt has been.

At some point we have to stop accommodating the people who are not "comfortable" with equality and leave it to them to find ways to cope. If they are that uncomfortable, let them go to the administrators and ask for a key to a separate bathroom.
posted by WidgetAlley at 8:45 AM on February 27, 2013 [15 favorites]


I can't think of any particularly good reason that we do.

Time saving for one.

Urinals are more space efficient that stalls so if a lot of people only need to pee you can service more people than if you had stalls only.
posted by Reggie Knoble at 8:46 AM on February 27, 2013


And they do not even begin hormone therapy until they hit 18- the most they do is use hormone blockers that temporarily delay puberty.

This isn't actually accurate. You can start hormones before 18, but you obviously have to be really lucky to do so because you need parental support. AFAIK, hormone blockers aren't widely accessible in the US.
posted by hoyland at 8:46 AM on February 27, 2013


Colorado law doesn't guarantee you the right to never acknowledge the existence of trans people.
?
posted by clavdivs at 8:46 AM on February 27, 2013


No, we don't have to address outlandish concerns. If your white child doesn't want to be in class with a Black child, that's not a valid concern. Same thing for trans kids.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:46 AM on February 27, 2013 [24 favorites]


[Commented amended by request, a couple replies removed. Carry on.]
posted by cortex at 8:46 AM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Colorado law doesn't guarantee you the right to never acknowledge the existence of trans people.
?


What rights other than bathroom access are at risk here?
posted by hoyland at 8:47 AM on February 27, 2013


If this is the case, why do we have genitally-separated bathrooms at all?

Ya got me. I got nothin'.
posted by which_chick at 8:48 AM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'll admit some nativity and confusion stemming from it: how does a 6 year old know they're transgendered? I don't mean that the child likes to play with dolls or wear pink or something like that (that is really here nor there wrt to sexuality). But like... are we all just accepting that a 6 year old has the mental capacity to understand all of this and decide that they're a girl with male genitalia? Maybe Coy is, maybe Coy isn't - doesn't 6 seem early to decide to anyone else?

Not that an answer to this necessarily solves the which-bathroom-to-use issue though......
posted by ish__ at 8:48 AM on February 27, 2013 [9 favorites]


"Coy Mathis, in this case, is she, since she's indicated that's her preferred pronoun."

Coy Mathis also happens to be six. Her *preferred* breakfast is a bag of Cheetos washed down with Fanta. It doesn't mean she should be allowed to have it. Shouldn't a mental health professional help make that call together with the family?
posted by gertzedek at 8:49 AM on February 27, 2013 [26 favorites]


If this is the case, why do we have genitally-separated bathrooms at all?

We don't. I don't have to insert my junk into a keyhole to open the door. It just says "Men's" and "Women's". Go into whichever one you identify with the most. There's no rule for adults. Why should there be one for kids.
posted by inturnaround at 8:49 AM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


What rights other than bathroom access are at risk here?

That is what Askme is for.
posted by clavdivs at 8:50 AM on February 27, 2013


Urinals are more space efficient that stalls...

So have one big bathroom with some stalls on one side and a partition you can walk around to get to some urinals on the other and a common sink area.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 8:50 AM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


No one is talking about doing gender reassignment surgery on children. Most transgender people never have surgery.

And the parents didn't decide that their child was transgender, the child *is* transgender. It's not a decision. It's a reality.


I'm not talking about surgery either. Her passport identifies her identifies her as female. Given that she has male genitalia, it would have been her parent's decision to have her IDs say something different. Not to mention the pronoun changes. That sounds like reassignment to me.

You know that transgender people actually EXIST, right?

I get that, but no one has ever given me a reason why that doesn't have it's roots in sexism. From what I understand (and I know I don't understand much), it's a case of "Boys feel like X, but I feel like Y, so I must not be a boy", which is silly, because not all boys feel like X.
posted by sparklemotion at 8:50 AM on February 27, 2013 [6 favorites]


you see, while you and others may see and treat the child as female, others may not understand and may not want to understand. How do you address that?

Same way as you'd treat the concerns of racist or sexist people. Education and explanation for those who don't understand because they haven't encountered it before and would benefit from the opportunity to learn more. Social disapproval and censure against the bigots.
posted by talitha_kumi at 8:51 AM on February 27, 2013 [5 favorites]


That is what Askme is for.

Umm... I'm pretty sure there are no other rights at risk, that's my point. You seem to think otherwise. I was hoping you could enlighten us.
posted by hoyland at 8:51 AM on February 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


Coy dresses--and, it seems, passes--as female, her passport and other state ID identify as female, and this has been the status quo for quite a while and seems likely to continue being the status quo. It seems to me that the only reason anyone would be uncomfortable with Coy using the girl's bathroom is if the busybody school administration sent out an email to the parents of all the other kids in Coy's school saying "OH BTW there's a pre-op MTF student using the girl's bathroom which means there's, like, a penis in there sometimes". In other words: this really seems like a non-issue for all involved until the school makes a big deal out of it.

Whether or not you disclose to your peers and acquaintances that you are trans-* is an entirely individual decision, and not something the school should be allowed to wave around as a flag. Trans-folk do not owe anyone knowledge of their gender identity. By forcing Coy to use different bathrooms, they are necessarily singling her out from the other female students. If a male student were gay, and the school told him to sit at a desk away from other boys because "his male genitals develop along with the rest of his body, at least some parents and students are likely to become uncomfortable with his continued use of the girls' restroom presence around other boys", would that also be okay because [amorphous definition of rights]?

Also, way to misgender your student, assholes. A little basic respect, please. Use the pronoun an individual prefers -- and that their ID states. Not that hard.
posted by Phire at 8:53 AM on February 27, 2013 [26 favorites]


Coy Mathis also happens to be six. Her *preferred* breakfast is a bag of Cheetos washed down with Fanta. It doesn't mean she should be allowed to have it. Shouldn't a mental health professional help make that call together with the family?

Make what call? You're equating her gender identity with something harmful like eating junk food all the time? I really hope you see that this is offensive.

Oh, and Skeptic. You don't get to decide for others who they are...and for that I am thankful.
posted by inturnaround at 8:54 AM on February 27, 2013 [33 favorites]


I get that, but no one has ever given me a reason why that doesn't have it's roots in sexism. From what I understand (and I know I don't understand much), it's a case of "Boys feel like X, but I feel like Y, so I must not be a boy", which is silly, because not all boys feel like X.

This is rooted in a misunderstanding. I know trans people who do not at all confirm to the stereotypical norms of their current genders. Trans people are not stupid people who think "I like sports so I must be a boy." They are people who feel that their bodies are alien and wrong, and this has been borne out by scientific evidence showing that trans peoples' brains are different from the brains of other people born with the same genitalia.
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:54 AM on February 27, 2013 [50 favorites]


I've never actually encountered a bathroom situation where genital police stand at the restroom doors

This is your privilege as a cisgender person, I think. When I was growing up, I suffered through some serious gender dysphoria. I wanted to use the men's bathroom, and I'll assure you that I met quite a few self-appointed "genital police". That's the problem.
posted by sunshinesky at 8:55 AM on February 27, 2013 [22 favorites]


Maybe Coy is, maybe Coy isn't - doesn't 6 seem early to decide to anyone else?

Yeah, but, it's not like she's decided to have bottom surgery or anything like that. There is no reason she can't decide she's a boy again at age 9, or 12, or whatever else, if she truly feels that way. Gender can be fluid; there's no conceivable reason she has to decide for good until she is 100% sure. People transition when they're 30 or 40 or 85 or whenever. Until then, there's absolutely no reason not to take her at her word.

Go into whichever one you identify with the most. There's no rule for adults. Why should there be one for kids.

So that brings up a A Thing, and that is, there is no rule for adults that can pass and fit into gender binary boxes 100%. Everyone else is... kinda screwed. The sad truth of the matter is that people who don't perfectly fit gender binary boxes are often faced with aggression and violence if they chose the "wrong" bathroom, and for people who don't perfectly fit either box there is no RIGHT one! Stories from trans persons abound about how they were roughed up for going into the male bathroom in skirts, or had the cops called because they went into the women's bathroom in a skirt but didn't have the rest of the perfectly-conforming social markers of 'femaleness'. Hell, I had mothers shoot me dirty looks and lead their children out of the restroom when I had my head shaved, fer Chrissakes, and I'm a cisgendered female with prominent hips and noticeable breasts. These sorts of decisions are not PC feel-good or arbitrary, they have serious consequences. The only way I can see around them is to move towards non-gendered bathrooms altogether-- otherwise, if you don't fit, you're still at risk.
posted by WidgetAlley at 8:55 AM on February 27, 2013 [11 favorites]


There's no rule for adults. Why should there be one for kids.

In public a man using as womans public resrroom is a Staus offense...intersting.

The sanitation standard is intended to ensure that employers provide employees with sanitary and available toilet facilities, so that employees will not suffer the adverse health effects that can result if toilets are not available when employees need them. Individuals vary significantly in the frequency with which they need to urinate and defecate, with pregnant women, women with stress incontinence, and men with prostatic hypertrophy needing to urinate more frequently. Increased frequency of voiding may also be caused by various medications, by environmental factors such as cold, and by high fluid intake, which may be necessary for individuals working in a hot environment. Diet, medication use, and medical condition are among the factors that can affect the frequency of defecation.

Medical studies show the importance of regular urination, with women generally needing to void more frequently than men. Adverse health effects that may result from voluntary urinary retention include increased frequency of urinary tract infections (UTIs), which can lead to more serious infections and, in rare situations, renal damage (see, e.g., Nielsen, A. Waite, W., "Epidemiology of Infrequent Voiding and Associated Symptoms," Scand J Urol Nephrol Supplement 157). UTIs during pregnancy have been associated with low birthweight babies, who are at risk for additional health problems compared to normal weight infants (see, Naeye, R.L., "Causes of the Excess Rates of Perinatal Mortality and the Prematurity in Pregnancies Complicated by Maternity Urinary Tract Infections," New England J. Medicine 1979; 300(15); 819-823). Medical evidence also shows that health problems, including constipation, abdominal pain, diverticuli, and hemorrhoids, can result if individuals delay defecation (see National Institutes of Health (NIH) Publication No. 95-2754, July 1995).




posted by clavdivs at 8:55 AM on February 27, 2013


I'm not talking about surgery either. Her passport identifies her identifies her as female. Given that she has male genitalia, it would have been her parent's decision to have her IDs say something different. Not to mention the pronoun changes. That sounds like reassignment to me.

Changing a US passport requires a letter from a doctor (maybe you could do it with a changed birth certificate or a court order or something, but those are obviously harder to get). It's not like it's something you can do on a whim.
posted by hoyland at 8:56 AM on February 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


I get that, but no one has ever given me a reason why that doesn't have it's roots in sexism.

Speaking as a cis-woman who was a total tomboy as a kid: I hated dolls. Hated them, not just didn't prefer them. I cried when I had to wear a dress to church on Sundays. I thought it was unfair that boys got to pee standing up, and I didn't. I rebelled against everything and anything I had to do (or wasn't allowed to do) because I was a girl.

But I never felt like a boy.

Can any trans-folks let me know if I'm getting it right?
posted by JoanArkham at 8:56 AM on February 27, 2013 [34 favorites]


Go into whichever one you identify with the most. There's no rule for adults.

Really? If that photo in your profile is of yourself, start using women's restrooms as a rule and see how long it takes for some sort of "police" to ask you about it.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 8:57 AM on February 27, 2013 [7 favorites]


I'm trying to wrap my head around how I feel about this. I assume it is my ignorance of the issue getting in the way, but I think that is main issue here is that of people not understanding. I think that ignorance or not understanding is going to be hard to overcome. In the meantime I feel sorry for the folks that have to make decisions that they feel is best for all.
posted by kenaldo at 8:57 AM on February 27, 2013


Coy Mathis also happens to be six. Her *preferred* breakfast is a bag of Cheetos washed down with Fanta. It doesn't mean she should be allowed to have it. Shouldn't a mental health professional help make that call together with the family?

I'm not sure why you're assuming that a mental health professional isn't helping them make that call. The child's gender is listed as female on her ID, etc--you can't legally do that without a lot of red tape and certifications from various medical professionals. Though it's not explicitly stated in the articles, it's clear that they are, in fact, working with professional help to do the best they can for their daughter.
posted by MeghanC at 8:57 AM on February 27, 2013 [19 favorites]


I will add that I am sympathetic to the fact that some people resist acknowledging transgender as valid because they reject the idea that men and women are fundamentally different. I had that feeling myself for a while. But when you meet and talk to trans people and actually try to listen to them, you quickly realize that their identities ARE valid, and you adjust your notions of gender accordingly.

Thinking that men and women have different brains DOES NOT preclude believing in gender equality.
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:57 AM on February 27, 2013 [6 favorites]


[A couple comments removed. If you find yourself prefacing a comment on a difficult subject with "I know that I'm going to get no end of shit for this here, but", the thing to do is to either stop and figure out how to rewrite it so it doesn't need that disclaimer or just give the discussion a pass.]
posted by cortex at 8:57 AM on February 27, 2013 [7 favorites]


Until then, there's absolutely no reason not to take her at her word.

The child is 6 years old.

And the parents are suing the school on the child's word.

Seriously, no one else thinks this is insane?
posted by ish__ at 8:58 AM on February 27, 2013 [7 favorites]


For those wondering why gender identity is not the same as "I don't like pink, so I must be a boy," you might learn a lot from the book Whipping Girl by Julia Serano. Note that the author is a feminist and the book starts from an assumption that feminism is worthwhile, so if you're a self-identified non-feminist you may not get much out of it.
posted by librarina at 8:59 AM on February 27, 2013 [6 favorites]


And the parents are suing the school on the child's word.

That's not true. They are suing the school because the school said Coy cannot use the bathroom that is in accordance with her gender identity. The school admits this.

As to whether the parents take Coy at her word that she is a female, they are also taking her doctor's word for it.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:00 AM on February 27, 2013 [21 favorites]


And the parents are suing the school on the child's word.

Someone is going to have to sue this school district sometime. It will likely be on behalf of a child. I'm not a lawyer, but as far as I can tell, the law is ridiculously clear cut here. The school was basically playing chicken and hoping the parents wouldn't have the resources to sue (or the resources to find an organisation with the resources to sue).
posted by hoyland at 9:01 AM on February 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


Seriously, no one else thinks this is insane?

When I was 6, I knew that I was a girl. Not because of what my genitals looked like (I didn't even know I had genitals, and certainly didn't know that boys had different ones). I feel pretty confident that most 6 year olds know what gender they are (or if they're not one of the two binary options).
posted by ocherdraco at 9:01 AM on February 27, 2013 [13 favorites]


Oh Christ, are we seriously doing "transgenderism is all in your head and if you have male parts I'm going to call you 'he' regardless of your own wishes and how triggering that might be to you"?

I mean, really? You don't have time to show someone basic respect by addressing them the way they prefer to be addressed? Because it's gender-politics bullshit? "She" is just as short as "he", and vice versa.

Glad we're already ignoring the lived experiences of actual trans-folk and scientific research regarding gender dysphoria because we cis-folk just, like, know.
posted by Phire at 9:02 AM on February 27, 2013 [74 favorites]


The child's gender is listed as female on her ID, etc--you can't legally do that without a lot of red tape and certifications from various medical professionals

Excellent. Now we get into the legal part. If the child has an ID that states female then, IMO, she is entitled to use the girls room ON the assumption that this ID holds some legal weight.
posted by clavdivs at 9:02 AM on February 27, 2013


Does anyone have any good links to accounts of the lived experience of gender dysphoria? That's the part about being trans that I have the most trouble understanding and empathising with - as a cis person, I've never felt "right" or that my genitalia and body fits my self-conception, I've just sort of bumbled along and dealt with things like the development of secondary sexual characteristics as they arose. I'd say that my physical body is pretty orthogonal to my self-conception, really, and while I've come to enjoy aspects of it I have this feeling that I'd be pretty okay if I had to grow up with the biology of the opposite sex. That's an entirely untested hypothesis, of course.
posted by nicolas léonard sadi carnot at 9:02 AM on February 27, 2013 [10 favorites]


Changing a US passport requires a letter from a doctor (maybe you could do it with a changed birth certificate or a court order or something, but those are obviously harder to get). It's not like it's something you can do on a whim.

Which is exactly my point. It's got to be easier to let your 6 year old boy play dress up as a girl until he's old enough to make an informed decision about what he wants his gender to be.

As much as I don't really "get" transgenderism, I respect choices that adults (and even teenagers) make for themselves in that regard. I have a hard time when parents make choices like this for very small children.
posted by sparklemotion at 9:02 AM on February 27, 2013 [7 favorites]


When I was six, I knew what gender I was. Why is it so hard for people to grant Coy the same consideration? I mean all this talk of but she's only six is exhausting and pointless and stupid. Do you run around questioning six year olds who identify as cis-male or cis-female if they are sure of their goddam gender?
posted by Sternmeyer at 9:02 AM on February 27, 2013 [53 favorites]


Wow....all this hinges on definitions, doesn't it?


If you cannot tell whether someone is male or female by their genitalia, you can't tell at all. Just because someone says they feel like the opposite gender does not change the physical DNA, does it?

I won't argue that some physiological things could be at play here, but I think that at the age of six it is problematic to identify a child with male dna and male genitalia as female. IF one must differentiate (and I accept that this child feels different) I think transgender is as good a term as any. There are no really perfect answers here. But even a six year old can grok that, hey, my body presents as male, and therefore at this time it probably is just as appropriate to use the toilet set aside for those with male body parts. It's all in the framing-unless you want to use a six year old for your political points, which I find rather distasteful.


Remember, a large part of how a child sees the world is how they feel that world reflected back to them by the important adults in their life. Six is too young for any kind of label, in my humble opinion. Because, yes, at 9 or 10 this child could indeed feel differently, and that would open a whole new can of worms at that point.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 9:03 AM on February 27, 2013 [7 favorites]


That's not true. They are suing the school because the school said Coy cannot use the bathroom that is in accordance with her gender identity. The school admits this.

I think bringing a suit based on a 6 year old's self-identified gender is ridiculous. 6 years old. 6. FFS they don't even have all their adult teeth yet!!! What happens if (as is wont to happen with fickle children) Coy changes her mind tomorrow and is a boy; then a girl the next day, and so on?
posted by ish__ at 9:04 AM on February 27, 2013


I have a hard time when parents make choices like this for very small children.

Coy has stated she is female since she was 18 months old. There doesn't seem to be any decision making on her behalf by her parents in that regard, other than to let her be who she is.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:04 AM on February 27, 2013 [13 favorites]


"Though it's not explicitly stated in the articles, it's clear that they are, in fact, working with professional help to do the best they can for their daughter."

Apparently so, but I'm responding to what appears to be the majority opinion in this thread that a what a six year old says should be taken at face value - "if she says she's a girl then she is one".
posted by gertzedek at 9:04 AM on February 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


When I was 6, I knew what my gender was the same way that I knew what my name was: because people told me. How else do you know what your gender is?
posted by sparklemotion at 9:04 AM on February 27, 2013 [15 favorites]


If the child has an ID that states female then, IMO, she is entitled to use the girls room ON the assumption that this ID holds some legal weight.

That's not what the law says.

Which is exactly my point. It's got to be easier to let your 6 year old boy play dress up as a girl until he's old enough to make an informed decision about what he wants his gender to be.

So perhaps you should employ Occam's Razor and conclude that refusing to let Coy live as a girl was not an option. Taking your 'easy' option can mean your kid killing themselves.
posted by hoyland at 9:04 AM on February 27, 2013 [7 favorites]


Does anyone have any good links to accounts of the lived experience of gender dysphoria?

This is a good place to start.
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:04 AM on February 27, 2013 [6 favorites]


And the parents are suing the school on the child's word.

Seriously, no one else thinks this is insane?
posted by ish__ at 11:58 AM on February 27 [+] [!]


It's not just on Coy's word.

I refuse to go into further details, but there have been many people involved.

Boston Children's Hospital has a Gender Management Services Clinic to assist families going through what Coy's family is going through. The fact that such a clinic even EXISTS suggests that transgendered children are far from uncommon.

And whether people here on Metafilter wish to accept that doesn't matter. Coy and other children like her are real. They exist. They are, hopefully, not going anywhere any time soon. They have feelings. They deserve to live happy lives. And Coy's parents are doing their best to insure that.

They really are.
posted by zizzle at 9:05 AM on February 27, 2013 [75 favorites]


It just feels like deciding that your child is transgender is just a way of complicating the issue of having a kid who doesn't fit society's gender norms. We need more kids who don't fit gender norms so that those gender norms go away.

People ask this kind of question of me all the time. The answer is that we didn't "decide" our son was transgender--he was absolutely clear with us from a young age that he was a boy, and he began living as a boy full-time at the age of 4. He's 5 now. I can hardly imagine what our lives would be like if we'd fought him--actually, I recently wrote about it, and this is what I said:

I don't mind being praised, even--or perhaps especially--when I don't deserve it, but I don't see that we had much choice; you might as well try to command the tides as try to turn the Tiny Tornado aside from a plan of action once he's undertaken it. Sometimes I imagine the alternate universe in which we refused to buy him boys' briefs, refused to cut his hair, refused to tell his school that, no matter what his birth certificate said, he would be attending as a boy. That universe looks like a bleak place in which I am engaged forever in a fight I cannot win with a small but powerful person who, given the choice between obeying me and honoring himself, will choose himself every time. As he should.

At the TransHealth conference last year, we met the parents of kids (and the kids, too) who had a variety of gender identities and expressions, including a boy of about 10 who is absolutely clear that he is a boy, but who has a stereotypically feminine self-expression. He's walking a very hard road, and we may "need" kids like him, but Jesus what a burden he is carrying. If you think the world needs to break free from gender stereotyping, take on that job yourself--put yourself out there as a man in a skirt, say, or a woman with facial hair. If you think about how hard that might be for you, imagine taking it on as a six-year-old or twelve-year-old. It's actually much less complicated for my son to be living in the world as a boy than it was for him as a male-presenting girl who was always being mis-pronouned. Certainly our trips to the black barbershop have been less fraught.

My point, though, is that it seems to often look from the outside like these are decisions parents are making on behalf of their children. In our experience, and the experience of other parents I've met and talked to, it's much more about honoring their own preferences. And it's clear from the testimony of young adult and adult trans people that fighting them on this, refusing to honor their preferences, is very wounding.
posted by not that girl at 9:06 AM on February 27, 2013 [140 favorites]


Which is exactly my point. It's got to be easier to let your 6 year old boy play dress up as a girl until he's old enough to make an informed decision about what he wants his gender to be.

Playing dress-up as a girl is not the same as being acknowledged as a girl. And not having your preferred gender acknowledged as you grow up is damaging. We know that from the narratives of adult trans persons. And who says that cis children know what gender they are? Your argument only makes sense if we restrict ALL children, not just the ones who think they're trans, from identifying fully as a particular gender until a certain age.
posted by WidgetAlley at 9:06 AM on February 27, 2013 [15 favorites]


When I was 6, I knew what my gender was the same way that I knew what my name was: because people told me. How else do you know what your gender is?

This is one of those things that you really, really can't know except by directly experiencing it, or listening to someone else explain their experience of it.
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:06 AM on February 27, 2013 [5 favorites]


All else aside, I have to say – wow. That is absolutely the best CNN article I think I've ever read: well-written, carefully researched, thoughtfully worded. I'm impressed. I don't generally expect major news outlets to handle gender identity stories this well.
posted by koeselitz at 9:07 AM on February 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


Do you run around questioning six year olds who identify as cis-male or cis-female if they are sure of their goddam gender?

No, but I also don't run across too many six year olds who are familiar with the ins and outs of trans/cis and the politics and everything that comes with it. We're not talking about an adult here, with (hopefully) fully formed brain & opinions and such. We're talking about a 6 year old. 3 years ago the child was still eating with their fingers for crying out loud.

Y'all really want to claim a 6 year old's brain is developed enough to understand this? Then why do we have juvenile crime distinction?
posted by ish__ at 9:07 AM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]



No, but I also don't run across too many six year olds who are familiar with the ins and outs of trans/cis and the politics and everything that comes with it.


Who says she knows anything about politics? Why do you have to know about politics to know what your gender is?
posted by ocherdraco at 9:09 AM on February 27, 2013 [7 favorites]


There's an interesting bit of privilege that comes into play in conversations like this, and it's one that even the most well meaning pro-trans people seem to fall for. If you ask yourself what it's like to be trans you'll invariably try and imagine yourself wanting a different physical sex than the one you have. Like I'm a cis man, and I'll try and imagine wanting a vagina and some nice dresses. And this is utterly, and destructively the wrong way to think about it.

The *right* way to think about it IMHO is to imagine that your genitals have been changed. Like, I'm trying to imagine that my cock and balls are gone and I'm unable to grow this luxuriant beard I'm sporting. And in this situation, you're damned right. I am using the male bathroom. No questions, no ifs, no "nurses private toilet." I'm using the mens fucking toilet. I'm a man. Having to sit down to piss is humiliating and wrong enough.

Of course the whole "missing my cock and balls" thing raises other weird questions like if you're transgendered, are you also disabled. I'm sure I'd probably get neutered in these quarters for suggesting such a thing, but there you go.

Case closed. Let her use the girls bathroom.
posted by zoo at 9:10 AM on February 27, 2013 [18 favorites]


Y'all really want to claim a 6 year old's brain is developed enough to understand this? Then why do we have juvenile crime distinction?

I assume you have a reason to DISbelieve the overwhelming majority of recent scientific research into this subject?
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:10 AM on February 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


We don't. I don't have to insert my junk into a keyhole to open the door. It just says "Men's" and "Women's". Go into whichever one you identify with the most. There's no rule for adults. Why should there be one for kids.

This is an awesome ideal, but isn't actually the lived experience of trans or genderqueer people.

My partner is FtM trans. He has scars on his arms, hands, and face from the time that someone felt that he was in the wrong bathroom and attacked him with a knife.

I'm not especially gendered, and people seem to read me pretty variably. I've been called names and spat at for being in what people felt was the wrong bathroom. I've been pulled aside and asked by the staff at a professional conference at which I was presenting to just use the bathroom in my room, because I was "upsetting" people.

Bathrooms are not gender neutral, no matter how much we might like them to be.
posted by MeghanC at 9:10 AM on February 27, 2013 [31 favorites]


Hey, if this one six-year-old is too young to know what gender they are, then... all of them are! This is a disaster! WE COULD HAVE BOYS IN THE GIRLS BATHROOM AND GIRLS IN THE BOYS BATHROOM AND WE WOULD NEVER KNOW QUICK DESTROY ALL THE BATHROOMS
posted by ominous_paws at 9:10 AM on February 27, 2013 [58 favorites]


And you know what -

If she changes her mind in three years time. I don't care. Just let her use the girls god-damned bathroom. It's what I'd want.
posted by zoo at 9:10 AM on February 27, 2013 [10 favorites]


What happens if (as is wont to happen with fickle children) Coy changes her mind tomorrow and is a boy; then a girl the next day, and so on?

Um, nothing? The world does not end if this happens. She gets to be a boy on some days and a girl on others. Why is that an issue? The only place where it gets tricky is in legal documentation, which requires you to check one of two boxes, for absolutely no logical reason that I can see. It's not like they need to know your gender to be able to identify you-- your height, weight, fingerprints, and iris don't change.

Seriously. If genders get a little fluid, even for kids, it's not the end of the world. All it means is some people have to adjust their thinking and broaden their minds a bit.
posted by WidgetAlley at 9:11 AM on February 27, 2013 [32 favorites]


From what I understand (and I know I don't understand much), it's a case of "Boys feel like X, but I feel like Y, so I must not be a boy", which is silly, because not all boys feel like X.

I was born female, and there have been times in my life that I have not felt particularly womanly -- for instance, I don't want to have children, ever, and our society most often treats women like machines that dispense babies. I also spent most of my adolescence and my early adulthood dressing in clothes designed for and marketed to male bodies -- no skirts or dresses here, thank you, I did not find them comfortable. Add in some disdain for stereotypically female pursuits, and on the surface you might think I'm describing my life before I figured out that I was supposed to be born male...

...except for the huge, honking, flashing issue of never once feeling like I was born into the wrong body. I have some body image issues, but never once have I felt like I was the wrong gender, that my body had the wrong genitalia, that I was trapped in a form I was not supposed to inhabit. Hell, at a point in my life when I looked particularly androgynous, an elderly and somewhat senile stepgrandparent kept mistaking me for a boy and referring to me as he, and it made me insane with rage. "I'm a girl, I'm a girl!", I kept shrieking at her.

Transgendered people aren't people who think, "Oh, I don't like babies so I must not be a girl," or "Oh, I don't like sports so I must not be a boy." It's something much deeper than that, and if you've never once doubted that you're in the right body, you should consider yourself to be very, very lucky.
posted by palomar at 9:12 AM on February 27, 2013 [53 favorites]


I've never actually encountered a bathroom situation where genital police stand at the restroom doors

Have you ever used the men's restroom when there was no line there and a long line for the women's, and seen the dirty looks you got when you got out? Extra bonus points if the rooms are just single rooms with a toilet and a sink instead of a bunch of stalls but the doors say some kind of cutesy version of men/women anyhow. There are bathroom police.

I wish her well in this fight.
posted by jeather at 9:14 AM on February 27, 2013 [6 favorites]


The point is that many of these kids who identify as trans--not that girl's son, for example--don't know the gender politics. They don't know what trans means, and they don't particularly care. They just know that they feel different, and like they're in the wrong body, and they need to be acknowledged as something other than what they are currently acknowledged as because that starts to soothe some of the wrongness. Presumably no one indoctrinated not that girl's son into fighting the good political fight of gender equality at the ripe old age of 18 months old. He felt, deeply within his bones, that he was a boy.

The politics stems from trying to fight for the rights of trans-folk. But transgenderism certainly didn't start with politics.

"Kids don't get tried as adults either" is a pretty terrible excuse to deny kids their preferred gender identity. Does anyone get harmed if these kids decide a few years later to stop identifying as [insert gender here]? I mean, really - what consequences are there to anyone, other than some school administrators have to stop being prescriptivist bigots about how gender identity is supposed to work?
posted by Phire at 9:14 AM on February 27, 2013 [28 favorites]


ish__: "Y'all really want to claim a 6 year old's brain is developed enough to understand this? Then why do we have juvenile crime distinction?"

Yo! I think gender identity is more internal than a sense of legal propriety. So yes, I think it's fine.
posted by boo_radley at 9:15 AM on February 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


gertzedek: “Coy Mathis also happens to be six. Her *preferred* breakfast is a bag of Cheetos washed down with Fanta. It doesn't mean she should be allowed to have it. Shouldn't a mental health professional help make that call together with the family?”

ish__: “Y'all really want to claim a 6 year old's brain is developed enough to understand this? Then why do we have juvenile crime distinction?”

There's an interesting assumption being made here that Coy hasn't sat down and talked with psychiatrists and doctors about what this means in the process of thinking through who she is and what her gender is. Her family clearly went through a lot in making this determination; why do we assume they haven't thought hard about it with her and with people who are equipped to help?

I kind of sense a lack of empathy for the family, so maybe put it in this perspective: no family has a son come home one day wanting to wear dresses and automatically forces him to re-identify as a daughter. This isn't a choice that comes lightly, even for a six-year-old. This is something I'm sure they talked a lot about and considered carefully in private, as a family ought to be allowed to.

It's really down to us to respect their decision. If we don't then I don't see how we trust parents to take care of their kids at all. The fundamental precepts that govern a society where people are valued for who they are demand that we accept the identity people present to us. That includes six-year-old people, who are people, even if being people requires some extra help from adults at that stage.
posted by koeselitz at 9:15 AM on February 27, 2013 [14 favorites]


Boston Children's Hospital has a Gender Management Services Clinic to assist families going through what Coy's family is going through. The fact that such a clinic even EXISTS suggests that transgendered children are far from uncommon.

But isn't it true that these types of clinics are almost exclusively concerned with ambiguous genitalia, and other cases of difficulty in assigning (yes, assigning, fraid so) gender?
posted by ShutterBun at 9:16 AM on February 27, 2013


I'll admit some nativity and confusion stemming from it: how does a 6 year old know they're transgendered? I don't mean that the child likes to play with dolls or wear pink or something like that (that is really here nor there wrt to sexuality). But like... are we all just accepting that a 6 year old has the mental capacity to understand all of this and decide that they're a girl with male genitalia? Maybe Coy is, maybe Coy isn't - doesn't 6 seem early to decide to anyone else?

Not that an answer to this necessarily solves the which-bathroom-to-use issue though......


Did you know if you were a boy or a girl when you were six? I'm not saying some kids can't be confused rather than transgender at that age, but they do generally have a basic sense of of what a boy is and what a girl is. If they are really clear they are on one side of the line, it's a pretty strong case.
posted by Drinky Die at 9:17 AM on February 27, 2013


But isn't it true that these types of clinics are almost exclusively concerned with ambiguous genitalia, and other cases of difficulty in assigning (yes, assigning, fraid so) gender?
posted by ShutterBun at 12:16 PM on February 27 [+] [!]


No.
posted by zizzle at 9:17 AM on February 27, 2013 [15 favorites]


Hey! The Katie Couric video is pretty good and people should watch it probably! Especially the part where Coy's anxiety and depression vanished once she began presenting as female!
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:17 AM on February 27, 2013 [6 favorites]


ShutterBun: "But isn't it true that these types of clinics are almost exclusively concerned with ambiguous genitalia, and other cases of difficulty in assigning (yes, assigning, fraid so) gender?"

This is unequivocally not the case.
posted by boo_radley at 9:17 AM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


ShutterBun, no, that's not true at all.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:17 AM on February 27, 2013


Oh, and again, no.
posted by zizzle at 9:19 AM on February 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


Why does it matter why people decide to identify as a gender other than the one they were assigned at birth? The reason shouldn't matter, any more than the reason someone decides to identify themselves by a name other than the one they were given at birth. The point is that some people's gender identity doesn't match the physical sexual traits usually associated with that gender and the system should be designed around supporting that kind of situation.
posted by burnmp3s at 9:19 AM on February 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


ShutterBun: “But isn't it true that these types of clinics are almost exclusively concerned with ambiguous genitalia, and other cases of difficulty in assigning (yes, assigning, fraid so) gender?”

In case it was unclear from the link boo_radley provides, here's the pertinent mission statement:
Our mission is to help children cope with the disconnect they may feel between the body and gender they were born with and the body and gender in which they identify. Therefore, we try to help them develop a body that is consistent with their identity.
posted by koeselitz at 9:20 AM on February 27, 2013


Seriously. If genders get a little fluid, even for kids, it's not the end of the world.

I completely agree with WidgetAlley. The only reason to have a problem with this is if you believe that gender is static and unchangeable from birth to death. Which it clearly isn't. And again, WHY DOES IT MATTER. Seriously, why oh why is it so important to know someone's gender? Just so you know how to address them in the third person? Just so you can make sure they don't sneak into the wrong bathroom? Why are these things so important to people? That's the truly "insane" part about this story.

Just let her be. She is not responsible for how others feel about her gender. Yikes.
posted by Doleful Creature at 9:20 AM on February 27, 2013 [13 favorites]


No, but I also don't run across too many six year olds who are familiar with the ins and outs of trans/cis and the politics and everything that comes with it.

She's a little girl, her gender isn't about politics or whatever. She's lucky to have people willing to fight her battles so she can be a little girl in as much peace as possible.

It sounds like you trust six-year-olds to know their gender as long as it matches their genitals. That right there is a big chunk of institutionalized bigotry that trans people get to live through every day. Try to imagine a world where everyone around you questions something as basic to your person as your gender identity. If that doesn't make you want to cry, you're not imagining hard enough.

Seriously, if anyone out there thinks that six is too young to identify as a trans* person: would you be concerned about a six-year-old who identified as a cis* person? Would you be wringing your hands in concern for a little boy with a penis because he's too young to be sure he's a little boy? No? Then you've got some baggage to work through.
posted by Sternmeyer at 9:20 AM on February 27, 2013 [38 favorites]


Interesting thought experiment, zoo, I think that helps. If my genitalia were suddenly swapped for the opposite sex's, I'd be pretty troubled, but I think that would mostly be because my experience up till now has been living as one particular gender, and needing suddenly to make the switch would be a bummer. I can't separate my mind and personality as it exists now from the sexed body it inhabits, but for me, the "this is my gender" part of my personality was constructed through some combination of teenaged chemicals and my cultural milieu. It's integral to me now, but not essential to my being any more than the fact that I speak English rather than Mandarin, I think.

I strongly agree that it's awful that people are demanding this kid explain herself for identifying as a gender other than the one her genitals would normally imply. That's some authoritarian nonsense. I'm very interested in how that divergent identification comes about and what it feels like, though!
posted by nicolas léonard sadi carnot at 9:20 AM on February 27, 2013


The level of ignorance running through this thread astounds me. Even some of the MeFis I have come to associate with open mindedness are disappointing me. Implying this girl is mentally ill, "playing dress up" and is just plain confused is insulting and incredibly dismissive of what has obviously been a long and courageous plight by both her and her parents and other caregivers and medical personnel.
posted by Kokopuff at 9:21 AM on February 27, 2013 [48 favorites]


I have a six year old daughter, who happens to be female-bodied as well as female-identified. Trust me, six year olds have a VERY STRONG concept of gender. I never had to tell her she was a girl; she knew.
posted by KathrynT at 9:21 AM on February 27, 2013 [8 favorites]


I think people are considering this in a vacuum.

At the moment, if you have a child, particularly of a young age and you expose them to a situation in which they can see an opposite-sex member's genitalia, you are committing child abuse. This is one of the reasons why CPS requires that opposite-sex children cannot be housed in the same room.

Whether or not that should be, that is the world we live in. One of the expectations on you, as a parent, is that you will carefully protect your child from opposite-sex genitalia. If your daughter sees you, a lady, without clothes - that's fine and A-OK. If she sees her father, you will be having to answer a lot of questions right quick. Even the sex education classes are not allowed to show accurate pictures of genitalia at that age.

Offer a third option. Offer even one unisex bathroom with tall stalls like they have in Europe, where everyone understands that outside of their stalls it is not a same-sex safe zone. But don't pretend that it is a one-sex (and that is /different/ from gender) zone, and then let other-sexed people into it.

A transgendered person is different than a transsexual person. Male and female bathrooms are segregated by sex, not by gender.
posted by corb at 9:21 AM on February 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


Corb, I have NEVER seen a vagina in the women's restroom.
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:23 AM on February 27, 2013 [54 favorites]


This is one of the reasons why CPS requires that opposite-sex children cannot be housed in the same room.

I don't think so. If that were true, there would be a law against any different sexed siblings sharing a bedroom.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:23 AM on February 27, 2013 [8 favorites]


At the moment, if you have a child, particularly of a young age and you expose them to a situation in which they can see an opposite-sex member's genitalia, you are committing child abuse. This is one of the reasons why CPS requires that opposite-sex children cannot be housed in the same room.


This is emphatically not true. I have a six year old daughter who sees male genitals all the time; she has a father and a little brother. CPS has never come calling.
posted by KathrynT at 9:24 AM on February 27, 2013 [29 favorites]


Wrong, Corb. My bathroom at work has a lovely little cut out of a lady in a dress on the door. My co worker, who dresses as a female, but has a penis, uses it all day long. We have many delightful conversations in there. Not a problem. Never has been, never will be. (Just to clarify, I've never SEEN her penis, but based on a long history, I know it's there. Just like she knows I have a vagina, even though I don't flash it around like a badge.)
posted by Kokopuff at 9:24 AM on February 27, 2013 [26 favorites]


Like, I'm trying to imagine that my cock and balls are gone and I'm unable to grow this luxuriant beard I'm sporting.

I dunno if it works in my mind, because what immediately comes to mind is becoming a robot, and in some way I've always wanted to be a robot since I was, well, six years old.

But, just because I can't wrap my mind about it, doesn't mean I'm going to deny a six year old something. I mean, I didn't even think about her or trans-gender issues before today, so it's not a big deal.
posted by FJT at 9:25 AM on February 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


At the moment, if you have a child, particularly of a young age and you expose them to a situation in which they can see an opposite-sex member's genitalia, you are committing child abuse. This is one of the reasons why CPS requires that opposite-sex children cannot be housed in the same room.

If this were actually true it would basically make it impossible for me to be a single father of a young daughter.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 9:25 AM on February 27, 2013 [48 favorites]


One of the expectations on you, as a parent, is that you will carefully protect your child from opposite-sex genitalia. If your daughter sees you, a lady, without clothes - that's fine and A-OK. If she sees her father, you will be having to answer a lot of questions right quick.

Haha, what? This is bonkers and obviously made-up. Is this the world as you envision it, corb, or is it how you wish things were, or are you making a joke that went over my head?
posted by Sternmeyer at 9:27 AM on February 27, 2013 [33 favorites]


This is an honest question that I think gets at the root of my inability to feel confident in my opinions, please forgive any hertero-normative rudeness that creeps in here.

To be, perhaps overly, blunt:

I see one side of the argument saying "Let her use the female bathroom, she is a female because she identifies as female". These people seem to place their faith in the child, and inherently to some degree the child's parents and doctors, and her ability to identify accurately and the rest of society should understand and be compassionate to that. I'm on board with that mostly but it's not something I'm completely ok with because... damn this is hard to grok internally...

Because she is a child and I don't trust children with really important decisions even if it is about their life/body/etc, and while I'm honestly appreciative of the people here who were sure at that point in their life I'm sure there are also people who were sure at of their feelings at that age and may now have completely other feelings/identifications. And that's fine too!

Anyway, the question that that keeps coming to mind is this: If the parents were suing for the right to perform, potentially irreversible, surgery to have her gender aligned with her identification would you feel the same way as you do regarding her bathroom usage? Assume that she did convey that she wanted the surgery and that she is six years old.

Does that change anything for anyone? If so, why? I'll take my answer off the air.

*The stuff about 'why do we still have gendered bathrooms at all?' is interesting and fair but mainly a historical / academic discussion.
posted by RolandOfEld at 9:27 AM on February 27, 2013 [5 favorites]


I can't separate my mind and personality as it exists now from the sexed body it inhabits, but for me, the "this is my gender" part of my personality was constructed through some combination of teenaged chemicals and my cultural milieu. It's integral to me now, but not essential to my being any more than the fact that I speak English rather than Mandarin, I think.

That's totally fine! Not everyone experiences gender the same way. I seem to feel more strongly gendered than my brother, and we have the same parents and grew up in the same house, etc.
posted by hoyland at 9:31 AM on February 27, 2013


One of the expectations on you, as a parent, is that you will carefully protect your child from opposite-sex genitalia. If your daughter sees you, a lady, without clothes - that's fine and A-OK. If she sees her father, you will be having to answer a lot of questions right quick.

Seriously?

I am a parent of two children.

I didn't see this listed in the Definitive Parenting Handbook.

Actually, you know what? I never got the Definitive Parenting Handbook and I became a parent over 4 years ago! I should probably find out why my copy never arrived.
posted by zizzle at 9:32 AM on February 27, 2013 [12 favorites]


If the parents were suing for the right to perform, potentially irreversible, surgery to have her gender aligned with her identification would you feel the same way as you do regarding her bathroom usage?

No, because it's not great (as I understand) from a biological perspective, because she's still growing. Thankfully, using the bathroom is nothing like having irrevocable surgery! Nothing at all!
posted by jetlagaddict at 9:32 AM on February 27, 2013 [20 favorites]


Because she is a child and I don't trust children with really important decisions even if it is about their life/body/etc

Once again, would you have these trust issues if the child identified as the same gender as their genitals indicated (boy with penis/girl with vulva)? If so, then you're weird (not a bad thing). If no, then you're bigoted (bad thing but fixable).
posted by Sternmeyer at 9:34 AM on February 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


Anyway, the question that that keeps coming to mind is this: If the parents were suing for the right to perform, potentially irreversible, surgery to have her gender aligned with her identification would you feel the same way as you do regarding her bathroom usage? Assume that she did convey that she wanted the surgery and that she is six years old.

Does that change anything for anyone? If so, why? I'll take my answer off the air.


Yes, I absolutely think that performing irreversible surgery on a kid is the same as letting them use a different bathroom, because I am a ridiculous strawman argument!
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:34 AM on February 27, 2013 [22 favorites]


Yes, corb, if you have any official CPS literature you can link to backup these claims it would help. Because seriously, no, it doesn't work like that.

I don't trust children with really important decisions even if it is about their life/body/etc

But this decision is primarily important to her and has no practical impact on anybody else. It literally is no concern of yours, and she is free to change her gender identity later as she grows.

On preview what jetlagaddict said about the surgery. I'm betting a doctor would advise waiting till after puberty has finished before doing any gender reassignment surgery, simply as a matter of bioligical priorities.
posted by Doleful Creature at 9:34 AM on February 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


because it's not great (as I understand) from a biological perspective,

Can we call that an aside as well, it doesn't really help my understanding of trans-sensitive opinions here since it's more a medical fact that I was unaware of?

Thankfully, using the bathroom is nothing like having irrevocable surgery! Nothing at all!

I'm aware of that and that's why I'm asking about people's opinion on a hypothetical to try to better my understanding of what's going on here. If that's not ok here then I guess I understand.

I guess I didn't really take my answer off the air, sorry.
posted by RolandOfEld at 9:35 AM on February 27, 2013


My stance on it, Roland, is that it's no big deal what gender she identifies as. What are the actual consequences of her performing as one gender or another? Pretty much nothing. People make a huge fuss about it because they're very tied to gender being firmly coupled to sex - which, sure, it is for most people, but that's no reason to be prescriptive about it.

6 is too young for irreversible action, sure, but I'm pretty cool with a teenager making a decision to shift permanently to a certain gender.
posted by nicolas léonard sadi carnot at 9:35 AM on February 27, 2013 [5 favorites]


If the parents were suing for the right to perform, potentially irreversible, surgery to have her gender aligned with her identification would you feel the same way as you do regarding her bathroom usage? Assume that she did convey that she wanted the surgery and that she is six years old.

In that case I would defer to the experts, the experts being other trans persons who have come through this same scenario, medical health professionals, and doctors familiar with gender reassignment surgeries, as well as the little girl and her parents. If they thought that she was sure and this would have a significant impact on the quality of her life (particularly re: mental health, because trans adolescents are at such high risk for suicide), then I would say go for it. Oh, except that jetlagaddict brings up a good point: it's not good to have such major surgery so young. But if for some reason that weren't a factor...

We only have the information we're given by trans persons and that we've studied scientifically. If all those point to go, and there's some kind of compelling reason she shouldn't wait until later, then I say yes. If she changes her mind about her gender later, there is no reason she cannot take some steps towards transitioning back to a male presentation or, if she feels she prefers neither/both, towards genderqueer. But at least among MtF trans persons, the rate of regret seems pretty low (warning: surgical pictures).
posted by WidgetAlley at 9:36 AM on February 27, 2013


Anyway, the question that that keeps coming to mind is this: If the parents were suing for the right to perform, potentially irreversible, surgery to have her gender aligned with her identification would you feel the same way as you do regarding her bathroom usage? Assume that she did convey that she wanted the surgery and that she is six years old.

This is a hypothetical that wouldn't arise. You couldn't find a surgeon willing, for a start, at least not when the child has 'typical' genitalia (there's a whole separate issue of 'correcting' intersex conditions in infants). But, afaik, like jetlagaddict said, you'd have to wait for practical reasons.
posted by hoyland at 9:37 AM on February 27, 2013


RolandofEld, if a child told you that they didn't feel well, and their doctor confirmed that yes, the child didn't feel well, would you still disbelieve them? Would you treat them, even if that meant, say, putting them on some sort of medication? What about antidepressants, or medication for severely ADHD children?

You would, right? Because that's much closer to what's happening than your surgical comparison. If it turns out that there are negative side effects, and those are greater than the benefits, you can undo things. This is an easy solution to something that otherwise frequently leads to years, if not decades, of serious mental disorders and suicide attempts. Why not give someone Prozac, or Ritalin, or allow them to present as female and go by whatever name they feel is appropriate? It hurts no one, and if it turns out that it's not the right option, it can be undone with no harm done.
posted by MeghanC at 9:37 AM on February 27, 2013 [11 favorites]


One of the expectations on you, as a parent, is that you will carefully protect your child from opposite-sex genitalia. If your daughter sees you, a lady, without clothes - that's fine and A-OK. If she sees her father, you will be having to answer a lot of questions right quick.

That's funny, I know easily five or six families in which parent and child of the opposite sex have taken a bath together when the child was small. Should I be on the horn with CPS right now to report all these families for abuse and have their children sent to foster homes? Or are you perhaps completely misinformed?
posted by palomar at 9:38 AM on February 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


at least not when the child has 'typical' genitalia (there's a whole separate issue of 'correcting' intersex conditions in infants)

That came out sounding kind of weird.
posted by hoyland at 9:38 AM on February 27, 2013


RolandOfEld: "Does that change anything for anyone? If so, why? I'll take my answer off the air."

Assuming you're genuinely arguing in good faith and not pulling a "slippery slope!!!" strawman - Well, yes. Because the surgery is irreversible and irreversible things done to your body should be best left until you're an adult (see: tattoo parlour age restrictions). Because transition surgery is a bad idea pre-puberty anyway, from a health stand point. Because you need to have doctor approval for transition surgery where the doctor is certain that the individual involved is cognizant and understanding of all risks and implications of the surgery, and doctors aren't going to sign off on that for a 6-year-old kid. There are safeguards.

And less concretely, because in my (admittedly limited understanding) I don't think the concept of transition surgery is something that occurs to a kid naturally and thus has the same kind of impact on their day-to-day mental state the way being recognized as their preferred gender does. Medical professionals aren't going to perform transition surgery on a 6-year-old kid. If parents are suing for the right to give transition surgery to their kid against the advice of medical professionals, then I might buy into the argument about political shenanigans. But that is patently not the case, and we are not discussing surgery.
posted by Phire at 9:38 AM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm aware of that and that's why I'm asking about people's opinion on a hypothetical to try to better my understanding of what's going on here. If that's not ok here then I guess I understand.

Sorry I was so snippy... look, the thing is, some kids DO experience gender dysphoria and then later in life come to identify as the gender in line with their birth sex. And that's the reason nothing permanent ought to be done at that age. BUT, there are so, so many people who feel that their entire lives were made extraordinarily worse by having their identity denied for their whole childhood that I can't find a single reason NOT to take childhood gender dysphoria seriously. What is the harm?
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:38 AM on February 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


hoyland, I guess it's because I don't feel all that strongly gendered except when I'm actually having sex or whatever that I feel really curious about people whose gender is more important to them, important enough to do some really brave and difficult stuff sometimes like go through the whole coming-out / transitioning experience.
posted by nicolas léonard sadi carnot at 9:39 AM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


MeghanC:This is an awesome ideal, but isn't actually the lived experience of trans or genderqueer people.

You're absolutely right. I should have known better than that. My brain lives in an ideal world sometimes, but your partner's scars prove we are very much in a real world.
posted by inturnaround at 9:39 AM on February 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


Assuming you're genuinely arguing in good faith and not pulling a "slippery slope!!!" strawman

Swear to god i'm not.
posted by RolandOfEld at 9:39 AM on February 27, 2013


Honestly it feels like this whole issue is part of the larger issue of sexism and how awful a lot of people are.

I have seen women go into in men's rooms out of necessity and rarely does it raise anything other than "wow that was funny, she must've really had to go."

But I have also seen men go into female restrooms out of necessity and "holy shit call the police it's a rapist" or a man sends his daughter in and she needs help so he goes in to help and the next thing he knows his wife has to bail him out.

Of course there are also websites dedicated to "hidden camera porn" where you can watch unsuspecting women so the fear of a male in the restroom is probably warranted in a lot of cases.

Perhaps we should do away with communal bathrooms and provide a bunch of single lockable stalls for everyone. Of course that would cost a lot of money.
posted by M Edward at 9:39 AM on February 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


Our mission is to help children cope with the disconnect they may feel between the body and gender they were born with and the body and gender in which they identify. Therefore, we try to help them develop a body that is consistent with their identity.

Got it, thanks. Although this particular clinic appears to be one-of-a-kind (at least in this hemisphere) so while it's helpful to know that yes, this is being done, it's maybe too soon to declare such situations as "far from uncommon" just yet. Undoubtedly it will become more common in the future, but it's fair to accept that a "groundbreaking" medical approach such as this is going to catch some people by surprise.

Thanks for the links.
posted by ShutterBun at 9:40 AM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


a man sends his daughter in and she needs help so he goes in to help and the next thing he knows his wife has to bail him out

You've never seen this, because the only place it happens is in the fever dreams of the MRA movement.
posted by Sternmeyer at 9:41 AM on February 27, 2013 [10 favorites]


I might also add that parents make surgical decisions about their children's genitalia presentation all the damn time, and that's even without the child's consent or consultation.
posted by WidgetAlley at 9:41 AM on February 27, 2013 [6 favorites]


I feel it's very sad to bring this up, but sort of the opposite of Coy's situation was David Reimer's.

He was born a boy, raised as a girl at the proddings of some terrible doctors after a botched circumcision, and all along he knew he was a boy and raged against being a girl. Despite everyone around him telling him he was a girl.

People think his story is tragic. And it really is. It's terrible. It's one of the blackest stories I've heard regarding gender identity.

Now here's Coy, who was born a boy (to use heteronormative language), was raised as a boy briefly, stated and expressed that he (to use heteronormative language) is a girl and knows she (to use the proper language) is a girl. And her parents and doctors and in others in her lives have accepted that and are working with it.

Children know who they are in a lot of ways at younger ages than adults are sometimes comfortable with. And a favorite on Metafilter:

When someone tells you who they are, believe them.
posted by zizzle at 9:43 AM on February 27, 2013 [60 favorites]


re: nicolas léonard sadi carnot, FJT, I get where y'all are coming from.

I dunno if it works in my mind, because what immediately comes to mind is becoming a robot, and in some way I've always wanted to be a robot since I was, well, six years old.

Me too. All the time. Or that I could clomp around in a big robotic exoskeleton so that my Being Female In Public was not some kind of thing. I accept the cis designation, where my social identity is not at odds with physical assembly. The part where I get confused is, again, a personal thing: I'm not a woman because it's an irrevocable part of my being. I'm a woman because I'm a human with a particular set of physical characteristics, which led to certain kinds of socialization.

The only way this has anything to do with transgender is I have a hard time wrapping my mind around it. Feeling very strongly about being a gender confuses me, since I feel like I am one arbitrarily, because that's the body I wound up with. I accept that people do feel these things, and it totally isn't my place to judge anybody or decide what is or isn't valid - it's just a mental stretch, to me, to get into that mindset and try to figure out what the world is like that way.

(I really hope this makes some kind of sense and does not piss anybody off.)
posted by cmyk at 9:46 AM on February 27, 2013 [8 favorites]


Does anyone have any good links to accounts of the lived experience of gender dysphoria? That's the part about being trans that I have the most trouble understanding and empathising with - as a cis person, I've never felt "right" or that my genitalia and body fits my self-conception, I've just sort of bumbled along and dealt with things like the development of secondary sexual characteristics as they arose. I'd say that my physical body is pretty orthogonal to my self-conception, really, and while I've come to enjoy aspects of it I have this feeling that I'd be pretty okay if I had to grow up with the biology of the opposite sex. That's an entirely untested hypothesis, of course.

I'm just going to jump in and say that this is because binary gender identity is actually really reductionist and unhelpful. You don't need to identify as trans in order to not feel that "man" and "woman" don't describe you well.

Some people feel that "man" and "woman" really describe them well. Some people don't. There's no reason that we have to choose between "everyone - trans and cis - is really either a man or a woman" and "gender is totally artificial and none of us have genders and trans people are just whiners who need to suck it up". We could instead say that there are a lot of gender identities, and that it's a fool's game to police them.

Also, the mainstream discourse about trans people's experiences - speaking as someone who is trying to figure out this whole trans thing themselves and who has lots of trans friends - is spectacularly unhelpful, because it suggests that most trans people experience a simple transition into a very standard "mainstream" gender performance. So if you're a trans man, you take hormones, grow a beard, dress ultra-manly, date girls, have top surgery, start to do manly hobbies and stop doing girly ones, etc; if you're a trans woman, you do something similar only in reverse. This is not how any of the trans people I actually know have lived - even the ones who are completely heterosexual and pretty comfortable with standard gender performance. How could it be? If I were to transition, for example, I would not magically develop a childhood where I lived as a boy and had a penis; I would not forget my life in a community of women. I would still be shaped by all those things. And I sure as hell wouldn't get rid of the furniture and oddments I inherited from my very girlie grandmother just because I'd be a man now.

There's just this discomfort with and impatience with individuals and specific circumstance in a lot of these conversations - it's like people want The Iron Rule Of Gender that they can use to decide who is who and never have to think about any of this stuff.

Honestly, as I sort out my own gender stuff, I am actually doing a lot of personal and therapist-mediated work on "what do I mean when I say 'I feel like [this gender]" and how is that different from "I have internalized misogyny" or "I find some comfort in this gender stereotype"?

All of these "but you can't possibly feel that you're trans except because of sexism" stuff....if you're trotting that out, folks, you are assuming that something I live, something that contours my daily existence and all my relationships, is something to which I have given no thought. No thought at all - so that your first, speculative, random ideas are weightier and more serious than my considered ones. I don't think that this is what people intend, so it's worth considering that it's the impression you give.
posted by Frowner at 9:46 AM on February 27, 2013 [48 favorites]


not that girl: I can hardly imagine what our lives would be like if we'd fought him--actually, I recently wrote about it

Is the piece you wrote this for available online? Your comment was illuminating, and I'm definitely interested in reading more.
posted by mokin at 9:49 AM on February 27, 2013


Got it, thanks. Although this particular clinic appears to be one-of-a-kind (at least in this hemisphere) so while it's helpful to know that yes, this is being done, it's maybe too soon to declare such situations as "far from uncommon" just yet. Undoubtedly it will become more common in the future, but it's fair to accept that a "groundbreaking" medical approach such as this is going to catch some people by surprise.

If it's one-of-a-kind, it's in the sense of 'focused only on trans children'. (The hormone blocker research seems to come out of the Netherlands, but I don't think that's a children-specific clinic.) There are plenty of places that see a lot of trans people, which may or may not be trans-specific, some of which will see children. There's a woman quoted in the CNN article from USC who sees trans children, though she may do so in a setting that includes adults or non-trans children.
posted by hoyland at 9:49 AM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Y'all really want to claim a 6 year old's brain is developed enough to understand this? Then why do we have juvenile crime distinction?

My seven-year-old kids understand this stuff, quite clearly, just like they understand other things they've been exposed to. That exposure and understanding hasn't made them suddenly decide they're not "really" a boy or a girl, and I'm not surprised, because their gender identity was expressed clearly -- by them -- far earlier than six years old. I didn't expect this knowledge to make them change their minds any more than finding out about people who are gay/lesbian (in age-appropriate ways about relationships and attraction and love, of course, not the related sex act) would suddenly make them decide they were (or weren't) gay/lesbian.

So why do we have juvenile crime distinction? Impulse control, and the realization that many crimes are arbitrary and require a deep understanding of the culture at large to parse correctly. Asking a kid to understand themselves and their bodies pretty deeply at a young age isn't unreasonable -- they've been working on that since the day they were born -- but holding them to adult standards as they struggle to control their emotional impulses during puberty and expecting them to understand all the laws that apply to them in the larger context of the society even though some of those laws don't make sense, yeah, that's a stretch. So we bake in an assumption that, by 18 (or whatever the law is where you are) they should have gotten their impulses under control and come to that level of understanding, and if they still commit crimes, they're presumably more dangerous because they're adults with the rights of adults (and so the capacities to do harm of adults.)
posted by davejay at 9:57 AM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


A few years ago I would probably also have had the same reaction as some of the naysayers in this thread - 'how can a girl at 6 possibly know she's transgendered? Can't the parents just let her play with cars?' etc.

What completely changed it for me was an Oprah show on trans people which featured, among other guests, a young boy of about 8 or 9. He had been born female but absolutely knew, always, that his gender was male. Oprah asked his parents if it had been a difficult decision for them to let him present as male, and their answer really made it blindingly clear: 'Of course. But he told us, frequently, that he didn't want to live as a girl and would rather die - he was actually suicidal. Given the choice between a dead daughter and a living son, the choice was actually easy.'

I paraphrase, but you get the gist. I'm at work so can't hunt down the clip, but I highly, highly recommend watching it to anyone who doesn't quite get how absolutely fundamental gender identity is to your core. Imagine if you knew that you were female, but for some reason everyone else stubbornly kept insisting you were male. Imagine the complete mind-fuck that would be.

That show really affected me and now, whenever I hear of anyone going through a struggle like this, I can only think how incredibly brave they are for choosing to fight the fight publicly. I am in a same-sex marriage, and the discrimination and challenges we face are nothing compared to this.
posted by widdershins at 9:58 AM on February 27, 2013 [15 favorites]


If I were to transition, for example, I would not magically develop a childhood where I lived as a boy and had a penis; I would not forget my life in a community of women. I would still be shaped by all those things. And I sure as hell wouldn't get rid of the furniture and oddments I inherited from my very girlie grandmother just because I'd be a man now.

This reminds me of the way I thought gender worked when I was a very small child (like, three years old or four years old). I knew I was a girl, and that there were other people who were boys. I also knew that there were adults who were women, and adults who were men. I thought that, eventually, when I grew up, I'd be a man or a woman—not a woman automatically. I really liked beards (still do, actually) and I was really excited about the possibility that one day I'd have my own. I guess I thought there was some fork in the road where some little girls went off to be men, and some went off to be women (little kid me did not get beyond binary gender). It seemed perfectly natural to me (and, frankly, still seems perfectly natural) that one can have a boy childhood and a woman adulthood or vice versa, and that a childhood of one gender doesn't have to be at odds with an adulthood of another gender.
posted by ocherdraco at 9:59 AM on February 27, 2013 [18 favorites]


Yea, I guess y'all have just confirmed my previously-wishywashy opinion that it's ok for the parents to make a choice/confirm an action as long as it's not a choice that can obviously, very obviously, harm the kid because a kid identifying as trans should be accepted just as naturally as one that's not.

I know what I mentioned looked like a strawman, and to some it would be, but it's really the only mental hangup I have with this stuff. Someone asked if I would have a question raising a child with a penis that cis-identified as being a boy. I don't think I'd question it but I'd probably unconsciously raise him as a boy until I saw signs otherwise. I like to think that if some gender issues came up that point that I'd be supportive, much as I'd be supportive if he was gay instead of straight, society's judgments be damned. I guess those parents are at that point with their child and I wish them all the best luck.

Another facet of my mental block is that I wouldn't be comfortable having a male gendered child that was raised to identify as female for no reason. I am not saying that is what is happening here. But I can't say that it hasn't/won't happen, so yea, basically I'm arguing against my own same strawman, forgive the mental contortions I suppose.
posted by RolandOfEld at 9:59 AM on February 27, 2013


Phire

Trans-folk do not owe anyone knowledge of their gender identity.

In most cases, I'd tend to agree with that.

On the other hand, I've always held that when a transgendered person engages in romantic/sexual contact with another individual while actively disguising their identity (as happened in the Gwen Araujo case1), it is an offense roughly equivalent to assault. If transgendered people have a right to their sexual and gender identity, cis-gendered people have a right not to have their own sexual identity subverted by deception.

  1. So mentioned only to provide a real-life example of this sort of scenario, not to defend or suggest any sympathy for the murderers. If the deception had been revealed while sexual activity was in progress, I believe the victim would be justified in using reasonable force to end the assault as quickly as possible. This is clearly not what happened in the Gwen Araujo case.

posted by The Confessor at 9:59 AM on February 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


"At the moment, if you have a child, particularly of a young age and you expose them to a situation in which they can see an opposite-sex member's genitalia, you are committing child abuse. This is one of the reasons why CPS requires that opposite-sex children cannot be housed in the same room.

Whether or not that should be, that is the world we live in. One of the expectations on you, as a parent, is that you will carefully protect your child from opposite-sex genitalia. If your daughter sees you, a lady, without clothes - that's fine and A-OK. If she sees her father, you will be having to answer a lot of questions right quick. Even the sex education classes are not allowed to show accurate pictures of genitalia at that age.
"

LOL WUT

This is bizarro world paranoid nonsense of the first rank. It stems from some small kernel of truth — some people are overly freaked by the idea of sexual abuse, so they over-react — and spins it into a weltanschauung that projects that irrational over-reaction onto the rest of us.

I mean, granted, I know there are no lakes for skinny dipping in the city, but where I grew up, every single person I know from right about the time they learned to swim has swum naked in a lake and there have been zero DPS calls. Even now, in LA, I see naked (or pantsless) kids out on the street often enough, usually giggling and running away from their parents.
posted by klangklangston at 10:01 AM on February 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


I've read enough mefi threads to know the simple task of going to the restroom can be wrapped in debilitating anxiety. All this gender discussion just adds more.

Just let the kids poop. Seriously.
posted by M Edward at 10:03 AM on February 27, 2013 [9 favorites]


cis-gendered people have a right not to have their own sexual identity subverted by deception.

Do you think that a man who has sex with a trans woman has a different sexual identity than a man who has sex with a cis woman?
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:03 AM on February 27, 2013 [12 favorites]


Anyway, since there's upcoming legislation in my state about trans students getting equal access to facilities, I'm both kinda glad and kinda saddened at this thread — it shows that a lot of folks who otherwise get it just do not get trans folks. They can't imagine the subjective experience, and that's a barrier to empathy. There hasn't been a lot of research done on how to overcome that outside of personal interaction (which is the gold standard of persuasion with regard to supporting protections for LGBT people), and so I'll be trying to keep an eye here and see what works.

As a straight cis white dude who deals with this stuff, I know I'm no Trans Lorax, but if folks have questions, I'll try to use my privilege for good here.
posted by klangklangston at 10:05 AM on February 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


"If transgendered people have a right to their sexual and gender identity, cis-gendered people have a right not to have their own sexual identity subverted by deception."

Yeah, that's a really problematic construction though. It really plays into tropes of the tricksy trans who's looking to corrupt the upstanding straights with their degenerate bodies. It's OK to not want to be in a relationship with a trans person, but putting that on the trans person seems kinda misplaced.
posted by klangklangston at 10:08 AM on February 27, 2013 [19 favorites]


When trying to think out the gender binary and the stereotypical gender expression stuff I try to think of this brilliant color based explanation of evolution. Red and blue do in fact exist and are very distinct, even if you can't point out precisely when the change happens in all that gradual purple. Man and woman and people in-between exist as well.

So yeah, don't assume your kid is transgender just because they aren't entirely traditional in how they express gender, but kids who feel strongly enough about this to go through all the pain must be taken very seriously. There can be a very big difference between being a tomboy and being a boy.
posted by Drinky Die at 10:08 AM on February 27, 2013 [5 favorites]


I love that the attorney for the school district is W. Kelly Dude.
posted by Ideefixe at 10:11 AM on February 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


Sexual identity seems like a complicated one. My attraction to the opposite sex/gender is based on a combination of sexual characteristics and gender performances, I think. If the sexual characteristics are able to be replicated pretty well (not even "perfectly", but good enough to meet some arbitrary aesthetic criteria I have) and the gender performance matches up then I don't think I'd care about the chromosomal makeup of the person I was sleeping with. I'd like to know if it was a relationship situation, of course. If aspects of their sexual characteristics don't meet my criteria, and that doesn't become apparent until we're naked, that sucks and is awkward for everyone, but I wouldn't feel assaulted.
posted by nicolas léonard sadi carnot at 10:11 AM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think this is a great platform for people to argue gender politics, but that’s not the issue, it really has nothing to do with it. I have no lack of sympathy or understanding of trans people, but this a kid, one who does not live in a vacuum.

The parents are suing to let anyone use the girls restroom. If they were to win any child would be allowed into any restroom. You would be sued or worse if you tried to stop them. People keep saying "what’s the harm if they change their mind everyday?". Surely you don’t have to think to hard about that.

What is the official designation that would allow you to use one restroom or another? What exactly would stop kids of one sex standing around in the opposite restroom for harassment? I know everyone thinks it’s adorable because the kid is six, but what about when they are sixteen? There are a lot of comments about the kid experiencing trauma for having to use the nurses bathroom, kids are so sensitive about these things, and completely ignoring all the other kids that go to the school.
posted by bongo_x at 10:12 AM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


For people who are concerned that Coy will "change her mind" at some point: we actually have talked about our son this way a lot. We say things like, "Right now, he is living as a boy," or "Right now, he wants to use boy pronouns." At one point last summer, someone said to me, "I'm just worried about you making such an irrevocable decision at such a young age." I said, "What irrevocable decision? All we've done is start calling him 'he' and buy him briefs. You can reverse that with the letter s and a trip to Meijer."

That is not to say that there wouldn't be complications if he chose to live as a girl. His teacher e-mailed me a few months ago to say that he had told the classroom aide he wanted to start using his girl name again. When I asked him about it later, he said, "I don't want to talk about it!" and burst into tears. Eventually, over the weekend, it came out in a conversation with our 11-year-old that he wanted to use his girl name because the kids in his classroom had been counting the letters in their names, and his boy name only had three letters (it was a shortened version of his girl name), whereas there were kids in the class with as many as eight. When I told him that there was a boy version of his shortened name with SEVEN WHOLE LETTERS he was thrilled and wanted me to instantly start teaching him to write it. He's been writing it on his school papers ever since, and recently chose to have it monogrammed on a duffle bag.

That was a relief to me. He started school as a boy last fall, and it wouldn't be easy to come out as a girl halfway through the school year, if that's what really had been going on for him. We'd have done it, and we will do it if that's his choice as he gets older. As things progress, it gets harder to imagine him doing that, but it's not the end of the world if he does. Heck, I know a full-grown person who has just returned to presenting as male after living as a woman for a couple of years. She's still not sure what she's going to do long-term, but the stress of being a visibly trans woman was very hard on her, and she's enjoying at least a respite from it. Sometimes people do try things out for awhile to see how they fit. I still think it's better to support kids in that experimentation even if they later decide to live as their biological gender.
posted by not that girl at 10:13 AM on February 27, 2013 [59 favorites]


I wonder how many of the people questioning a six-year-old's autonomy have kids of their own. The fact that kids can change their minds easily should be proof that this is not just a dalliance or a phase, because any trans person is going to receive pushback. Peer pressure, parental pressure, societal pressure... if someone still feels they are trans after all of that, then you can bet it's not just a phase.

Also, all of the concern about the kid changing her mind all of sudden strike me as weird. I can't remember a single thing I regret doing when I was that age, except maybe sudden impulses, like hitting someone. I don't think this child is suddenly going to regret what she did when she was six. She probably knows who she is better than a lot of adults.
posted by mokin at 10:13 AM on February 27, 2013


Just let the kids poop. Seriously.

CPS banned pooping for anyone under 18 in 2007.
posted by Drinky Die at 10:13 AM on February 27, 2013 [20 favorites]


Alia: "If you cannot tell whether someone is male or female by their genitalia, you can't tell at all. Just because someone says they feel like the opposite gender does not change the physical DNA, does it?"

So this can be confusing but here is a neat chart to help, when we talk about male or female we are really talking multiple correlated but independent things at the same time and it can be more helpful to discuss them individually. In any case the effect of the information encoded by one's genome is a lot more subtle and non-intuitive than this. For starters, just in terms of apparent physiology, there are a lot of different ways to have either both or neither physical characteristics of each sex.
posted by Blasdelb at 10:18 AM on February 27, 2013 [16 favorites]


mokin, I haven't posted it at my blog yet. I'll post it below, but I've also written about my son at my blog a bit. This is a post about adjusting to his new pronoun and name.


My father disowned me at the dinner table on Christmas Eve. This is a strange thing to have happen when you're 47 years old. I wanted to say, "What the hell, Dad? Are you going to ground me next? Garnish my allowance? Take away my car keys?" We're thirty years past that. It also came as a bit of a surprise since there had been so many things over the years that he disapproved of and might have disowned me for: refusing to study engineering in college; coming out as a lesbian; homeschooling my children; shaving my head and then, when my great-Aunt Doris died, showing up at the funeral without either a hat or a convenient cover story involving chemotherapy. What, you might wonder, would lead a man who had put up with so much for so long, to finally take an action he must have contemplated many times?

It was our decision to honor our youngest child's preference to live as a boy.

We began, when he was still a toddler, by honoring his preference for "boys'" clothes and his aversion to skirts and pink underwear. And by honoring, just before he turned three, his desire to have his hair cut short, thus negating all the hard work I had put in learning to care for it, section it and braid it--not that I'm bitter. We further honored--and by "honored" here I mean "gave up trying to convince him otherwise"--his preference to use the word "penis" to describe what we would otherwise have called, in our ignorance, a vulva.

And, last spring at the TransHealth conference in Philadelphia, when the nice person helping him make his name tag for child care asked him whether he preferred boy pronouns or girl pronouns, and he said "boy pronouns," we honored that preference as well. The next day, I made him the happiest kid on earth by suggesting that his blue shorts looked enough like swim trunks that he could probably wear them to the pool party instead of his tankini.

That felt like his coming out. A girl can have short hair, after all. A girl can dislike dresses and spend the entire year she is four wearing the same pair of cargo pants and maroon hockey jersey. A girl can even like Disney princesses the way the Tiny Tornado likes Disney princesses, not as models for aspiration, but as possible future brides. But if he had been a girl, he would not have been so pleased to finally be asked which pronouns he preferred, and helping him get into those swim trunks and then trailing behind him as he danced and skipped down to the hotel pool would not have felt quite so much like a door closing behind us.

My father is, so far as I can tell, alone in his condemnation of us. We are much more likely to be praised for what people perceive as courageous and devoted parenting. It's no surprise that our queer and trans friends cheer us on, but even the more conservatively Christian moms in my homeschool group, the ones who are pretty sure homosexuality is an abomination but are too polite to say so in mixed company--even they think we're doing the right thing. They've all met him, after all. One told me, "I'm so relieved. It's been such a struggle all this time to remember to call him 'she.' Now I don't have to worry anymore about making a mistake."

I don't mind being praised, even--or perhaps especially--when I don't deserve it, but I don't see that we had much choice; you might as well try to command the tides as try to turn the Tiny Tornado aside from a plan of action once he's undertaken it. Sometimes I imagine the alternate universe in which we refused to buy him boys' briefs, refused to cut his hair, refused to tell his school that, no matter what his birth certificate said, he would be attending as a boy. That universe looks like a bleak place in which I am engaged forever in a fight I cannot win with a small but powerful person who, given the choice between obeying me and honoring himself, will choose himself every time. As he should.

And that leaves me with only two choices: honor him as well as he honors himself, or lose him. My father taught me that.
posted by not that girl at 10:18 AM on February 27, 2013 [124 favorites]


"The parents are suing to let anyone use the girls restroom. If they were to win any child would be allowed into any restroom. You would be sued or worse if you tried to stop them. People keep saying "what’s the harm if they change their mind everyday?". Surely you don’t have to think to hard about that. "

Three things: One, no not every child would be allowed in every restroom. Two, in areas where they have adopted protections for trans people in public accommodations, we just haven't seen any real evidence of people abusing that. Three, I'm still not sure what harm you see here.

What is the official designation that would allow you to use one restroom or another? What exactly would stop kids of one sex standing around in the opposite restroom for harassment? I know everyone thinks it’s adorable because the kid is six, but what about when they are sixteen? There are a lot of comments about the kid experiencing trauma for having to use the nurses bathroom, kids are so sensitive about these things, and completely ignoring all the other kids that go to the school.

What would stop kids from standing around in the opposite bathroom for harassment? I dunno, teachers? Why assume that protecting Coy means total anarchy? And when Coy's 16 — uh, I'm not really seeing the problem. And what trauma, exactly, are the other kids experiencing? They're not being excluded, they're not being told that their lived experience is invalid, they're not even seeing any peeners.

I do have to thank you, though, for demonstrating how silly a lot of these fears sound when you actually get them out into the open.
posted by klangklangston at 10:19 AM on February 27, 2013 [14 favorites]


IMHO, If Coy is a 6-year old boy, who likes to (or chooses to, for whatever reason) dress like a girl, then he should still go to the little boy's room. Just because he chooses to change his external appearance and/or activities, doesn't mean that he has changed his sex (he has male sex organs, so he's a boy.) Even if he identifies as a girl, and he and his parents consider it his gender, I think that at this age, it's best to keep bathroom assignments simple: males go to the little boys room, and females go to the little girls room (the school should have a list of each person's "assigned" sex.)

Also, If the definition of "transgender" relates to self sexual-identification, I don't think that bathrooms are supposed to work that way (meaning that you choose a bathroom based upon your self-proclaimed sexual identity); I think that the intention of labelling the bathrooms male and female is based upon assigned sex (i.e., the sex they were "assigned" when they were born.) Therefore, I think the school should just check the registration paperwork (male or female?), and ensure that children use the corresponding bathroom accordingly.
posted by KillaSeal at 10:24 AM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


This was interesting for the uninitiated like myself, the diagnosis Gender Identity Disorder is being removed/replaced by 'Gender Dysphoria" in the next DSM.

...and I also found it interesting that you can basically perform an internet rewind of a few decades on that wiki page I linked if you replace every instance of 'gender identity disorder' and 'GID' with 'homosexual'.
posted by RolandOfEld at 10:27 AM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Therefore, I think the school should just check the registration paperwork (male or female?), and ensure that children use the corresponding bathroom accordingly.

Funny story: Coy's documents identify her as a girl!

Did you happen to see this comment? It might give you some insight into why trans people might want to use the bathroom that matches their assigned gender.
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:28 AM on February 27, 2013 [7 favorites]


Well, the registration paperwork (passport! State ID!) says Coy is a girl. What then? Are we talking birth certificate?

What about adult trans-folk? Who are transitioning with hormone therapy but haven't undergone sex reassignment surgery? Should they continue to use the bathroom corresponding to their sex-assigned-at-birth even if they pass as their preferred gender otherwise? You know that you can get your birth certificate sex altered after you transition, right? Do we have different rules for pre-op and post-op trans-folk? What about trans-folk who live as their preferred gender their entire lives without getting SRS?

It's really not that simple.

The Confessor: "On the other hand, I've always held that when a transgendered person engages in romantic/sexual contact with another individual while actively disguising their identity (as happened in the Gwen Araujo case1), it is an offense roughly equivalent to assault. If transgendered people have a right to their sexual and gender identity, cis-gendered people have a right not to have their own sexual identity subverted by deception."

I agree with you to a certain extent. In my experience, trans-folk are the first to say that cis-folk are not be expected to remain with transitioning partners, and to think about issues of disclosure when it comes to romantic and sexual entanglements. There have been tons of AskMes about the proper disclosure time regarding transition when you're dating, and many seem to advocate sooner rather than later, and certainly before sexytimes.

However, I still maintain the timing of that disclosure is still up to the individual prior to sexytimes, so if you date someone a few times and aren't feeling it, you should be able to go on your merry way without being worried about having withheld disclosure. (There's a mouthful.) If I were asked out to coffee by a trans-person and didn't know they were trans, I don't consider that an assault on my (boring heteronormative) sexual identity.

YM, of course, MV, but then isn't the onus just as much on the cis-folk to be clear about their absolute aversion to dating trans-folk? I mean, most trans-folk aim to pass as their preferred gender not because they're trying to be deceptive, but because that's how they feel they are. Why would they advertise their status as Other if they genuinely feel they are a certain gender, and their genitals aren't getting invovled?
posted by Phire at 10:28 AM on February 27, 2013 [5 favorites]


The Confessor, surely you're not saying that it's ok for someone to murder another living, breathing human being because they went home together and the murderer, at some point, became uncomfortable with the arrangement of the person's genitals, right? I'm sincerely asking, because I usually assume that people on MeFi are well-intentioned and kind, and your comment...makes for some cognitive dissonance.

If transgendered people have a right to their sexual and gender identity, cis-gendered people have a right not to have their own sexual identity subverted by deception.

If you feel that transsexual people are inherently deceptive, that they are pretending to be something that they're not, then I guess that this statement makes sense. That said, I would argue that if your own heterosexuality is tenuous enough and your homophobia strong enough that you feel threatened and violated after engaging in consensual sexual activity with someone, the problem lies with you, not with the other person.

A Mefi favorite in Ask threads is that once the time for sexytimes is nigh, it shouldn't matter to your partner if you've got stretch marks or saggy boobs or a tiny dick or hanging skin or whatever. I'm not sure why genitalia is the dealbreaker in that scenario.
posted by MeghanC at 10:35 AM on February 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


Oddly enough, this thread is convincing me that I need to take my family (kids and all) to a nude beach as soon as possible. Society and tradition promotes waaaaaay too much fear of genitalia.
posted by Doleful Creature at 10:35 AM on February 27, 2013 [17 favorites]


I think that the intention of labelling the bathrooms male and female is based upon assigned sex (i.e., the sex they were "assigned" when they were born.)

True story.

My college dorms had no labeling on bathrooms.

One on each floor was single person everything -- like a bathroom you'd find in a house -- shower, tub, toilet with the first floor version being fully handicapped accessible. And two on each floor had two shower stalls with one or two bathroom stalls. Boys routinely showered next to girls. Toilet stalls were used by any and all.

Guess how many penises I saw when showering next to boys or using the toilet while boys were showering? Zero. None. Not a single freaking one.

The weird bathrooms were the ones in public buildings on campus --- the ones that DID designate gender. I'd prefer public restrooms be single person since it's unlikely many people will get over their hang ups to pee next to a member of the opposite sex.
posted by zizzle at 10:35 AM on February 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


I think that the intention of labelling the bathrooms male and female is based upon assigned sex (i.e., the sex they were "assigned" when they were born.)

And it's stupid. As a born-female person who identifies as female but whose female presentation leans more towards the male end of the spectrum, I can't tell you how many times I have gotten The Gasp or The Look or the This is the Women's Room You Know! when I go to use a public restroom that is labeled with the person-in-a-skirt icon. Yeah, I fucking know which bathroom it is. On more than one occasion, I have been tempted to flash the horrified person accusing me of using the wrong bathroom.

The kid is damn adorable, that's for sure.
posted by rtha at 10:36 AM on February 27, 2013 [15 favorites]


"The Confessor, surely you're not saying that it's ok for someone to murder another living, breathing human being because they went home together and the murderer, at some point, became uncomfortable with the arrangement of the person's genitals, right? I'm sincerely asking, because I usually assume that people on MeFi are well-intentioned and kind, and your comment...makes for some cognitive dissonance."

No, he was pretty clear on not condoning murder. It was just that the statement was still problematic. But I think we can talk about that without eliminating the nuance of what he did say.
posted by klangklangston at 10:36 AM on February 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


"As a born-female person who identifies as female but whose female presentation leans more towards the male end of the spectrum,"

I thought it leaned more toward the Josie on Top Chef part of the spectrum ;)
posted by klangklangston at 10:39 AM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


My college also started letting boys and girls room together in the SAME ROOM because gay couples were allowed to live together based on their sex and heterosexuals weren't. There were also numerous cases of females preferring to live with their male friends.

Residence Life decided they would prefer fewer rommate issues by letting people live with whoever the hell they wanted.

They also reasoned that these same people would have 0 eyes batted at them when choosing to live together in an apartment.
posted by zizzle at 10:41 AM on February 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


What would stop kids from standing around in the opposite bathroom for harassment? I dunno, teachers?

Do you think that’s how laws and lawsuits work? On what basis would teachers be allowed to stop this? A boy says "I’m identifying as a girl" and you expect an underpaid teacher to step in and subject themselves to a lawsuit after this has already been settled? Or do you think there would be a special law for this one kid?

The part I’m not totally understanding is if you think that gender should be accepted as more fluid (a fine and noble cause) then why can’t the girl with male genitals use the boys room? I can see how there would be things that would be hard for everyone to get used to, but there are obviously just as many problems with using the girls room. There seems to be people arguing that it doesn’t matter which restroom people use, yet it is REALLY important that this kid use the girl’s.
posted by bongo_x at 10:41 AM on February 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


Your gender identity does not grant you harassment privileges anywhere on school grounds.
posted by Drinky Die at 10:43 AM on February 27, 2013 [5 favorites]


When someone tells you who they are, believe them.

It's not that simple for children: "Existing research indicates that children with GIDC [Gender Identity Disorder of Childhood] grow out of gender dysphoria, do not grow up to be transgender, and most of them grow up to be homosexual. Again, no one knows why."
posted by nooneyouknow at 10:45 AM on February 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


There seems to be people arguing that it doesn’t matter which restroom people use, yet it is REALLY important that this kid use the girl’s.

Well, no: it doesn't much matter which restroom you use in some greater sense. They all have toilets and sinks. But given that restrooms are divided into men/women, it matters that you get to use the one you feel fits you better. "Well, Coy, you look like a little girl and you claim to be a little girl and even your birth certificate says you are a little girl, but you have a penis and therefore you are a little boy and we're going to make you pretend you're one."

This is sort of interesting compared to the current season on Shameless (US version), if anyone is watching it.
posted by jeather at 10:46 AM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Having to sit down to piss is humiliating and wrong enough.

Huh? I'm a guy and I've never thought this. I know many men believe this, but I've never understood it, and frankly, it looks sexist to me.
posted by smorange at 10:46 AM on February 27, 2013 [11 favorites]


On what basis would teachers be allowed to stop this?

Because harassment is generally against the rules and laws no matter who's committing it? And it's not like sex-segregated bathrooms in schools are somehow magically exempt from being places where kids harass each other right now. It's so common that we have tropes about the mean girls clique in the girls' bathrooms and the bullying boys in the boys' bathrooms.
posted by rtha at 10:47 AM on February 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


KlangKlangston, it was a sincere question--the aside mentioned "reasonable force", which...if you're arguing self-defense, can be a lot of things. I understand that he specifically said that it wasn't true in the Araujo case, and I didn't mean to imply that in my comment--apologies if I did.

My issue with the comment, though, comes down to what level of physical retaliation is acceptable if you feel that someone has misled you into a sexual encounter? Swift kick in the groin? Slash of a knife? If you have a gun and the person you were having sex comes towards you, is it ok to shoot them?

I'm struggling to conceive of a way to justify the use of force, lethal or non-lethal, to stop a consensual interaction. (Obviously if someone is asked to stop and doesn't, then it's no longer consensual--I don't get the impression that that's what's happening in any of the transpanic defenses, though.)
posted by MeghanC at 10:47 AM on February 27, 2013


I am just not sure what kind of "harassment" we're envisioning here.

1. I was harassed by girls in the girls' bathroom when I was a bullied child.

2. If a boy is going into the bathroom claiming that he identifies as a girl specifically in order to push his way into a stall with a girl, grab her, name call her, etc etc...those are things that should be stopped because of behavior, not gender. They are things that should be stopped if a girl does them to another girl.

3. The scariest body harassment times for me were same-gender locker rooms. I had to be naked around my peers! It was godawful. And I stress that this had nothing to do with trans issues and everything to do with lack of autonomy, lack of privacy and a climate that tolerated bullying.

4. A boy who claims to identify as a girl solely in order to harass someone is either going to have to drop that in order to fit in with his peer group (in which case the teacher can readily discern and respond) or is going to face a LOT of social sanction from peers. I just don't think that there's social traction for "I just decided this minute that I identify as a girl so I am going in the girls' bathroom right before I'm off to football practice with the other dudebros".
posted by Frowner at 10:48 AM on February 27, 2013 [12 favorites]


It is REALLY important that this kid be able to use whatever restroom she feels most comfortable with. She wants to use the girls' restroom.

Why can't the girl with the male genitals use the boys' room? Because she doesn't want to. Because it causes her mental anguish to be identified as a boy. Because she presents as a girl in every other instance and using the boys' room marks her as not-like-other-girls.

I would expect teachers to stop harassment of kids (and harassing kids) no matter where it's happening, whether it's in a restroom or in a classroom or in the school yard. If a boy identifies as a girl and he uses the girls' restroom for the purposes of going to the restroom, he isn't harassing anyone. If a kid is entering a restroom for the purpose of taunting or irritating other kids in the restrooms, they're being dicks who need to be disciplined regardless of their gender identity and whether that lines up with the sign on the door of the bathroom.
posted by Phire at 10:49 AM on February 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


When someone tells you who they are, believe them.

It's not that simple for children: "Existing research indicates that children with GIDC [Gender Identity Disorder of Childhood] grow out of gender dysphoria, do not grow up to be transgender, and most of them grow up to be homosexual. Again, no one knows why."
posted by nooneyouknow at 1:45 PM on February 27 [+] [!]



Fine.

When someone tells you who they are, believe them until such a time as that identity is no longer relevant.

Seriously! PEOPLE CHANGE ALL THE TIME.

Sexuality and gender identity do not have to be fixed points. They can be fluid and flexible. It goes well beyond people being boys and girls or identifying as boys and identifying as girls. That's still reductive to binary states. Some people might sometimes identify as boys and might sometimes identify as girls and there's nothing wrong with that, either.

Why is there a requirement that you either be a boy or a girl at all?
posted by zizzle at 10:50 AM on February 27, 2013 [13 favorites]


"Do you think that’s how laws and lawsuits work? On what basis would teachers be allowed to stop this? A boy says "I’m identifying as a girl" and you expect an underpaid teacher to step in and subject themselves to a lawsuit after this has already been settled? Or do you think there would be a special law for this one kid? "

Again, we don't see this happening in any place that has moved to protect trans folk in bathrooms. And teachers would step in to prevent harassment, yeah. Being trans doesn't give you the right to hassle other people in the bathroom. It's silly to imply that it does.

"The part I’m not totally understanding is if you think that gender should be accepted as more fluid (a fine and noble cause) then why can’t the girl with male genitals use the boys room? I can see how there would be things that would be hard for everyone to get used to, but there are obviously just as many problems with using the girls room. There seems to be people arguing that it doesn’t matter which restroom people use, yet it is REALLY important that this kid use the girl’s."

Because why should the girl with male genitals have to use the boys room? It causes that girl psychological harm and opens them to more harassment than letting them use the bathroom of their gender identity. And there aren't as many problems with them using the girls room — you say "obvious," but they're not at all.

It's important to the kid; it's not really important to anyone else. Why should anyone else care?
posted by klangklangston at 10:50 AM on February 27, 2013


IMHO, If Coy is a 6-year old boy, who likes to (or chooses to, for whatever reason) dress like a girl, then he should still go to the little boy's room.

I would agree, but Coy is a girl, not a boy who chooses to dress like a girl.

These people are all different:

-- A person with a penis who identifies as a boy and likes "boy" things.
-- A person with a penis who identifies as a boy and likes "girl" things (and maybe does or doesn't like "boy" things.)
-- A person with a penis who identifies as a boy and likes "girl" things including sometimes dressing "like a girl."
-- A person with a penis who identifies as a girl.
-- A person with a penis who identifies as a boy sometimes and a girl at other times.
-- A person with a penis who really does not identify as either a boy or a girl.
-- A person with a penis who identifies as both a boy and a girl simultaneously.
-- A person who was born with a penis but no longer has one, who identifies as a girl.
-- A person who was born with ambiguous genitalia which a doctor arbitrarily decided was "boy" who does indeed identify as a boy.
-- A person who was born with ambiguous genitalia which a doctor arbitrarily decided was "boy" but who identifies differently.
-- as above, but substitute "vagina" and swap the words "boy" and "girl" where appropriate.


Ask yourself what the purpose of segregating bathrooms by either sex or gender is, and the implications of removing that segregation.

-- Is it purely for practical reasons of physical plumbing? Because as the owner of a functioning penis, I can tell you that (A) it doesn't stop working when I sit down and (B) standing up still works at an ordinary toilet.

-- Is it a fear of seeing the wrong kind of genitals? (Which is weird, because most men don't want to see wangs, and those who might have an interest in them tend to pursue said interests in a somewhat friendlier and less disgusting environment.)

-- Is it purely a social thing? A safe place for women to be without being harassed by men? A holdover from more repressed times, so men can continue to pretend that ladies don't poop and only go in there to powder their noses?
posted by Foosnark at 10:52 AM on February 27, 2013 [13 favorites]


The parents are suing to let anyone use the girls restroom. If they were to win any child would be allowed into any restroom. You would be sued or worse if you tried to stop them. People keep saying "what’s the harm if they change their mind everyday?". Surely you don’t have to think to hard about that.

Let's leave genitalia to the side for a moment:

When my mom was in elementary school, she was wearing a beautiful, hand-crocheted sun hat made by her favorite grandmother. A boy snatched off her hat and tossed it into the boys bathroom where it presumably lay out of sight on the floor. She was devastated to have lost her beloved hat forever in that moment. So much so that I heard the story wistfully told half a dozen times during my childhood.

Now, you might be thinking like I did as a child, "Why didn't she just go get it? The bathroom wasn't locked and it's just a room with plumbing. It was probably 10 feet away from the door."

Because there is no reason to bar entrance into any room based solely on what's in your pants. It's a room, in a public building, and absolutely no one should be barred from entering a room based on their appearance. Gendered bathrooms are a courtesy, maybe a suggestion but not a hard line rule, because if people can see your genitals in the public restroom - then you are doing it wrong.

And as far as middle school and high school - female-only drinking fountains would help protect young girls' from dried spit wads and other mucus horrors, but somehow they survive the experience.
posted by Vysharra at 10:52 AM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


I’m not talking about physical assault, I’m talking about "I’m just going to go in here and wash my hands and stand here". On what basis would you deny the boy that wants to do this? Do you seriously think that wouldn’t really upset the other young girls that go to that school? You might want to believe that in some version of reality it would be OK, but as has been pointed out, kids are very sensitive to this stuff.

Again, this is not the abstract question of gender politics everyone wants it to be, it’s practical problems of the law and school policy. It’s amazing to me that anyone thinks that there wouldn’t be abuses of a decision like this.
posted by bongo_x at 10:58 AM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Barbara Walters has interviewed "Jazz" and her parents over the years from when she was 6 y.o. and is now 11 y.o. I recommend watching the video.

I also recommend the documentary: 'I Am Jazz - A Family In Transition' -- Parts 1, 2, 3.
posted by ericb at 10:58 AM on February 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


-- Is it purely a social thing? A safe place for women to be without being harassed by men? A holdover from more repressed times, so men can continue to pretend that ladies don't poop and only go in there to powder their noses?

Or a place for one gender to be without being harassed by the other.

In junior high I wouldn't have wanted to use a urinal with girls standing around in the room.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 10:59 AM on February 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


gender neutral: the toilet, not the child. A separate-but-equal bathroom is just another can kicked down the road.

The idea that children are damaged by seeing one another's genitalia is simple-minded bullshit on a fundamental level.

Gender refers to grammar. We usually don't use it as a function of courtesy. We have a few gender-neutral pronouns, but they are unwieldy when you apply them to individuals. I noticed some feminist rhetoric in the past, while attempting to de-sexualize man-woman interactions (a positive thing, in my view), using the neutral plurals when talking about a single individual, because the only singular pronoun we have is "it", and we all agree that it's demeaning to refer to a person with it. I am sympathetic to the attempt, but somehow I felt that this was evasive. Why wouldn't I want to know the sex of the person ((s)he) was talking about? Language cops always are a pain in the ass, even when they have a point to make.

It seems that our society is moving faster than the language.

Six years old: I accept Coy's version, that he identifies as a girl. I don't accept that he knew he was a girl at 18 months. Something is wrong with that notion. He actually may be a girl for all I know. I understand that genital presentation isn't the final determinator of sex. Still: there are gay men. They are not "she", they are "he". They may (or may not) be wished to be referred to as "he". Maybe their friends need to find out which, since it's no longer so obvious. Also, I understand that some men are actually females in everything but external genitalia....this is not a state of mind so much as a biochemical thing--the same biochemical thing that determines the sexuality of the rest of us. The way I understand this is that this is where the term "trans" comes into play. These people are women. (and I suppose vice versa in the case of females). The lingusitic issues are manifold. The social issues are a whole other thing.

I refer you back to my two opening sentences. If we are all sexual creatures, then the base issue is where to go pee. The rest seems to be a socio-policital soccer game, and in this one, Coy is the ball. If the role of adults is to model behavior for their children, then some of these folks are doing a bang up job of promoting confusion. Seems to me that Coy ought not to be locked into a male/female role. Boys should be able to play with dolls, girls play at rescuing people from burning buildings. All that. If there are no other medical issues regarding his dangling bits, then let it alone. That's in a good world, though. Meanwhile Coy gets a whole lot of celebrity about body parts that everyone else wants to hide when they go pee.

Maybe the Mayans were right. The world ended last year and we just won't admit it.
posted by mule98J at 11:03 AM on February 27, 2013


Again, this is not the abstract question of gender politics everyone wants it to be, it’s practical problems of the law and school policy. It’s amazing to me that anyone thinks that there wouldn’t be abuses of a decision like this.

Oh, well we think that because your hypothetical passive aggressive fake-transgender harassment monster is a mind blowingly absurd and idiotic invention that has not been an issue in practice, unless you forgot to link your examples.
posted by Drinky Die at 11:05 AM on February 27, 2013 [17 favorites]


It's not that simple for children: "Existing research indicates that children with GIDC [Gender Identity Disorder of Childhood] grow out of gender dysphoria, do not grow up to be transgender, and most of them grow up to be homosexual. Again, no one knows why."

So, there's a theory that GIDC exists as a backdoor way to justify trying to 'cure' children of homosexuality. (IIRC, it shows up in the DSM when homosexuality was removed.) Regardless of whether this is actually the case, the criteria are hopelessly broad. There are probably significant numbers of cis people in this thread, queer and not, who tick a good number of the GIDC boxes. Crisis! Trans children aren't really trans, they're gay! Right? No. Whatever you've quoted is, well, wrong, as it seems to think no one diagnosed with GIDC as a child grows up to be a trans adult. Certainly, a signficant number of gender non-conforming children grow up to be queer, more than grow up to be trans. I'm having trouble phrasing this in a way that doesn't have an unintended negative meaning, but transition is in some sense a treatment of last resort. We know that other 'treatments' for being trans don't work and generally harm people. We know that transitioning has generally good outcomes. It's the treatment of last resort in the sense that people will try very hard not to transition and not succeed in that. So where do children fit into this? If you let your kindergartener transition socially, you've tried waiting out 'a phase', you've maybe tried refusing to acknowledge their gender (bad move, but people do it) and whatever else and have run out of ideas (together with at least one medical professional). But... suppose you were wrong. There is no medical transition to be accessed until puberty. You've got a couple of years before then to figure out how to access hormone blockers to give your kid more time to figure things out. And if your kid ultimately lives as the gender they were assigned at birth? Your family has had an unusual life, but you've probably not 'damaged' your kid more than anyone else.
posted by hoyland at 11:05 AM on February 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


Again, this is not the abstract question of gender politics everyone wants it to be, it’s practical problems of the law and school policy.

No one here thinks this is an 'abstract' question. I think Coy is a little girl with an unfortunate medical issue; you think Coy is a boy playing dress-up. That disagreement is the root of what's going on in this thread.
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:06 AM on February 27, 2013 [25 favorites]


I was almost arrested in Washington State for using the "wrong" bathroom. As the building's security guard detained me*, I said that I'm going to sue him into oblivion. My license says F, and it is against the law for me to use the men's bathroom at that point. Also: I don't want to get assaulted. Again. For using the men's bathroom.

It is very difficult to explain just how difficult it is to transition as an adult from male to female. Once you purposefully shed male privilege, there are some guys that decide you are fair game for whatever the hell they want to say or do, to you or about you. And if that means "treating you the way you want to be treated," so be it. Because apparently women want to be assaulted.

The whole bathroom situation is strange, difficult, complicated, and emotionally charged. The very best way to make it less of each of those is to let the kids transition and let them do it before puberty hits. Even after-puberty there are still adults around to keep the worst of things from happening (most of the time).

It Gets Better but only if people take active steps to make it better. Like, for instance, this lawsuit.

* I asked the security guard "can I leave?" And he said "No. You're staying here until the police arrive." "You're sure, I can't leave, you're not allowing me to leave?" "That's right." One of South King County's finest arrived and basically verbally slapped the security guard around.

"Officer, I was illegally detained by this man. I'd like him arrested." "What?!," said the security guy. "Did you prevent Ms. Shubert from leaving?" "Um, of course not." "Now he's lying to you, officer. I'm sure there is security footage to be found." The officer laughs a bit. "You've got balls, you know that?" [pause] "I mean, um, lets just call it a day." And that was that.

posted by andreaazure at 11:07 AM on February 27, 2013 [55 favorites]


I’m not talking about physical assault, I’m talking about "I’m just going to go in here and wash my hands and stand here". On what basis would you deny the boy that wants to do this? Do you seriously think that wouldn’t really upset the other young girls that go to that school? You might want to believe that in some version of reality it would be OK, but as has been pointed out, kids are very sensitive to this stuff.

Girls also do this kind of intimidation thing to other girls in girl-only bathrooms, and boys to it to boys in boy-only bathrooms. This is not a problem that is magically solved by having sex-segregated bathrooms. This is a problem that is solved by teaching people starting when they are kids that it's not okay to harass to intimidate anyone.
posted by rtha at 11:12 AM on February 27, 2013 [23 favorites]


No. Whatever you've quoted is, well, wrong, as it seems to think no one diagnosed with GIDC as a child grows up to be a trans adult.

Dude, I linked to it, you could've followed it. Anyway, I read the quote wrong. I thought it said most kids with gic age out of it. Here is a fuller quote that better represents the article:
GIDC is relatively rare, and children whose gender dysphoria persists into adulthood even rarer.

Existing research indicates that children with GIDC grow out of gender dysphoria, do not grow up to be transgender, and most of them grow up to be homosexual. Again, no one knows why.

For children whose gender dysphoria persists into adolescence, transition to the other sex when they reach adulthood is often the medical treatment of choice.
My point was that doubting that a 6 year old is transgender is not douchebag behavior since existing research indicates most kids with gender dysphoria don't turn out to be trans. Of course, how to handle gender dysphoria until the child resolves as either trans or not is a whole nother topic.
posted by nooneyouknow at 11:18 AM on February 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


Somehow the stakes are higher, when it's the opposite gender. As an adolescent I was tense around girls.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 11:20 AM on February 27, 2013


The chance of me using a girls loo when I was at school was pretty much zero. I think I'd probably have preferred to have soiled myself rather than use the wrong toilet. I'm certain there's zero chance of abuse here whatever the law, but even if you're right, I'd be tempted to get rid of the law, see what happens and impose rules as and when they're needed. Also rules, not laws. It's a school after all.

A hypothetical argument about boys somehow driving girls from the bathroom doesn't gel with anything I know about children. It's patently absurd.
posted by zoo at 11:25 AM on February 27, 2013


My point was that doubting that a 6 year old is transgender is not douchebag behavior since existing research indicates most kids with gender dysphoria don't turn out to be trans.

Even if that's true - I really don't know the state of the research - the whole issue here is that we should give a kid who claims they're [particular Gender] the benefit of said doubt. Whether they're transgender or have gender dysphoria, it would currently be a problem to force them to use the [not-particular Gender] washroom.

That's the same issue as the discussion above about SRS - waiting until later for the actual surgery may be fine for kids, but there are things that can be done in the meantime to make their lives better, so let's do them.

Does that make sense?
posted by Lemurrhea at 11:26 AM on February 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


Why is there a requirement that you either be a boy or a girl at all?
Deep underneath the confusion and statements of 'I'm sorry but I just can't understand it,' is a desire to protect a status quo that privileges one gender over another. If a human gets to switch between male and female whenever they want, how will we know who to pay 77 cents on the dollar to?
posted by velebita at 11:27 AM on February 27, 2013 [66 favorites]


I think Coy is a little girl with an unfortunate medical issue; you think Coy is a boy playing dress-up. That disagreement is the root of what's going on in this thread.

What’s the root of this thread is statements like yours; making up straw man positions and using things I didn’t say or believe. THAT is exactly the abstract I’m talking about. I’m saying there are serious practical problems to this idea that many want to hand wave away. You’re slandering me with a fabrication of my opinion of trans people and their rights and getting mad at me about it.
posted by bongo_x at 11:35 AM on February 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't feel like I can have an intelligent opinion on this issue until I know why we actually have gendered bathrooms at all, and now that I'm thinking about it, I can't think of any particularly good reason that we do.
Because there is still way more shame in our body than really needed. No matter what the gender. Well, where I am, anyhow.
posted by kellyblah at 11:38 AM on February 27, 2013


There are no serious practical problems that are not rooted in the slippery slope argument that allowing Coy to use the girl's room is equivalent to telling teenage boys they are free to hang out in the girl's room whenever they want.
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:38 AM on February 27, 2013 [7 favorites]


I’m not talking about physical assault, I’m talking about "I’m just going to go in here and wash my hands and stand here". On what basis would you deny the boy that wants to do this? Do you seriously think that wouldn’t really upset the other young girls that go to that school? You might want to believe that in some version of reality it would be OK, but as has been pointed out, kids are very sensitive to this stuff.

Kids are sensitive to this stuff because they are socialized to be sensitive. There is no inherent kid-ness that makes them so (and if you think so, look at the child-raising practices of other cultures.) And the beauty of socialization is that we can change socialization when it's unjust. Kids are smart. Sit 'em down and talk about why they're uncomfortable with the presence of males in their bathroom. Talk about why that's starting to change. Talk about what is and isn't acceptable behavior for everyone, regardless of gender. Tell them that if someone is harassing them to go find an adult or a teacher, just like they would on the playground. There is no Unwritten Law of the Universe that says Children Must Be Upset By the Presence of the Opposite Gender.

Kids are sensitive, you're right. But that means they will be just as sensitive to their role models and educators not freaking out about penises in the bathroom as they will to their role models and educators freaking out about it (which is what they're currently doing.)

Justice starts somewhere. It has to, or we'll keep seeing the same insane murder rate of trans persons.
posted by WidgetAlley at 11:40 AM on February 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


showbiz_liz

I'm truly not certain where the line between a (defensible) variation in sexual identity and an (indefensible) expression of some unacknowledged bigotry falls.

It just seems appropriate to me that if we no longer consider gender to be a binary measure, we needn't consider sexual identity to be a ternary measure.

klangklangston

If the construction is problematic, we should explore it with caution and diligence, as I attempted to do in my comment. Thank you very much for acknowledging that, and defending me against allegations to the contrary.

And I agree with you that placing the onus on the transgendered person in every scenario is unfair to them. My construction applies best to a well-ordered relationship, where romantic entanglement and sexual activity follow some amount of mutual disclosure. If you're engaging in anonymous sex, things are obviously very different.

Phire

I would hope that by the time a transgendered person is ready to make such a disclosure the social attitudes of their prospective partner have been probed sufficiently that little fear of their reaction remains.

At that point, however, I would put the onus of disclosure on the transgendered person solely due to statistics: even the most generous estimates of their prevalence put them at far less than one percent of the population. I'd expect a similar appropriately-timed disclosure, for the same reason, from a person who knows him or herself to be infertile, or from a person who desires an open relationship.

MeghanC

When I used the term "reasonable force" I meant to imply proportionality. Provided the encounter was previously consensual, "reasonable force" would merely entail disentanglement of all sexual organs and (presumably) a swift exit from the premises.

Everyone

I apologize for the late reply; I write slowly or not at all.
posted by The Confessor at 11:55 AM on February 27, 2013


Transgender Children: Resources.
posted by ericb at 11:56 AM on February 27, 2013


My point was that doubting that a 6 year old is transgender is not douchebag behavior since existing research indicates most kids with gender dysphoria don't turn out to be trans.

I genuinely didn't see the link. It's obnoxious behaviour for a couple of reasons. One is that it's immaterial to the issue at hand. But how much do you want to bet that's the school's argument in court? They'll say the law doesn't apply in this situation because she's not trans and can't be female-identified. It's the only defense the school has, as far as I can see. The other is that most gender non-conforming children don't transition socially as children (or ever). "Children with GIDC" and "children who transition socially and that we would identify as trans" are not the same group. At this juncture, we really have no idea how many people who transition socially as young children will revert to the gender they were assigned at birth. We do know that in the studies of giving trans youth hormone blockers, every participant ultimately transitioned, including the ones who were refused hormone blockers for whatever reason (not being trans 'enough', having some unrelated psychiatric condition).
posted by hoyland at 11:58 AM on February 27, 2013


There are no serious practical problems that are not rooted in the slippery slope argument that allowing Coy to use the girl's room is equivalent to telling teenage boys they are free to hang out in the girl's room whenever they want.

Exactly, my question being; How would that work? What’s the criteria? "You just can’t" isn’t a good enough argument. If it was this discussion wouldn’t be taking place. Of course most kids wouldn’t abuse the system, but most kids wouldn’t hang out and bully anyone in any restroom or do all kinds of stupid stuff, but some do.

Would it be on a case by case basis? How often could you change your mind? Kid A can use any restroom they want but Kid B can’t? We should tell children that are uncomfortable using the bathroom with children of the opposite sex "tough, you’ll have to get used to it"? We’re just going to ignore the wishes of kids who just don’t want intersex restroom facilities, even if that's most of them?

I would think it would be great if Coy could just use the girl’s room and everyone moved on. I don’t see how that works when applied to everyone. Unless you have 3 restrooms everywhere, and that’s a lot of money. It would be great if everyone were reasonable, but I sure don’t have that impression of the world.
posted by bongo_x at 12:01 PM on February 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't feel like I can have an intelligent opinion on this issue until I know why we actually have gendered bathrooms at all, and now that I'm thinking about it, I can't think of any particularly good reason that we do.

I would not have felt safe using the bathroom in high school if it was unisex. As it was we never went alone because our bathrooms were in standalone buildings outdoors and kids used them to get high and have sex regularly.I do not think I would have been safe from harassment in a unisex bathroom and in these days of webcams, cell phone video cameras and digital feeds? Hell no. We had unisex bathrooms in college but it seemed like the most egregious criminals had been weeded out and I generally chose to use the women's bathroom, despite being a not at all modest person.

I would have had no problem with a trans person using "my" bathroom even as a small kid or teen I would have understood that distinction just fine. And I think this school is wrong, kid is 6 for Pete's sake who cares?, but to say that gendered bathrooms serve no purpose is naive.
posted by fshgrl at 12:10 PM on February 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


Fshgrl, if those bathrooms were so unsafe already because of lack of supervision, I'm not sure why you'd consider than safer that they were gendered rather than unisex. Admin cared enough to see that genders were going into the "right" bathrooms, but not enough to stop sex and drug use?
posted by agregoli at 12:13 PM on February 27, 2013


Of course most kids wouldn’t abuse the system, but most kids wouldn’t hang out and bully anyone in any restroom or do all kinds of stupid stuff, but some do.

Yes. That is the situation that currently exists. I do not see it changing perceptibly if we allow children free choice of which restroom to use.

I would not have felt safe using the bathroom in high school if it was unisex. As it was we never went alone because our bathrooms wherein standalone buildings and kids used them to get high and have sex regularly.

Presumably they were effectively unisex already if sex was regularly happening?
posted by Rock Steady at 12:15 PM on February 27, 2013


fshgrl, are you implying that gay students don't have sex in bathrooms but straight students do?

on preview: agregoli has it.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:16 PM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Confessor: "I would hope that by the time a transgendered person is ready to make such a disclosure the social attitudes of their prospective partner have been probed sufficiently that little fear of their reaction remains."

And that's fair. But you still have to spend time with the other person, oftentimes in an ostensibly romantic context, to probe these social attitudes. Hence my example of going out for coffee on a date without knowing the other person is trans*, and why I think no disclosure while there are no physical entanglements is fine. We're still trying to figure out if we are interested in each other at all, and they owe me nothing at that point, even if we are going on explicit dates. Otherwise you would be saying that trans-folk should only be allowed to ask out (and accept dates from) people that they are already close enough friends with to have disclosed their status, which seems like an insanely high and unfair bar to set.

If I misunderstand you, I apologize.
posted by Phire at 12:17 PM on February 27, 2013


Exactly, my question being; How would that work? What’s the criteria? "You just can’t" isn’t a good enough argument. If it was this discussion wouldn’t be taking place. Of course most kids wouldn’t abuse the system, but most kids wouldn’t hang out and bully anyone in any restroom or do all kinds of stupid stuff, but some do.

In a school context, it's pretty easy because a school can insist everyone pick a gender and inform the administration if they need to switch. This is kind of awful if you need to switch, but no worse than the current situation, where you have to tell the administration but they've given no assurances about how you'll be treated. In public, maybe the security guards and police who harass people for using the "wrong" bathroom could go after people behaving inappropriately in bathrooms instead with their newfound free time.
posted by hoyland at 12:19 PM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Please watch the Sylvia Rivera Law Project's Toilet Training video trailer and related videos. They address bathroom safety for trans* people, as well as common safety myths.
posted by anya32 at 12:21 PM on February 27, 2013 [5 favorites]


LOL MeFi is really starting to make me feel like some kind of conservative...

I guess it seems to me like bathroom appropriateness has to do with sex and not gender. You go into the men's bathroom if and only if you're male, and regardless of whether you're masculine or feminine, and you go into the women's bathroom if and only if you're female, and regardless of whether you're masculine or feminine.

Sidebar: isn't it odd to have separate bathrooms? Sure. It seems really weird to me from a theoretical perspective. OTOH, it's got lots of practical benefits. If we question the separate-sex-bathroom system entirely, hence the whole view of sex and people that goes along with it, then, yeah, a solution to the Coy case falls out pretty readily. And I am inclined to question all that stuff...but I'm less sure about the answer than the majority here seem to be.

But, barring a major overhaul of Western civilization, and, given the system we have, which includes bathrooms split up by sex, and given that it does seem to me to be done by sex and not gender...well...I don't see that Coy's parents' case is all that strong. So perhaps we should have a different system...but, the system being what it is, I guess I'm not convinced.

Maybe somebody will feel weird if Coy goes into the boy's bathroom...but maybe somebody will feel weird if Coy goes into the girl's bathroom. I guess I'd say: you gotta use the boy's can, and woe be it to anybody who gives you grief about wearing a dress therein, or elsewhere either. Be yourownself, lil'...person. I guess it seems to me that to try to spin things so that bathrooms are split up by gender rather than sex is to bend rather too far in the direction of trying to be sensitive. You can, to some extent, choose your gender, but the potty system isn't based on gender.

OTOH, it's pretty tough to figure this stuff out when you start with a weird and rather difficult-to-defend bathroom system....it's kind of hard to defend any decisions one way or the other with respect to it.

OTOOH, theoretically suspect though it might be, I'm thankful for it. I don't even particularly like going to the can in front of other guys. Add females to the mix, and I'm likely to just end up taking a whiz behind a tree. I'm not saying it's rational...I'm saying that's how I am...
posted by Fists O'Fury at 12:27 PM on February 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


I would not have felt safe using the bathroom in high school if it was unisex. As it was we never went alone because our bathrooms wherein standalone buildings and kids used them to get high and have sex regularly.

I should add, it sucks that you did not feel safe in the bathrooms at your school, and that you might have felt less safe if they were unisex, but that seems like it is the school's problem to fix, and shouldn't hinder allowing all people to feel comfortable with the bathroom they use.
posted by Rock Steady at 12:28 PM on February 27, 2013


Fists O'Fury, what, exactly, would you have Coy do? I mean, assuming you aren't looking at her without clothes, which literally, nobody should be doing except her parents and doctors, she looks like a little girl. How is forcing her to use the boys' bathroom helping her situation?
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:31 PM on February 27, 2013 [13 favorites]


You can, to some extent, choose your gender, but the potty system isn't based on gender.

Well... says who, though? I seriously doubt that this distinction was made when the concept of bathrooms was developed, since the idea that sex and gender can deviate was not really a Thing back then. So why assume that bathrooms are for penis-havers and vagina-havers, rather than... men and women?

If someone was intersex- having genitalia that can't be said to be male or female- would you say "they should go into whichever bathroom their gender matches" or would you say they should use neither? How is this any different?

Also: if this family was out at a mall in a strange city and Coy went into the boy's room, everyone who saw her would insist she was in the wrong room. Because she looks and acts exactly like a girl. Why does knowing she has a penis change that?
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:36 PM on February 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


Fists: what would you do with children who are on the spectrum of being intersexed? Because at this point you can't say "well, they should be given the opportunity to use the bathroom of the gender they are being raised as?"

Diapers?
posted by tittergrrl at 12:37 PM on February 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


mule98J: "Six years old: I accept Coy's version, that he identifies as a girl."

She is a girl. She. Girl. Female.

Rocket science, this is not.
posted by scrump at 12:38 PM on February 27, 2013 [25 favorites]


Phire

You're right, Phire.

The phrasing in my original comment could be taken to imply that all physical contact in a romantic context is off-limits before disclosure, and that would be insanely unfair.
posted by The Confessor at 12:40 PM on February 27, 2013


At the moment, if you have a child, particularly of a young age and you expose them to a situation in which they can see an opposite-sex member's genitalia, you are committing child abuse.

The fact that there are changing tables in mens' public restrooms would give lie to this, I think. And I personally know a man who brought a two-year-old girl into one such men's room and changed her diaper therein, and was not yet arrested. Several other people went in and out of that room, including a guard for the museum in which this took place, and presumably saw my male friend changing this little girl's diaper, and made no comment and raised no alarm.

I have also frequently and commonly seen women bring their very young sons into public ladies' restrooms and have them tend to their necessary business therein. Not a single one of these women has been accused of committing child abuse.

But even if this were true - I fail to see how such a situation in which one child could be exposed to another child's genitalia could arise in a grade school bathroom; all the toilets are in closed stalls. So unless a child is in the habit of going into a stall, taking off their pants, and then running back out and exposing themself to other children at the sinks, I'm not seeing how such a "situation in which they can see an opposite-sex member's genitalia" could even take place.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:43 PM on February 27, 2013 [6 favorites]


The circle of people I know is disproportionately LGBT, so I'm not unfamiliar with the discussion around this, but here's what really confuses me (and perhaps many)


a) "The whole idea of 'gender' is a social construct and completely meaningless/damaging, especially to gay men and all women"

b) "My child is VERY firm in being a male/female and must be treated by these same norms as he/she wishes regardless of the wishes of the cisgendered majority"


I do not understand how these two arguments co-exist and I would like somebody to try and explain it to me under the assumption I actually don't understand this, not that I think there's something morally wrong.

Again, I hear a whole lot of this discussion and it completely goes over my head. There's an assumption that as a straight man I have devoted a lot of time and resources to understanding these issues and my ignorance is a tacit admission of bigotry.
posted by lattiboy at 12:47 PM on February 27, 2013 [7 favorites]


I guess it seems to me that to try to spin things so that bathrooms are split up by gender rather than sex is to bend rather too far in the direction of trying to be sensitive.

Fists O'Fury, I do hear you trying to approach this from a place of kindness, and trying to understand, while respecting your own internal feelings on the matter. And I must say that your use of the word "sensitive" here is, in my opinion, misplaced. This is not a matter of sensitivity. This is not a matter of respect, even. This is a matter of preventing and addressing violence: specifically, institutional violence. Institutional violence that forces all of us to conform to a gender binary that has historically, and still continues to be used to control, dominate, oppress. Institutional violence allows for/causes and, in some cases, I would argue promotes violence. I can certainly argue that we are all "victims" of that oppression - and say, that those who conform more generally to this forced gender binary may not see its full reach in their own lives, due to privilege and many other complicating factors. I think a useful starting point at looking at this is Dean Spade's piece on pronouns.
posted by anya32 at 12:48 PM on February 27, 2013 [8 favorites]


lattiboy, I don't think people think that gender is a social construct. The idea that gender NORMS are a social construct is more truthful, IMHO.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:51 PM on February 27, 2013 [7 favorites]


corb: "At the moment, if you have a child, particularly of a young age and you expose them to a situation in which they can see an opposite-sex member's genitalia, you are committing child abuse."

Oh, horseshit. Both of our boys have routinely showered with their mom since they could stand up.

I've changed the diapers on my nieces.

OMG WE ARE CHILD ABUSERS LOCK US UP.

That thing you said? It is an amazing statement, in the full sense of the word, and I find it impossible to believe you're arguing in good faith.
posted by scrump at 12:52 PM on February 27, 2013 [6 favorites]


lattiboy, I tried to express my view on that in this post. A socially constructed thing maybe, a thing in which some of the expressions are arbitrary, but gender identity is definitely a thing that exists. If someone is really firm on where they stand on their identity, you should take them seriously.

It's a confusing topic, some people put up contradictory arguments simply because they too are confused about it.
posted by Drinky Die at 12:53 PM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


But, barring a major overhaul of Western civilization, and, given the system we have

Change is coming. It is coming too fast for some people and not fast enough for others. You can change with it or you can get out of the way, but anybody who has been paying attention to the radical shift in mainstream acceptance of GBLTQ rights in the past decade can see very clearly where the momentum is.

To be fair, I was weirded out by the idea of co-ed bathrooms when I first learned about them from my liberal east coast college bound high school friends. Now that I'm more aware of gender issues, I can see why they thought it was no big deal.

And if it means the end of those gawdawful stadium pee troughs and poorly maintained or non-existant stall doors, that's a win-win. Ever notice how all the swanky places have real doors on the stalls, floor to ceiling? It's like doing your BM in your own executive bathroom. Call me a dreamer, but I'm not the only one.
posted by Skwirl at 12:54 PM on February 27, 2013 [5 favorites]


Coy is a female person. The only legitimate concern that can possibly exist here is regarding any possible negative effect on other kids that might somehow arise, and their family's rights to control and direct the upbringing of their children for as long as gendered normativity as we know it persists (framed as both concerns about direct effects as well as secondary issues in terms of the school being obligated to worry about third party complaints regarding their custodial care).

Let's credit for the purposes of debate that other parents will know about this (they already do, now, and potentially the school wold feel obligated to disclose it unless you could maybe prevent it under HIPAA or something, which is problematic in terms of pathologization). If the parents know, at least some of the kids will know. Then all of the kids will know....you don't need to go into "who will see what when and how" to need to entertain that scenario.

Children can be some of the worst offenders when it comes to gender prescriptivism and also shunning behaviors. Especially a few years from now. And presumably at least some of her cohort will follow her to the hell that is junior high. That could be good or bad....

So.....while I believe that Coy should be able to use the girl's room, and that this should be resolved in her favor, I don't think that it's quite as simple as some people here would like it to be.

Not yet, anyway. Hopefully people like Coy will help us all get there.
posted by snuffleupagus at 12:55 PM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


lattiboy, this comment and several others in the #transdocfail thread helped me get my head around the same issue you are having.
posted by knapah at 12:56 PM on February 27, 2013


those gawdawful stadium pee troughs

Call me crazy but I've always liked those. Then again I do fall in the intersection of the Venn diagram for "Raised outdoors" (*wink*) and "Fan of Efficiency". So, yea.... they have their faults but the do what they're supposed to pretty well. I should also mention that my sinuses aren't very sensitive either, maybe that's part of it.
posted by RolandOfEld at 1:00 PM on February 27, 2013


Skwirl: "Ever notice how all the swanky places have real doors on the stalls, floor to ceiling? It's like doing your BM in your own executive bathroom."

Completely off-topic, but, holy jeez, the stalls in the bathroom of a typical Tokyo office building are like having your own private jet JUST FOR POOPING.
posted by scrump at 1:00 PM on February 27, 2013 [5 favorites]


I do not understand how these two arguments co-exist and I would like somebody to try and explain it to me under the assumption I actually don't understand this, not that I think there's something morally wrong.

The answer is that gender is not a social construct, but gender presentation, rigid gender norms, and the binary gender expectation are. Gender is a real thing, but not everyone is a strong female or a strong male, and not every strong female presents "femme" and not every strong male presents "butch."
posted by KathrynT at 1:01 PM on February 27, 2013 [11 favorites]


a) "The whole idea of 'gender' is a social construct and completely meaningless/damaging, especially to gay men and all women"

b) "My child is VERY firm in being a male/female and must be treated by these same norms as he/she wishes regardless of the wishes of the cisgendered majority"


This is actually an interesting question!

I feel like it's sort of a trick question, though, because it assumes that what we're trying to do is establish an absolute law of How We Establish Gender For All Of History, answer all the questions of gender, etc. If that's what we're trying to do, your a and b present a contradiction.

If we get more modest about it and say "how can people living today, right now, be happy in their gender expression?" then we don't need to bother with all that stuff. I mean, maybe in five hundred years gender will be constructed so differently that "transgender" doesn't have any meaning at all. Or maybe it will be all John Varley SF utopia and people will change their sexual organs all the time as they please and call themselves men or women as they wish. I mean, I have no notion how 1500 AD Frowner would feel about their gender, or how 2500 AD Frowner would feel, or even how Frowner-From-Kenya or Frowner-From-Thailand would feel. I only know how I feel, and I know that I feel best when I can live in a particular gendered way without hassle or fear. I recognize that I am a social construct - I'm the product of my society and circumstances - but I'm not an amorphous pile of goo. I have a personality, experiences, beliefs that already exist and it's just not fair to me to say "because gender is not as immutable as physics, you should live a life where you are uncomfortable in your body and uncomfortable how people treat you".
posted by Frowner at 1:02 PM on February 27, 2013 [20 favorites]


The circle of people I know is disproportionately LGBT, so I'm not unfamiliar with the discussion around this, but here's what really confuses me (and perhaps many)

a) "The whole idea of 'gender' is a social construct and completely meaningless/damaging, especially to gay men and all women"

b) "My child is VERY firm in being a male/female and must be treated by these same norms as he/she wishes regardless of the wishes of the cisgendered majority"

I do not understand how these two arguments co-exist and I would like somebody to try and explain it to me under the assumption I actually don't understand this, not that I think there's something morally wrong.


This is a totally fair thing to ask and it's something I've struggled to understand as well.

As roomthreeseventeen says above, you have to think of it in terms of gender vs. gender norms. People generally perform some sort of gender, this is a thing in all cultures I've ever heard of- but in different societies, gender is performed differently, and there may be more than two genders. A woman in Zaire and a woman in England have different ideas of what it means to be a woman, look like a woman, act like a woman, perform a woman's role in society.

When people say that gender is an illusion, I take them to mean that the things we take for granted as denoting woman-ness vs man-ness are not set in stone and shouldn't be policed or enforced, and that culture plays such a big role in determining these things that it would be impossible to tease out cultural influences and find one thing that ALL women share across ALL cultures.

But! Most people, even in social contexts where they get a choice, choose to embrace gender performance in some way or other. I know I don't have to be a woman, but I am. I feel like one, I'm comfortable this way, and even though I COULD perform in a more masculine way, I don't. I imagine that if I had been born in another culture, I would enjoy different things, but I would still be comfortable as a woman. I know people who are female and cis but more comfortable performing masculine gender- and I thing they'd feel that way anywhere else, too, but not be allowed to express it, necessarily. I also have friends who are trans, feel more comfortable as a gender that doesn't match their sex- and I think that they, too, would have felt that way in any other culture.
posted by showbiz_liz at 1:03 PM on February 27, 2013 [6 favorites]


Lattiboy: Those statements are only contradictory if you do not believe that children have the ability, means and rights to determine their self-identity.

I would argue that determining their self-identity is the #1 full time professional job of children and we should get the frak out of the way and let them set their identity, change their identity, rechange and rerechange their identity as they wish. And, what the heck, let's extend that right to self-identify to adults, too.

If I'm hearing you correctly, your assumption, an assumption that others do not buy into, is that identity can only be chosen once. The countering axiom is that identity is a never beginning and never ending process.
posted by Skwirl at 1:09 PM on February 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


It's also interesting to me that Coy is a triplet. She has an older brother, a triplet brother, and a triplet sister who is severely disabled. From a gender construct viewpoint, Coy's tendency to be feminine and like stereotypical things seems to be entirely her own, and not that of an older or same-age sibling.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:09 PM on February 27, 2013


I saw this documentary, called Me, My Sex and I on the BBC and it really helped me grok how this all works.
posted by Solomon at 1:25 PM on February 27, 2013


clavdivs, the child is female.

Is he though? It's not like the child had gender-reassignment surgery. Biologically, he's a boy, and just because he says "I'm female" doesn't make it so. If we allow this child to use the woman's bathroom, where does this train of logic lead - as far as the legal precedent? Should any man be allowed to say "I'm female" and wander into the women's restroom at their whim, or vice versa? I think I'm entitled to the right to pee without worrying about sightseeing creepers. (Granted, I once scored a hookup because a girl wandered in and checked me out without my knowledge, but that is besides the point.)

Don't get me wrong - I'm all for allowing people who have gender-reassignment surgery switch the bathroom they use. These people have made significant sacrifices to change their lifestyle, so I'm willing to assume good faith on their part. But legally allowing people to use the opposite bathroom based on a claim that they're "mentally" the other gender seems ridiculous to me, and opens the door to situations where potential rapists and creepers have access to women at their most vulnerable. I also think that if somebody wants to use the opposite restroom, the burden of proof that they are acting in good faith needs to fall on them = at least legally. And if we are willing to make an exception for this boy, we should make it very clear in legal terms as to why he merits an exception.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 1:28 PM on February 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


That awkward moment when you hit favorite instead of flag and hope like hell nobody saw it before you can undo it....
posted by cmyk at 1:30 PM on February 27, 2013 [30 favorites]


[If you are unhappy with the topic or something, please just go do something else with your day rather than taking an arch shit in a thread.]
posted by cortex at 1:31 PM on February 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


and just because he says "I'm female" doesn't make it so

Boy, it would be really embarrasing if you had made this statement after reading all the links in the post, all the comments in the thread, and all the links in those comments.

I'm almost certain you didn't - you're far too smart to do something like that, right?
posted by the man of twists and turns at 1:32 PM on February 27, 2013 [27 favorites]


wolfdreams01, plenty of trans people never have sex reassignment surgery. That has zero to do with their gender identity.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:32 PM on February 27, 2013 [10 favorites]


I do not understand how these two arguments co-exist and I would like somebody to try and explain it to me under the assumption I actually don't understand this, not that I think there's something morally wrong.

So, there are a lot of different ways to perform your gender. Some are socially sanctioned and some are not - it's a continuum, and it's socially constructed. The way I present my femaleness (as a butch dyke) is cool in San Francisco, but got me threatened by strangers when I lived in DC in the 90s. If that isn't socially constructed I don't know what is!

But many (or most or some or all, I don't really know) people feel some degree of...alignment or disjunction with their designated gender - e.g. "You are a boy" "Yes, I am a boy" vs "You are a boy" "WTF, no I'm not I feel horrible and hate my body". When I was a little girl, I was a tomboy; there were times when I wanted to be a boy, but there were no times when I thought I was a boy who was mistakenly in the "wrong" body.
posted by rtha at 1:34 PM on February 27, 2013 [21 favorites]


Biologically, he's a boy, and just because he says "I'm female" doesn't make it so.

"Biologically." What do you mean by that? Do you think that that XY females are men, or women? Why? Could you conceive of a possible instance in which other parts of a person's sex didn't align? Such as their body and their brain?
posted by showbiz_liz at 1:35 PM on February 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


rtha: "So, there are a lot of different ways to perform your gender. Some are socially sanctioned and some are not - it's a continuum, and it's socially constructed."

This is a magnificent summary and I am stealing it.
posted by scrump at 1:37 PM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


If an evil mad scientist kidnapped someone and performed SRS on them, what bathroom should they use?

I know, crazy hypotheticals can be of little use in a discussion like this, but you should consider if you think the biological lottery that leaves kids in the wrong body is so very different a situation.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:37 PM on February 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


I just saw this story today, which is not related to 6 year olds and bathrooms, but is related to people being awesome: Emerson College frat raises $16,000 for transgender member's surgery. Since Collins only needed $8,000 for the surgery, the fraternity has said it will "donate excess funds to other people in the transgender community."
posted by colfax at 1:38 PM on February 27, 2013 [10 favorites]


"But, barring a major overhaul of Western civilization, and, given the system we have, which includes bathrooms split up by sex, and given that it does seem to me to be done by sex and not gender...well...I don't see that Coy's parents' case is all that strong. So perhaps we should have a different system...but, the system being what it is, I guess I'm not convinced."

So… an appeal to tradition based on the fact that you're part of the majority so why should the majority have to accomodate a minority even if you acknowledge that's unfair.

That's… unfair.

"Is he though?"

Yes, she is.

"It's not like the child had gender-reassignment surgery."

So?

"Biologically, he's a boy, and just because he says "I'm female" doesn't make it so."

Why not?

"If we allow this child to use the woman's bathroom, where does this train of logic lead - as far as the legal precedent?"

To letting trans people use the bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity. Slippery slope is a fallacy.

"Should any man be allowed to say "I'm female" and wander into the women's restroom at their whim, or vice versa?"

Man, remember when people read threads and saw that their concerns were already addressed? Good times.

"I think I'm entitled to the right to pee without worrying about sightseeing creepers."

I think I'm entitled to pee without ghosts possessing me and forcing me to solve crimes. Thankfully, the incidence of both of those is pretty low, and other mechanisms exist for dealing with it outside of just policing gender (how do we deal with guys in the guys bathrooms who are creeping? We tell them to stop creeping.)

"Don't get me wrong - I'm all for allowing people who have gender-reassignment surgery switch the bathroom they use.

"Don't get me wrong, I just don't know what I'm talking about and want to set an absurdly high bar because hey, why not?"

"These people have made significant sacrifices to change their lifestyle, so I'm willing to assume good faith on their part."

Man, I love that all us straight dudes got badges handed out to decide whose gender is performed in good faith. That was awesome.

"But legally allowing people to use the opposite bathroom based on a claim that they're "mentally" the other gender is ridiculous, and opens the door to situations where potential rapists and creepers have access to women at their most vulnerable."

It is not, and it does not. Don't present your irrational fears as the necessary outcome of any sort of chain of reason here. Again, slippery slope is a fallacy.

"I also think that if somebody wants to use the opposite restroom, the burden of proof that they are acting in good faith needs to fall on them."

Why? Oh, yeah, because you've got some weird trans phobia that you're projecting on the rest of us. (Being afraid of creepers in the bathroom based on the fact that trans folk could use the congruent facilities is trans phobia. It's irrational fear of trans people. It's also dumb.)
posted by klangklangston at 1:38 PM on February 27, 2013 [38 favorites]


Should any man be allowed to say "I'm female" and wander into the women's restroom at their whim, or vice versa?

If they are living and presenting as a woman, yeah.

Are you saying that any transsexual/transgendered person who presents as a woman must use the men's room until they have had surgery (if they ever have surgery), regardless of hormones or appearance... then you are insane, don't understand the issues, and probably aren't thinking of the safety issues involved.

Of course, only someone being glib and unthinking would suggest such a thing.
posted by tittergrrl at 1:40 PM on February 27, 2013 [13 favorites]


"But what if outside hypothetical edge case????" is pretty irrelevant here, I think. I can say that in an ideal world everyone would be able to use every bathroom and no one would care, but outside an ideal world it can still be fair to say that if you're living and presenting as a girl consistently in your everyday life, and that's reflected on your school registration paperwork and your passport... that really has nothing to do with hypothetical creepers and pervs.
posted by Jeanne at 1:40 PM on February 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


wolfdreams01: "Don't get me wrong - I'm all for allowing people who have gender-reassignment surgery switch the bathroom they use. These people have made significant sacrifices to change their lifestyle, so I'm willing to assume good faith on their part."

Fortunately, neither the law nor actual empirical science are based upon your personal standards.
posted by scrump at 1:41 PM on February 27, 2013 [30 favorites]


Thanks all for the non-judgmental answers.

I think my issue is that I "get it" in a theoretical sense, but I feel like the language used is, perhaps, not helping move the majority on this issue (at least like it has on the gay rights front).

I know people have spent their lives dedicated to this and to have some outsider come in and give advice could be insulting, but I honestly feel a simple emotional message is more powerful than trying to educate people on queergender/intersex/cisgender/biggender/ect.


"I am who I am and it shouldn't fucking bother you! If it does, ask yourself, 'WHY?' "


That is some shit I think a lot of people who simply don't have the time/interest/inclination to delve into this incredibly complicated subject could get behind without trying to process the contents of a whole college course on gender/sexuality/psychology/physiology.


PS I don't usually participate in these threads in "real time", so let me please apologize for just how fucking awful some of these comments are from people comparing folks to dogs and pedopihles and whatnot. Ick.
posted by lattiboy at 1:41 PM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


[Shit Parade, take a break from this thread, now.]
posted by cortex at 1:43 PM on February 27, 2013


Should any man be allowed to say "I'm female" and wander into the women's restroom at their whim, or vice versa?

If you'd read the thread, you would have seen where I - a woman-born woman! am often challenged (or at least get a double-take) when I use a women's public bathroom because I do not look "female" enough. I say that I am female. I am, in fact, female. Who are you to do a pants-check?
posted by rtha at 1:43 PM on February 27, 2013 [17 favorites]


I don't know who he is, but I think those pants look fabulous on you.
posted by scrump at 1:44 PM on February 27, 2013 [13 favorites]


Thanks, scrump! I do love these pants!
posted by rtha at 1:46 PM on February 27, 2013 [5 favorites]


coy didn't "just say" that she's female. she's been to doctors. she's discussed it with her family. she's made her preferences clear. she's identified as female on her official documents. they are demanding the school follow suit. is there a reason her official documents should be discarded because the school "knows" what her genitals are? i assume they didn't do a check themselves...
posted by nadawi at 1:47 PM on February 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


(Granted, I once scored a hookup because a girl wandered in and checked me out without my knowledge, but that is besides the point.)

As a stand-alone statement, I bet this leads to an interesting anecdote (that I'd love to hear); as a parenthetical in your claim to fear "sightseeing creepers," it's pretty disgusting.

Do you truly "worry" that someone who is NOT transgender is going to claim to be transgender, solely for the purpose of catching a glimpse of your (or someone's) wang? Really!? Dear god.

Let me tell you something. Sit down first. You have been somewhere, in the locker room, a bathroom, skinny dipping, peeing outside, somewhere where someone who finds you attractive has sneaked a look at your penis. It's happened.
posted by MoxieProxy at 1:48 PM on February 27, 2013 [8 favorites]


"I am who I am and it shouldn't fucking bother you! If it does, ask yourself, 'WHY?' "

I think that works great for interpersonal interactions in terms of dealing with haters. But it becomes difficult to encapsulate things like that in legal language and when you are creating national movements and organizing networks of people going through the same thing together. In those cases, it's helpful to have labels, even if the edges on the labels are fuzzy. For instance, saying, "I am who am and it shouldn't bother you," is not quite the same weighted statement from me, a cisgender person, that it is from a trans person. But we can't talk about that distinction without first talking about the difference between us. So, yeah, when it gets political, definitions kind of have to be involved at some point. But I agree with your essential idea, which I would phrase as, "Fuckin' a it's none of my goddamn business anyway."
posted by WidgetAlley at 1:50 PM on February 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


If we are talking about this child as an individual, then I feel a lot of compassion for him. However, I'm more concerned about what he represents, as far as a lawsuit that will establish legal precedent. I feel like that's an angle that has been overlooked here. I'm OK with a ruling that would let him use the women's restroom, but only if it can be done in such a way that it doesn't open the door to creepers exploiting the legal precedent of such a ruling. You might say that would be an edge case, but in my opinion, once you made a law that is exploitable, some people will exploit it. I mean, we've all read the "Creepshots" thread - do you seriously think those guys won't see this as an opportunity to get more photo ops? And yes, I did read all the links. I haven't gone through all the comments yet - if somebody already found a way to address this legal problem satisfactorily, I submit that it would take less time for you to simply link to said comment, instead of responding with sarcasm.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 1:52 PM on February 27, 2013


"Do you truly "worry" that someone who is NOT transgender is going to claim to be transgender, solely for the purpose of catching a glimpse of your (or someone's) wang? Really!? Dear god. "

Yeah, look, I've got a magic cock that cures blindness, and yet despite pissing pretty regularly in bars full of aggressive bears, I've only gotten explicit looks like twice. This is not a fear for the real world — trans people are not cock goblins.
posted by klangklangston at 1:53 PM on February 27, 2013 [8 favorites]


wolfdreams01, I think a lot of us would respond to you better if you used the correct pronouns.

You have no idea the amount of red tape you need to go through to be diagnosed as gender dysphoric and have your documents changed. People can't just be creepers and walk in to the "wrong" bathroom willy-nilly.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:53 PM on February 27, 2013 [20 favorites]


all the concern over creepers should be a reminder of how easy it is to be hetero-normative (and how it's good to challenge those thoughts). if this child were a born-female/presenting-female lesbian, should she have to use the nurse's bathroom because she might creep at the cracks of the doors of other women sometime in non-defined future?
posted by nadawi at 1:54 PM on February 27, 2013 [9 favorites]


wolfdreams01 - i'm having a hard time following you. can you explain how you think someone would exploit a law that says you are legally permitted to use the bathroom that matches your gender as stated on your passport or other legal documents? because that's the actual situation we're discussing.
posted by nadawi at 1:56 PM on February 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


wolfdreams01: " (Granted, I once scored a hookup because a girl wandered in and checked me out without my knowledge, but that is besides the point.)"

What the christ is wrong with you. Why would you ever share that generally, and why would you share that specifically in this context?
posted by boo_radley at 1:56 PM on February 27, 2013 [44 favorites]


Here's some good news: I used to be like some of the folks in this thread, presenting stupid and hurtful arguments with the excuse of "well, I'm only just saying..." I remember making some really insuffereably smug statements around the time of the Thomas Beatie story. Then I got called out and shut up and lurked more and followed links and listened to stories and came around and became an unapologetic trans ally. So keep fighting the good fight. It does make a difference.
posted by Biblio at 1:56 PM on February 27, 2013 [37 favorites]


"However, I'm more concerned about what he represents, as far as a lawsuit that will establish legal precedent."

Why?

" I feel like that's an angle that has been overlooked here."

An angle that you've overlooked does not mean that it hasn't been addressed here.

"I'm OK with a ruling that would let him use the women's restroom, but only if it can be done in such a way that it doesn't open the door to creepers exploiting the legal precedent of such a ruling."

So, you're OK with tolerating a kid as long as there's no possible way that the decision could lead to fulfillment of your imaginary fears? Well, congrats, bucko, you must support the kid because the creepers are not a real risk.

"You might say that would be an edge case, but in my opinion, once you made a law that is exploitable, some people will exploit it."

And it will be tragic because all of our laws against harassment will be struck down by allowing a six-year-old to use the right bathroom.

"I mean, we've all read the "Creepshots" thread - do you seriously think those guys won't see this as an opportunity to get more photo ops?"

Oh man if only there were a way to ban taking photos of other people in bathrooms without banning trans people from being able to use the right one. What Solon will save us?

"And yes, I did read all the links. I haven't gone through all the comments yet - if somebody already found a way to address this legal problem satisfactorily, I submit that it would take less time for you to simply link to said comment, instead of responding with sarcasm."

It's incumbent upon the members to do their own fucking reading before bursting in with nonsense that's already been addressed; if we spoon-fed them the links, then none of them would ever learn to graciously apologize for being an ass.
posted by klangklangston at 1:58 PM on February 27, 2013 [15 favorites]


I mean, we've all read the "Creepshots" thread - do you seriously think those guys won't see this as an opportunity to get more photo ops?

I would suggest: a.) beat the hell out of those people, b.) ban the use of smart phones and other electronic devices in bathrooms, and c.) make sure that those people are heavily prosecuted and/or punished for privacy violations. The fact that people are creepers has basically nothing to do with trans people in bathrooms. That's like saying women shouldn't be allowed in the workplace because it will create opportunities for sexual harassment. Yeah, okay, there are more sexual harassment opportunities than when women stayed in the kitchen. The solution is to take sexual harassment more seriously, not to freakin' legally mandate that women have to stay in the house in case someone who wants to grab her ass gets the opportunity.

So in this case, the solution is not to deny some little kid the right to use the bathroom that has been assigned to her legal gender (her passport, after all, does say female), or to stop dismantling problematic gender sorting that determines where you can put your pee.
posted by WidgetAlley at 1:58 PM on February 27, 2013 [11 favorites]


ban the use of smart phones and other electronic devices in bathrooms

You have no idea how attached to browsing while pooping some are.
posted by Drinky Die at 2:01 PM on February 27, 2013 [7 favorites]


I do not understand how these two arguments co-exist and I would like somebody to try and explain it to me under the assumption I actually don't understand this, not that I think there's something morally wrong.

lattiboy, I'm going to explain to you the way that I see gender as working. It isn't how everyone sees it, or even everyone who's queer and feminist and trans-friendly. But I think both that gender is ultimately a social construct, and also that it's tremendously important to respect trans people's gender identities, so I guess I fall squarely into the category of people you say you don't understand.

I think gender identities are things that can only exist in a cultural context, and that different cultures divide up the gendersphere differently to ours - for example, some cultures include/have included 'eunuch' as a gender category. Now, being a eunuch is a physical thing, but someone with the same physical characteristics in our culture probably wouldn't consider themselves a 'eunuch' who was somewhere between male and female; they'd consider themselves a man with a genital injury, and would probably be treated with hormones etc. to bring them more in line with how people think a man's body should be. Someone in, eg Ancient Byzantium with the same physical condition would respond to that very, very differently, as would some people in the same physical state in modern-day India. What I don't believe is that one of these ways of responding is necessarily or prima facie better than another; I think that what's important is what makes individual people feel happy and respected. I think it would be just as invasive and violent to tell a modern-day man without testicles that he was 'really' a eunuch and had to start living as one as it would be to tell a Byzantine eunuch that he was 'really' a man whose hormonal inadequacies had to be corrected post haste, assuming for the purposes of argument that they were both OK with identifying as they did. (I do think that the practices which caused people to identify as eunuchs in Byzantium were violent and wrong)

I don't think that gender identities are themselves wrong or bad, although I do think that they can make people unhappy when they become overly rigid. It's not meaningful to me to talk about an 'incorrect' gender identity, or someone who 'thinks' they are a man/woman but really are not, because I don't think that gender is something 'out there'. I think that every day we do things that make our gender real for us. I think that there are different ways to do gender. I think it is interesting how gender is at the edges of what is willed, and how we experience parts of it as voluntary and other parts as involuntary. It's clearly part of the reality of gender that it is experienced as, on a fundamental level, not chosen. I say 'experienced as' not to imply that on some other, more real level, it is chosen, but because I think that gender is fundamentally an experience. I am sceptical of scientific research finding differences in transgender people's brains, just as I am sceptical of much neurobiological research around gender, but I think that it expresses something quite important about transgender people's experiences, and that if it is myth in some ways it is helpful myth. I also think that in a way it doesn't matter to me whether trans people are physically different or not, because it wouldn't change how I think we should respond to them, which is with empathy and respect.

Because I don't think that gender is something that naturally arises out of the body that you have, it doesn't surprise me that some people have experiences of gender that don't match the bodies they have. I think that the best response to those experiences is to do what is needed to prevent suffering and create happiness. I do not see what possible purpose is served in preventing people from expressing their gender in ways which make them happier.

I personally don't feel terribly attached to my gender, although as I've gone through my life I've got more honest with myself about the fact that there are things, like wearing most women's clothes, that make me feel uncomfortable because they don't correspond with my gender identity. My gender identity is something which is difficult for me to describe, but easy to act according to. I don't have a problem with people whose experience of their gender is of something they are attached to very firmly in a way that I am not. I do prefer it if those people acknowledge that there are other ways to be that gender other than the one they feel is right for them. I think that sometimes when people are too attached to their gender presentation it can cause problems, like when some men think that they can't possibly show any vulnerability because that would be intolerably unmasculine, or when people talk as if people who are a different gender to them were another species that is impossible to understand or empathise with. I can imagine a society in which everyone experienced their gender as not having anything to do with their physical bodies, and hence SRS and hormonal treatment would not be required, but that society is obviously not ours and would be unrecognisable in far more dramatic ways, so it doesn't seem relevant to bring it up when we're talking about people in our society. Even if I thought it were possible and good to bring such a society about, I think it would be incredibly wrong to expect trans people to suffer in order to do so.

I would prefer it if trans people never talked about gender in stereotyped or sexist ways, because I would prefer it if nobody ever talked about gender in stereotyped and sexist ways. But trans people are a subset of people, and people tend to stereotype about gender, so it doesn't surprise me that trans people do too. When cis/non-trans women irritate me by talking about how all little girls love make-up, I do not get the urge to violently force them to live as male, and the same goes for trans women. I'm more inclined to forgive trans women for irritating me with sexual stereotypes, when they do, because I think that it can be harder for trans people to express a non-stereotypical or non-rigid gender identity when people around them are constantly interrogating their gender in a way that cis people don't have to put up with. At the same time, I can see that plenty of trans people do have non-stereotypical and non-rigid and non-standard gender identities and expressions.

Lots of 'I think's there, but I am trying to make it clear that this is what Ibelieve, as well as trying to articulate some concepts that I still find difficult using as little jargon as possible.
posted by Acheman at 2:02 PM on February 27, 2013 [14 favorites]


Oh shit (literally), I didn't even think of that. If that rule were implemented, I'd be so far behind on xkcd. Still, horrible sacrifices sometimes must be made.
posted by WidgetAlley at 2:02 PM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sorry, that ended up being a bit long. Gender is complicated.
posted by Acheman at 2:03 PM on February 27, 2013


If we are talking about this child as an individual, then I feel a lot of compassion for him.

That's her. "This child" (god, I hate that) is a girl. Everything about Coy Mathis is a girl, except the fact that she was born with a penis.

wolfdreams01, are you the little bit of flesh that lies between your legs? No, of course you're not. So why is Coy? And who are you to decide?
posted by no relation at 2:03 PM on February 27, 2013 [5 favorites]


but only if it can be done in such a way that it doesn't open the door to creepers exploiting the legal precedent of such a ruling

We already have laws and rules about harassment and spying and such. Can you explain how making me show my drivers' license and drop my pants before I go into a bathroom will help? I'm serious.
posted by rtha at 2:06 PM on February 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


Re: Emerson, don't miss this article from the Boston Herald: Frat brothers raise $15.9G for Emerson College student’s gender surgery
“For me, medical transitioning has been so important because it just removes that aspect of confusion and depression from my life,” said Donnie, who has struggled since middle school with his gender identity.

“Right now I’m wearing five layers ... plus this jacket, so even when I’m casual, I’m not really casual,” he told the Herald yesterday about “compressing” his chest. “It’s a lot to handle ... it’s a lot to handle.”

Donnie said he’s been depressed about his body for too long and tired of fighting a losing battle with his insurance company.

But his frat brothers helped lift that burden.

“You feeling OK?” Phi ­Alpha Tau fraternity brother, Christian Bergen-­Aragon, asked Donnie yesterday outside an Emerson high-rise dorm on Boylston Street.

“I’m functioning,” he replied with a smile.
It's a front-page, 300-pt-headline, right-wing-for-Boston—tabloid article that is thoughtful, sweet and respectful about trans issues. I was totally boggled.
posted by jhc at 2:07 PM on February 27, 2013 [5 favorites]


That's her. "This child" (god, I hate that) is a girl. Everything about Coy Mathis is a girl, except the fact that she was born with a penis.

Well, nobody's perfect.
posted by ShutterBun at 2:07 PM on February 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


Don't get me wrong - I'm all for allowing people who have gender-reassignment surgery switch the bathroom they use. These people have made significant sacrifices to change their lifestyle, so I'm willing to assume good faith on their part."

Until I started actually learning about this stuff, both for myself and because of my milieu, I had a lot of wrong ideas about how easy it is to access and afford gender-reassignment surgery, how desirable that surgery is outcomes-wise and what the non-surgical options are. I used to think that it made a lot of sense that certain things were contingent on surgery, when actually that produces a lot of bad outcomes.

1. Surgery is expensive and generally not covered by insurance. For someone who is middle class, it's possible to save up, but for someone who is poor, saving $20,000 (that you don't need for any other emergencies, housing, retirement, medical care) just is not super realistic. People should not have to postpone their access to all sorts of very important stuff until they can save up quite large sums of money for a health-related procedure. It's not the same as "if you want liposuction or a nose job, you should save up", because the need for the surgery is far greater. Surgical complications are not unheard of, which can add even more to the bill.

2. Surgery isn't always the best option. Unless you want all the biological details, I will simply ask you to believe me that it's reasonable to choose to live as a trans person without wanting to reconstruct your genitals - there are issues about appearance, sensation and function that mean that some people would rather just keep things as they are in that aspect.

3. How much surgery is enough? You are unlikely to be in a position to check that a girl has had body surgeries; do you mean that she has to have a bunch of facial surgeries until she meets "feminine enough" standards? A lot of cis people don't look as "feminine" or "masculine" as a few trans people who started out with the right kind of faces can look after facial surgery - so you end up expecting trans people to look more "feminine" or "masculine" than cis people, which is just silly. Also, it is not fair that if I want to live as a woman, I don't need to wear makeup or a dress and people just assume I'm a woman, but a trans woman often gets expected to slap on the feminine signifiers (at which point she's mocked for being "artificial").

4. How do the intermittent stages work? If you're a trans woman who has started hormones but hasn't saved up for surgery yet, you may look "too feminine" for the men's bathroom and "too masculine" for the women's. I know someone in this situation, and it's really tough. Or if you're a trans man, should you grow your hair out and wear dresses until you can afford surgery so that women in the women's bathroom won't be upset?

5. Transition is a process - lots of adjustments to voice, clothes, body language...plus hormones and/or surgery if you're going that route. It's not something that happens overnight. It is very important that trans folks - especially trans women - are safe during the transition process, and the more they are stigmatized, shut out and treated as dangerous freaks (until magical surgery day) the more dangerous the transition process is for them.

6. There are lots of non-surgical alternatives. Hormones alter the body to a degree without any surgery at all. Trans dudes can wear binders. Hair, clothing, body language, voice - those are all things that people use to express their gender that can be powerful and effective - and cheap and non-surgical.

7. I strongly suggest that you read some memoirs and blogs by trans people. Transitioning is really, really hard. You can lose a lot of your friends, your social network, your job, your apartment, your birth family, your church - IME, very few trans people don't lose at least some of those. People can harass and assault you, especially if you're a trans woman of color. You are less likely to be believed by cops and courts if you are sexually assaulted. You have to face constant low-level weirdness from all kinds of people all the time. Now, all of this stuff can be a little bit invisible to people who don't themselves harass trans folks and who are not themselves transphobic - it's easy to see your trans acquaintance having a good time at a party and think "oh, clearly transition is pretty easy, they seem to be doing well, all those people who talk about how hard it is must be doing things wrong". But this is not the case! Read some memoirs and blogs if you need to. My point is that anyone who is living as an out trans person has made significant sacrifices to do so. Insisting that even further financial and social sacrifices are needed before you will "trust" them is both cruel and foolish.
posted by Frowner at 2:08 PM on February 27, 2013 [34 favorites]


Acheman, you make a good point about trans people being made to answer for the existence of stifling binary gender roles/presentation simply as an aspect of their being, while plenty of cis people are never challenged on the same things. Trans people don't necessarily buy into this stuff any more than anyone else, although as you said sometimes they may feel pressured into it in an effort to "earn" the right pronouns and treatment from a flawed society.
posted by Corinth at 2:09 PM on February 27, 2013


I should be clear that it's not that I think personally that having a child see opposite-sex genitalia is child abuse, it's that laws and norms in many places make this child abuse. Much like how I personally would have no problem with parents leaving their kid alone in their safe house for twenty minutes, but when two parents I knew did it with a sleeping child in a crib because one was late for work, they were charged with child abuse.

We have norms around sex and genitalia and all sorts of things, particularly around young children, that do make these things iffy.

Surgery isn't always the best option. Unless you want all the biological details, I will simply ask you to believe me that it's reasonable to choose to live as a trans person without wanting to reconstruct your genitals - there are issues about appearance, sensation and function that mean that some people would rather just keep things as they are in that aspect.

I actually would like all the biological details. I know that surgery is expensive, and I have friends who can't afford it and have fundraisers and such, but I do not have any trans friends who do not want the surgery on anything but financial grounds. In fact, that has been raised a lot in the thread - that you have body parts that are wrong and don't belong there. I know if I woke up tomorrow with a penis I would freak out and try like hell to get it fixed. I cannot imagine, as a woman, being cool with having that growing out of me and thinking there was no need to fix it.
posted by corb at 2:12 PM on February 27, 2013


it's that laws and norms in many places make this child abuse.

Name one. It is not illegal for a girl child to see a penis or for a boy child to see a vulva in any jurisdiction I'm aware of.
posted by KathrynT at 2:14 PM on February 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


Also: I have seen from others in this thread, and even agree, that it is wrong to force people to go into a bathroom of a sex that they do not feel should encompass them. But what is wrong with having at least one unisex bathroom? The kind where it's a tiny room or (or closet-like room, given NYC) and anyone of any gender can go in, without having anyone else present?
posted by corb at 2:15 PM on February 27, 2013


corb, that's simply not true. Like, there's no law that says that a child's genitals can't be seen by their different sex sibling or parent. No law.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 2:15 PM on February 27, 2013


IMHO, there is nothing wrong with an all gender bathroom. The problem is when you say that is the ONLY bathroom a trans girl can use.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 2:16 PM on February 27, 2013


wolfdreams01, you can start learning about the hoops and leaps that trans people are required to jump through in order to get legal recognition of their gender here. (Your snotty aside about "whatever works for you" notwithstanding.)
posted by KathrynT at 2:18 PM on February 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


corb, just because you can't imagine being okay with a penis doesn't mean there aren't or can't be women okay with their penises. Surgery is scary and expensive and painful and stressful, and some people just like what they've got well enough not to mess with it. Also, try not to forget that dysphoria can manifest itself differently for different people!
posted by Corinth at 2:18 PM on February 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


WidgetAlley:

I see your point, but as an outsider to these things the FIRST thing I hear is always a heated discussion about what terms you're using to describe the person (not he/she, but a "blank-gendered" definition). You cannot enter the discussion and, in fact, I'm having trouble here just trying not to offend people by my generally sloppy writing. I have vastly more exposure to openly trans people than the general public.

It's like trying to talk to people about net neutrality, but the first thing you do is have an intense discussion of the OSI model. Strained analogy, I know, but it's what I got.
posted by lattiboy at 2:19 PM on February 27, 2013


I actually would like all the biological details. I know that surgery is expensive, and I have friends who can't afford it and have fundraisers and such, but I do not have any trans friends who do not want the surgery on anything but financial grounds. In fact, that has been raised a lot in the thread - that you have body parts that are wrong and don't belong there. I know if I woke up tomorrow with a penis I would freak out and try like hell to get it fixed. I cannot imagine, as a woman, being cool with having that growing out of me and thinking there was no need to fix it.

I can't really google all this stuff at work, but I've had conversations with folks (it's kind of a fraught/personal topic as you can imagine) who don't want bottom surgery. I haven't had a lot of conversations about wanting/not wanting top surgery with trans guys, although I know someone who chose not to have it, and I do know trans women who don't want top surgery.

Here is my understanding off the top of my head: for trans dudes, genital surgery isn't as sophisticated as one might like - you don't end up with a working, sensation-having, average-looking penis, and you lose out on the function and sensation of your previous genitals. There are plenty of trans guys who prefer the various packing options or who just assume that people aren't totally going to be trying to stare at their junk outside of sexual situations.

I am not as familiar with the situation for trans women. I've read that the surgeries tend to have better outcomes, but still are not perfect or risk-free and some woman just keep things as they are.

I think that who wants to have which surgeries varies a lot by subculture.
posted by Frowner at 2:20 PM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Well, Coy, you look like a little girl and you claim to be a little girl and even your birth certificate says you are a little girl, but you have a penis and therefore you are a little boy and we're going to make you pretend you're one."

I would agree, but Coy is a girl, not a boy who chooses to dress like a girl.

from the CNN article: Coy is transgendered, a child born with male sex organs but who identifies herself as female.

I thought it was clear that Coy is a boy. I don't understand how using the boy's bathroom is making him "pretend" he is one.

I was going to comment on how this reminds me of the Thomas Beatie story, but after reading through more comments, I think I'll just say that gender and sexual identity are indeed very complicated issues...issues that I would like to learn more about, before commenting further. My thanks to everyone who presented such varied viewpoints; it has certainly opened up my eyes to the complexity of this subject.

And by the way, I originally favorited wolfdreams01's comment, but after further review, analysis, and thread reading...I removed my favorite.
posted by KillaSeal at 2:20 PM on February 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


KillaSeal, if you woke up tomorrow and someone had done sex reassignment surgery on you, and you had a vagina, would that make you a woman?
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 2:23 PM on February 27, 2013 [9 favorites]


I thought it was clear that Coy is a boy.

no - it's clear that coy has a penis. that doesn't make her a boy. i know for some this is a huge stumbling block, but that doesn't make it any less true.
posted by nadawi at 2:25 PM on February 27, 2013 [18 favorites]


Frowner: "I am not as familiar with the situation for trans women. I've read that the surgeries tend to have better outcomes, but still are not perfect or risk-free and some women just keep things as they are."

I have one friend who identifies as a trans woman most of the time, but in understanding company identifies as a much more complicated gender. They are interested in surgery, but surgery as it stands is quite inadequate for what they need. So for now, no surgery for them.

I also know folks who identify as trans women but, until SRS can allow them a functioning uterus, they are not interested.

And like you said, Frowner, there are lots of trans women who aren't interested in SRS for various other reasons. Including, among others, that they like the genitalia they currently have and see no need to change.
posted by jiawen at 2:27 PM on February 27, 2013


end up with a working

Okay, that was a hugely bad way to phrase that. "Working" genitals are the ones that do what you want them to do. I was trying to get at "some folks would prefer not to have a surgically created penis that does not function in the way that a non-surgically-created one does in terms of getting hard and getting not-hard, etc".

I want to state clearly that everyone gets to pick! There's no "good" or "bad"! And also that as someone who is trying to sort out whether I identify as trans, this is stuff that is personal to me, not just something I'm running my mouth about....so I want to apologize for any mistakes!
posted by Frowner at 2:27 PM on February 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's also interesting to me that Coy is a triplet. She has an older brother, a triplet brother, and a triplet sister who is severely disabled. From a gender construct viewpoint, Coy's tendency to be feminine and like stereotypical things seems to be entirely her own, and not that of an older or same-age sibling.

Her oldest sibling, Dakota, appears to be a girl.
posted by ShutterBun at 2:27 PM on February 27, 2013


Oops, my bad.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 2:30 PM on February 27, 2013


Including, among others, that they like the genitalia they currently have and see no need to change.

That too! I was thinking that but somehow got nervous about saying it because I feel some anxiety myself about not wanting to change certain aspects of my gender presentation and body because I am comfortable with them for me, even if they may read as feminine.
posted by Frowner at 2:30 PM on February 27, 2013


I just saw this story today, which is not related to 6 year olds and bathrooms, but is related to people being awesome: Emerson College frat raises $16,000 for transgender member's surgery.

BTW -- there was a deleted FPP from yesterday on this: Bros helping transbros.
posted by ericb at 2:34 PM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


for people who are demanding surgery to "prove" commitment to their gender - which surgery? maybe browse the wiki entries for sexual reassignment surgeries and see that it's not as simple as pumping up the clitoris or turning the penis internally. if a guy got a mastectomy but kept his vagina, does he count? what about a woman that only get her vadge done but no facial feminization, is that enough surgery for you? do you need to see everyones medical records before you'd let them in the bathroom?

the laws need tweaking and reworked as it relates to how people who are trans get to identify their gender legally, but the surgery requirement was dropped by the state department in the US a couple years ago, so if you think that needs to be a requirement you're behind even the US government in granting equality. that's pretty sad.
posted by nadawi at 2:36 PM on February 27, 2013


nadawi: "for people who are demanding surgery to "prove" commitment to their gender - which surgery?"

Let's not beat a thought experiment to death, please.
posted by boo_radley at 2:38 PM on February 27, 2013


KillaSeal, if you woke up tomorrow and someone had done sex reassignment surgery on you, and you had a vagina, would that make you a woman?

Roomthreeseventeen, my answer is No, because I still have a Y chromosome, and I was born a man. I don't think that just having surgery to change my genitals makes me a woman. Having said that, I support anyone's feeling that changing your genitals does change you over to the other sex; perhaps that ties into the concept of gender identity that I am still trying to learn about. Frankly, I'm not even sure I'm using the right terms at this point; if I someone performed said surgery on me, shouldn't the question be "would that make you a female?" Is it "female" when discussing sex, and "woman" when discussing identity? Are the terms interchangeable? Man, my brain is starting to heat up...

Nadawi, I'm not sure I agree with you on the statement that "Coy has a penis, but that doesn't make her a boy." But as I said, I am going to try to educate myself on the subject of gender, sex, and sexual/gender identity, to understand this whole thing better.
posted by KillaSeal at 2:38 PM on February 27, 2013


So, when is one sufficiently female? Are breasts enough? So they have to be hormone based or implants? What about just a stuffed bra? Are you still a if you have a vagina but no ovaries? Do you have to have your brow and Adam's apple shaved before you can pee with your fellow ladies?

Sorry Trans-men. You can't pee here until you turn that X into a Y.

The gender police sure have their work cut out for them.
posted by munchingzombie at 2:38 PM on February 27, 2013


Like, there's no law that says that a child's genitals can't be seen by their different sex sibling or parent. No law.

There is no law, but this can be raised in CPS hearings and custody issues. Public housing has rules about it, as does foster care (children who are wards of the state). I'm trying to find a cite, but thus far all I'm finding is a lot of anecdata.
posted by corb at 2:39 PM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


boo_radley, huh?
posted by nadawi at 2:39 PM on February 27, 2013


I'm trying to find a cite, but thus far all I'm finding is a lot of anecdata.

this might be a hint.
posted by nadawi at 2:40 PM on February 27, 2013 [9 favorites]


Okay, KillaSeal.

How about this?

You step into the quantum leap accelerator and vanish. You find yourself trapped in the past facing mirror images that are not your own. And one of those mirror images is that of a woman. You are Sam Beckett trapped in a woman's body.

Are you a man or a woman?

I bet you would say you are a man.

Coy feels like Sam Beckett.
posted by zizzle at 2:41 PM on February 27, 2013 [6 favorites]


Public housing has rules about it, as does foster care (children who are wards of the state).

I promise you, public housing does not have a rule that states that it is impermissible for a child to ever observe the genitals of the opposite sex. (I note you have now moved the goalposts from "laws," which you said earlier, to "rules.") A single mom with a son who lives in public housing is allowed to bring her kid with her into a public restroom instead of leaving him outside to wander.
posted by KathrynT at 2:45 PM on February 27, 2013 [7 favorites]


because I still have a Y chromosome, and I was born a man.

Serious question: how do you know you have a Y chromosome? When did you learn that?
posted by KathrynT at 2:47 PM on February 27, 2013 [17 favorites]


Roomthreeseventeen, my answer is No, because I still have a Y chromosome, and I was born a man.

There are women who were born with female sex organs but nevertheless have a Y chromosome. There are also men who are born with male sex organs but lack a Y chromosome. Finally, there are men and women who were born with ambiguous genitalia (fyi, this last Wikipedia link has medical but explicit pics, in case you are not expecting them).
posted by en forme de poire at 2:50 PM on February 27, 2013 [9 favorites]


corb: " At the moment, if you have a child, particularly of a young age and you expose them to a situation in which they can see an opposite-sex member's genitalia, you are committing child abuse. This is one of the reasons why CPS requires that opposite-sex children cannot be housed in the same room. "

My kids just turned five. They share a room. They're not being scarred in any way by the fact that they change in front of one another. Nor will either of them be scarred, hurt or abused if they happen to see their parents in some state of undress. Both kids have seen each other naked since before they could crawl. They know what their anatomical differences are: -- and this is the important part: -- it's not a big deal to them.

As they get older, they will be separated. But the idea that we're somehow doing psychological harm by them sharing a room at this age is ridiculous.

Kids are naturally curious about their own bodies and other people's bodies. If you stifle that curiosity or make them think it is wrong, then you risk harming them. Teach your children to be ignorant of their own anatomy and gender and that of the opposite sex and they could easily grow up to be anxious, repressed and emotionally, psychologically scarred.

Teach your children that human bodies are natural and normal, and they are likely to grow up to be more comfortable with themselves and their bodies.

One of the expectations on you, as a parent, is that you will carefully protect your child from opposite-sex genitalia. If your daughter sees you, a lady, without clothes - that's fine and A-OK. If she sees her father, you will be having to answer a lot of questions right quick.

Yes, and that's perfectly normal. My wife and I don't really change in front of our kids, and we're certainly not nudists, but despite that our kids have each seen their opposite gender parent in some state of undress at some point. (Barging into a bathroom when one of us is in the shower, etc.) We DO answer any questions that arise honestly without making a big deal out of anatomical differences or making them think something is wrong. When you have children, they pick up on your emotional state more quickly than your words. For heaven's sake, if you freak out that your daughter has seen a penis she will quickly pick up that there is something wrong it or with her.

I disagree with your parenting ideas. Which is fine. Different parenting styles and all that. But you sure as hell shouldn't accuse other people of harming their children unless you know what you're talking about.
posted by zarq at 2:51 PM on February 27, 2013 [13 favorites]


KathrynT: "Serious question: how do you know you have a Y chromosome? When did you learn that?"

Exactly. This is a question I always ask audiences when giving lectures about trans issues: "How many of you think that chromosomes are the determiner par excellence of gender?" (A good number of audience members raise their hands at this point.) "Now, how many of you have actually had your chromosomes checked?" (I don't think I've ever had an audience member keep their hand raised at this point.) "And how many of you doubt your gender identity because you don't know what chromosomes you have?" (No hands raised, again.) It's amazing how many people think that chromosomes are the deciding factor and yet have no idea what their own are.
posted by jiawen at 2:53 PM on February 27, 2013 [33 favorites]


You step into the quantum leap accelerator and vanish. You find yourself trapped in the past facing mirror images that are not your own. And one of those mirror images is that of a woman. You are Sam Beckett trapped in a woman's body.

Coy feels like Sam Beckett.

Zizzle, I don't know if Coy knows that he feels like that at this age (even if he was familiar with the show,) but If I stepped into a quantum leap accelerator and vanished...

...I would hope that each leap...would be the leap home!


Man, I used to LOVE that show!
posted by KillaSeal at 2:55 PM on February 27, 2013


Corb clarified that he does not personally view it as abuse, but is convinced for some reason the government does. If he can't produce any evidence that is true it's probably time to drop it because in that case it has nothing to do with the bathroom questions.
posted by Drinky Die at 2:56 PM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


KillaSeal, either you missed Zizzle's point or you are not engaging in good faith. Either way, your persistent misgendering of Coy is starting to cross the line between irritating and offensive. She is a girl.

Speaking of misgendering: Drinky Die, corb is a woman.
posted by KathrynT at 2:57 PM on February 27, 2013 [7 favorites]


I think I've made that mistake before, sorry.
posted by Drinky Die at 2:57 PM on February 27, 2013


Nadawi, I'm not sure I agree with you on the statement that "Coy has a penis, but that doesn't make her a boy." But as I said, I am going to try to educate myself on the subject of gender, sex, and sexual/gender identity, to understand this whole thing better.

one of the first things your research will show is that you're not just disagreeing with me but basically all of the research that isn't homo/transphobic in intent.
posted by nadawi at 2:58 PM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Drinky Die: "Corb clarified that he does not personally view it as abuse, but is convinced for some reason the government does.

Corb said that, and then doubled down with the second comment that I quoted.

She's perpetuating harmful concepts that are being used by the school to justify the situation that Coy is dealing with. I'm sorry, but I really think they deserve a rational response, and are entirely relevant to this conversation.
posted by zarq at 2:58 PM on February 27, 2013


I think a good faith reading based on the other comment suggests what she meant there was it is legally considered abuse.
posted by Drinky Die at 2:59 PM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


nadawi: "boo_radley, huh?"

Point is simply that the question is not a literal demand for surgery, but a way to engage people who take the culturally normative view. It's not about edge case x or y, but a way to start people thinking about the issue critically, to gain a more reasoned outlook on the subject and to perhaps develop a little sympathy for those who are going through gender dysphoria or etc.
posted by boo_radley at 3:00 PM on February 27, 2013


showbiz_liz:

Well... says who, though? I seriously doubt that this distinction was made when the concept of bathrooms was developed, since the idea that sex and gender can deviate was not really a Thing back then. So why assume that bathrooms are for penis-havers and vagina-havers, rather than... men and women?

If someone was intersex- having genitalia that can't be said to be male or female- would you say "they should go into whichever bathroom their gender matches" or would you say they should use neither? How is this any different?

Also: if this family was out at a mall in a strange city and Coy went into the boy's room, everyone who saw her would insist she was in the wrong room. Because she looks and acts exactly like a girl. Why does knowing she has a penis change that?


1. Who says that the potty-sorting principle is based on sex not gender? Well, nobody *says* it...that's just the way it is, apparently. No matter how effeminate a male is, he's supposed to use the guy's bog, and I'm told--though I'm not sure--that it's illegal for him to use the other one. Nobody's going to stop an extremely butch, yet obviously female female in the line for the women's room and say "excuse me, m'am, but aren't you a little too masculine for that bathroom?" Anyway, nobody's assuming this. I'm saying that I have never, ever, not even once in my life, heard anybody say anything that would in any way suggest that the two-bathroom system was based on a distinction in gender rather than biology.

I'm not defending the system, I'm just saying that people here are freely employing a rather obiviously false premise: that the division of potties principle is based on gender.

2. I don't have a view about what somebody with liminal genitalia should do. I didn't say anything about any of that. You raise a puzzle for any system that divides people up by sex. It's not a major problem--most real distinctions have borderline cases. Biology doesn't close up shop because there's no bright line between wolves and canis lupus familiaris.

3. You bring up an interesting point about Coy's appearance. It may very well be that Coy will be better off pretending to be female when out and about. But that doesn't really affect my point, does it? We're basically asking here: how do the social principles (weird though they might be, indefensible though they might be, whatever...) that govern bathroom use apply in this case, among folks who know Coy's sex? I'm saying, basically: (1) I think the enthusiastic consensus here isn't as obviously right as it's being portrayed, and (2) In fact, I think it's wrong. The principles/rules/norms/conventions/whatever, as I've always understood them, dictate that biological males use the men's room and biological females use the women's room. Maybe there are puzzles for those norms, maybe those norms should be changed, whatever...but I'm pretty sure that those are the norms.

As a sidebar, it also freaks me out a bit when people start saying things like: we need to stamp out all things like the two-bathroom system until people get over the very idea of gender (or whatever). That kind of enthusiastic social engineering is a blueprint for disaster, IMO. Gender will never go away. Males have some tendency to be more masculine, and females have some tendency to be more feminine. Everybody better get used to that part. I think it'd be good if society stopped pushing males to move further in the masculine direction, and stopped pushing females to move further in the feminine direction, than they want to. But some general tendency of gender to correlate with sex will always be there.

Nietzsche says, somewhere, that it's often not what is said with which we disagree, but the tone in which it's said. I guess I think that much of what's been said here is kind of dogmatic and way more confident than it has any right to be. (I'm not talking about your comments, incidentally.)
posted by Fists O'Fury at 3:01 PM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Nobody's going to stop an extremely butch, yet obviously female female in the line for the women's room and say "excuse me, m'am, but aren't you a little too masculine for that bathroom?"

You haven't been reading the thread, then. This happens routinely. I am a cis woman with double-G tits, and when I have a buzzcut I have been stopped, questioned, and glared at in women's restrooms.
posted by restless_nomad at 3:04 PM on February 27, 2013 [33 favorites]


Nobody's going to stop an extremely butch, yet obviously female female in the line for the women's room and say "excuse me, m'am, but aren't you a little too masculine for that bathroom?"

You know that we have had someone in this very thread give an example where exactly that happened, right?

It may very well be that Coy will be better off pretending to be female when out and about.

For God's sake, she is not PRETENDING to be female. she IS female. your tittering transgressivism is tiresome in the extreme. "Tee-hee! I can misgender a six year old girl and she is powerless to stop me!"
posted by KathrynT at 3:05 PM on February 27, 2013 [27 favorites]


boo_radley - i think you think i'm responding to something i'm not? i was responding to people like wolfdreams01 who was going on about how she hasn't had surgery yet and how he's totally fine with people using the appropriate bathrooms after surgery. i was just saying that specific viewpoint is one that's usually born out of not understanding the fact that when discussing SRS, it's usually many, not one. i don't really know what you're thinking i'm saying or responding to?
posted by nadawi at 3:05 PM on February 27, 2013


Drinky Die: "I think a good faith reading based on the previous comment suggests what she meant there was it is legally considered abuse."

The intent and context of her comments seems quite clear, hence my response.

If she would like to clarify herself, then she is free to do so.
posted by zarq at 3:07 PM on February 27, 2013


nawadi, I think you're right and I think we're all good.
posted by boo_radley at 3:08 PM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Zarq, the comment you quoted was later followed by this one, a clarification.

I should be clear that it's not that I think personally that having a child see opposite-sex genitalia is child abuse, it's that laws and norms in many places make this child abuse.

Big thread, it happens.
posted by Drinky Die at 3:12 PM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


The principles/rules/norms/conventions/whatever, as I've always understood them, dictate that biological males use the men's room and biological females use the women's room.

your assumptions are incorrect. colorado law states people who are trans can use the bathrooms of their identified gender, no pants check required.
posted by nadawi at 3:12 PM on February 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


[Folks, if you are participating in good faith in this thread, please make it very very obvious because some of us have a hard time telling if that is what you are doing with such a charged topic. Thank you.]
posted by jessamyn at 3:14 PM on February 27, 2013


Fists:

Nobody's going to stop an extremely butch, yet obviously female female in the line for the women's room and say "excuse me, m'am, but aren't you a little too masculine for that bathroom?"

"obviously female" is really subjective. Didn't rtha say up thread that she's had the same problem, where she's been threatened because she wasn't "female enough" for some people? So you are wrong, it does happen.

I'm saying that I have never, ever, not even once in my life, heard anybody say anything that would in any way suggest that the two-bathroom system was based on a distinction in gender rather than biology.

This is more due to people not understanding the difference between sex and gender. For most people they think it's the same thing, when what they're probably arguing is gender and NOT sex. I would, and I imagine others, would argue that's the case wrt bathrooms.

It's not a major problem--most real distinctions have borderline cases.

Depends on your definition of major. Apparently (according to Wikipedia, so YMMV) some level of sexual ambiguity/intersexuality is 1% of all live births, with some definitions up to 1.7 percent. On the other hand, transsexuals are said to be about 1 in 10,000 in biological males, 1 in 25000 for biological females. So, it could be intersexed individuals are MORE common than transsexuals, yes? So maybe we SHOULD be looking at this more closely.

Honestly when you say things like "Coy might be better pretending to be female" (emphasis mine), it makes me think (and I imagine others) that you don't truly believe transgenderism is a thing. Is that the case?
posted by tittergrrl at 3:15 PM on February 27, 2013


To repeat myself, I quoted TWO comments, and she doubled down in the second one. Let her clarify if she wants to.
posted by zarq at 3:16 PM on February 27, 2013


You are weirdly not the only one to misgender me, Drinky Die, but thanks.

Zarq: I don't know if there are or are not specific laws on the books about that. But I think even if it just comes up in custody hearings and CPS investigations, it's still relevant.

I would prefer that we did not live in a world where I have to have parent teacher conferences because my kid mentioned the word "anus" or "penis" in school. I would prefer that we did not live in a world where you were required to house your children separately because of their sex or be considered a bad parent. I would prefer that we did not live in a world where just letting your child know that you have sex makes you considered an unfit parent.

But we do. We do live in that world, and there is a lot of terror over What Kids Hear and What Kids See and What Kids Know. And parents have to parent in that world, and educators have to carefully try to avoid offense.

It's a minefield.

Which is again, why I think single occupancy stalls or floor to ceiling stalls are the answer.
posted by corb at 3:16 PM on February 27, 2013


Which is again, why I think single occupancy stalls or floor to ceiling stalls are the answer.

Or outlawing bladders!
posted by tittergrrl at 3:17 PM on February 27, 2013


KathyrnT, I don't rememember when I learned about chromosomes, but I think it was either junior high or high school. As far as knowing that I actually have a Y chromosome, I've never actually gone and got tested, because it's never been a doubt for me.

And I must be missing Zizzle's point, because I am not "not engaging in good faith". As far as misgendering goes, I will apologize and call Coy a girl from here on out, if I need to comment again on this thread.

So now I have a bunch of serious questions: if a woman gives birth to a child, and that child has a penis, are they male or female? and which ever one it is, who decides? the parents? the doctors?

And after that determination is made (which I think is the sex of the child, if I'm understanding this correctly), then does the determination on gender come later? If the determination is made that the child is a male, but the child is treated like a stereotypical (or traditional) girl, then is that child's gender a girl, but the sex male? What about if the child is determined to be a male, but the child grows a little older (say, 4 or 5) and prefers to dress like a girl, play games like a girl, etc.; is the child then considered a girl (gender), but still male (sex)? Or is the child then a girl, for all purposes (sex and gender?)

If chromosomes aren't (usually) the deciding factor...then what is? Is there even a deciding factor?
posted by KillaSeal at 3:20 PM on February 27, 2013


Zarq, unless I'm hallucinating your two quotes are from the same 12:21 comment, with the clarification coming at 5:12.
posted by Drinky Die at 3:20 PM on February 27, 2013


And parents have to parent in that world,

I don't parent in that world. I have two kids and I have none of the fears that you list. My kids have separate rooms, but sometimes they sleep together in one bed.

There are not specific laws on this topic -- you've been unable to find any. There is no way in hell that a kid being in the opposite-sex bathroom or dressing room is going to be part of a custody hearing or a CPS investigation on its own; for heck's sake, at the child care facility at the gym, the infant changing area is in the middle of the room, where ANY of the children can casually look over and see opposite sex genitals. You keep making these assertions without a shred of evidence, but they are not true, and I would like to see you either document them or retract them.
posted by KathrynT at 3:20 PM on February 27, 2013 [6 favorites]


I would prefer that we did not live in a world where you were required to house your children separately because of their sex or be considered a bad parent. I would prefer that we did not live in a world where just letting your child know that you have sex makes you considered an unfit parent.

I don't live in this world and I'm sorry that you think you do.
posted by Sternmeyer at 3:22 PM on February 27, 2013 [5 favorites]


"As far as knowing that I actually have a Y chromosome, I've never actually gone and got tested, because it's never been a doubt for me."

You could very well be an XX male. That it's never been in doubt is not evidence — it's exactly the way that trans people feel about their genders. Trans men feel like men the way you do.
posted by klangklangston at 3:22 PM on February 27, 2013 [23 favorites]


I've never actually gone and got tested, because it's never been a doubt for me.

Wait, I thought you knew you were a man because you had a Y chromosome. Now you know you have a Y chromosome because you're a man? Which is it?

If chromosomes aren't (usually) the deciding factor...then what is? Is there even a deciding factor?

The child's own gender identity.
posted by KathrynT at 3:23 PM on February 27, 2013 [20 favorites]


Thank you to everyone that has been speaking up for trans* people and Coy. I am so thankful that you've been thoughtful and calm in this thread for me, as I found myself incapable of commenting coolly.
posted by stoneweaver at 3:26 PM on February 27, 2013 [13 favorites]


So now I have a bunch of serious questions: if a woman gives birth to a child, and that child has a penis, are they male or female? and which ever one it is, who decides? the parents? the doctors?

If it is clearly male or female, the birth certificate is written as whichever sex that matches. I believe it's the doctor's (?).

If the genitalia is more ambiguous, I think it comes down to the parents after varying investigations and testing. Sometimes there is surgery done to force a child into a gender role, though that has been happening less and less frequently if I am correct.

And after that determination is made (which I think is the sex of the child, if I'm understanding this correctly), then does the determination on gender come later? If the determination is made that the child is a male, but the child is treated like a stereotypical (or traditional) girl, then is that child's gender a girl, but the sex male? What about if the child is determined to be a male, but the child grows a little older (say, 4 or 5) and prefers to dress like a girl, play games like a girl, etc.; is the child then considered a girl (gender), but still male (sex)? Or is the child then a girl, for all purposes (sex and gender?)

Gender is widely determined to be set at around age three, I believe. At that point forward the child may start deciding their own gender, yes? In the end they know how they feel inside. Some may announce it earlier, others may keep it to themselves because they aren't sure, or it may come out much later in life. At a certain point though isn't it up to the child to decide?
posted by tittergrrl at 3:29 PM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Good grief. And to think that, once upon a time, I felt inspired by the way MetaFilter (and a couple of other oases of reason in the chaotic digital desert) handled discussions on transgender issues. I'm glad I only caught this thread now that it's ballooned into something too big and overwhelming for me to read in depth, because following it closer probably would have upset me. I don't really know how this thread is even happening.

A couple of random things: It's pretty well established in psychological literature that children have a persistent gender identity that they're consciously aware of by about 4- 5; I just looked for a quick online cite for that, and can't really find anything. I don't have time now, but if anyone's really curious feel free to PM me.

Also, there are a number of transgender people on the site (hi!). Please try listening to them. Some of the names I'm recognizing in this thread are people who obviously have listened, and that's awesome! Others are surprising me in a bad way. Overall, my skim of this thread leaves me with an impression of tone deafness, ignorance and hurtfulness. I hold MetaFilter discussions to a higher standard than that.
posted by byanyothername at 3:29 PM on February 27, 2013 [7 favorites]


Regarding the floor to ceiling stall doors: unlikely to be found in any public school (and many other public restrooms), due to security concerns. But that's kind of red herring here, imo.

Wait, I thought you knew you were a man because you had a Y chromosome. Now you know you have a Y chromosome because you're a man? Which is it?

If asking someone from whom genetics truly is the ne plus ultra, they could probably honestly answer "both." Frustrating, right? I tend to find the conversation stalls there, even with both people having the best of intentions. No amount of ethnomethodological perspective is going to shake them loose.
posted by snuffleupagus at 3:31 PM on February 27, 2013


byanyothername: Wikipedia's Gender Identity page has a number of cites on when a child's gender identity gets set.
posted by tittergrrl at 3:32 PM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Thanks, tittergrrl! Also, brain jinx, apparently. :)
posted by byanyothername at 3:32 PM on February 27, 2013


You keep making these assertions without a shred of evidence, but they are not true, and I would like to see you either document them or retract them.

Are you capable of pulling up the internal documents of CPS of fifty states, as well as laws on child neglect or abuse in 50 states, and searching them all casually? If so, I applaud you. I, however, have no such superhuman abilities. I am attempting to pull it up via search engine, but I promise you, google results for accidental genitalia exposure are not the kind of thing that's fun to wade through.
posted by corb at 3:33 PM on February 27, 2013


Corb, I'm not the one who made the statement to begin with. You've been given a MOUNTAIN of evidence opposing your assertion, and you've been able to come up with ZERO to support it -- even after moving the goalposts from "laws" to "rules" to "mentioned in court." At what point will you just admit that you're speaking ex recto?
posted by KathrynT at 3:35 PM on February 27, 2013 [17 favorites]


Just chiming in, again, that I am a cisgender female and I too have suffered the Fabled Bathroom Police. In my case, the only difference was that I had my head shaved. I have a GIANT "feminine" booty and was wearing jeans and a girl-cut t-shirt. I had women step out of the bathroom more than once when I entered it because they thought there was a man coming in. In one instance, someone tapped me on the shoulder and said, "Excuse me, wr--" and I turned around and they saw my tits and stopped and walked away. They were obviously going to say, "Wrong bathroom." That has never, ever happened to me when I had long hair.

If you think this is a thing that Does Not Happen, you can pretty much be sure that you are completing a "correct" gender performance. Try going in a bathroom in a long-haired wig sometime and see how things change.
posted by WidgetAlley at 3:36 PM on February 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


hell, i don't even need a retraction, maybe just stop spouting them until you have something more firm than something you heard somewhere and are sure it applies.
posted by nadawi at 3:37 PM on February 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


Are you capable of pulling up the internal documents of CPS of fifty states, as well as laws on child neglect or abuse in 50 states, and searching them all casually?

Information doesn't somehow congeal into a legal standard just because it made its way onto a report form. It's not necessarily even admissible or relevant evidence. You would want to look at the outcome of dependency court proceedings (or whatever its called in a particular state) and guess what--those are often sealed. It certainly isn't something that some casual googling is going to reveal with any useful measure of accuracy or confidence.

Maybe, maybe, there's a secondary source out there by someone who's already done a study like this or something like it.
posted by snuffleupagus at 3:39 PM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


I, however, have no such superhuman abilities.

Then you should not have asserted it as fact to begin with.

I grew up in Hawaii. We - the whole island of Oahu, it felt like sometimes - went to the beach all the time. Little kids were often naked at the beach. Surfers were often briefly naked as they put on or took off rash guards (no one wears wetsuits because the water is warm, but at some spots, the reef is pretty shallow and you really want to wear something like a rash guard). If it were actually an arrestable offense for a girl-child to see a penis on an unrelated male or vice-versa, most of Hawaii would have their kids taken away.
posted by rtha at 3:39 PM on February 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


Drinky Die, you're right. My mistake. Same comment.

I still think her comment sucked and deserved a clear and unambiguous response.
posted by zarq at 3:40 PM on February 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


You could very well be an XX male. That it's never been in doubt is not evidence — it's exactly the way that trans people feel about their genders. Trans men feel like men the way you do.

Klangklangston, I could be, but I doubt it, because there's a name for that, and there are also symptoms for that, none of which I have. Nevertheless, you are right in saying that I don't have the evidence to prove that I have a Y chromosome, so point taken.

Wait, I thought you knew you were a man because you had a Y chromosome. Now you know you have a Y chromosome because you're a man? Which is it?

KathyrnT, I honestly thought that the issue of chromosomes (XX vs. XY) was cut and dry. I am learning (at quantum speed) that it is not.

The child's own gender identity.

I was asking if chromosomes were the deciding factor for determining the sex of a child (assuming that genitals are not enough or inconclusive.) If I understand correctly, sex can (usually) be determined at birth, but not gender, correct? Because gender relates to sexual identity, and part (or all) of that sexual identity is determined by oneself?
posted by KillaSeal at 3:41 PM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


sexual identity is who you do (or do not) want to fuck. gender identity is who you are. they are different things, but many people confuse them. chromosomes aren't the deciding factor on sex selection since most people don't get chromosome tests unless there is a reason.
posted by nadawi at 3:46 PM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Because gender relates to sexual identity, and part (or all) of that sexual identity is determined by oneself?

Gender is determined by gender identity. Sexuality is determined by sexual identity. They are two different things. Gender is mental, sexual is physical.

"Sexual identity refers to how one thinks of oneself in terms of whom one is romantically or sexually attracted to.[1] Sexual identity and sexual behavior are closely related to sexual orientation, but they are distinguished, with identity referring to an individual's conception of themselves, behavior referring to actual sexual acts performed by the individual, and sexual orientation referring to romantic or sexual attractions toward the opposite sex, the same sex, both sexes, or having no attractions"
posted by tittergrrl at 3:47 PM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


My takeaway from the responses here is that our society is at conflict with itself. That individuals have to struggle with being told who or what they are by people whose ideas about the world and everybody's place in it is as varying and complex as the indivudals that comprise our society.

What I would like for this little girl and all the children to come is how to make our society (community) a safe, respectful and inclusive place for everybody. Life is hard enough and our energy could be better spent towards making that a reality than getting hung up on where we should draw the line for what is accepted and what is not. I think this dicussion is a step towards nudging that line in a positive direction.
posted by loquat at 3:52 PM on February 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


"KathyrnT, I honestly thought that the issue of chromosomes (XX vs. XY) was cut and dry. I am learning (at quantum speed) that it is not."

Hey, thanks for being a good sport about it when it was pointed out that it's a lot more complicated than you think. (And we're not even into the gender queer folks.) It's one of those things that most people get to be blithe about because it never comes up in their lives, but when it does come up, the right reaction is to acknowledge ignorance and try to learn respectfully.
posted by klangklangston at 3:54 PM on February 27, 2013 [11 favorites]


Nobody's going to stop an extremely butch, yet obviously female female in the line for the women's room and say "excuse me, m'am, but aren't you a little too masculine for that bathroom?"

I've been in the woman's room when my masculine-presenting cis friends have been shouted at or asked 'Are you sure you're in the right toilet?' It does happen, and your never having seen it is cis privilege.
posted by toerinishuman at 3:54 PM on February 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


Information doesn't somehow congeal into a legal standard just because it made its way onto a report form. It's not necessarily even admissible or relevant evidence. You would want to look at the outcome of dependency court proceedings (or whatever its called in a particular state) and guess what--those are often sealed. It certainly isn't something that some casual googling is going to reveal with any useful measure of accuracy or confidence.

This is certainly most likely true. And just because one department of CPS has one standard, doesn't mean that there is any kind of universal standard.

I think the reality is that it falls under conflation - because adult and child molesters often begin through exposing themselves or sexualizing children, any amount of knowledge by a child of, say, the physical features of opposite-sex genitalia, or sight of same, is viewed with extreme wariness and fear, particularly among mandated reporters.

It may also be a liability concern - if you are a parent whose child is accidentally exposed to opposite-sex genitalia, you might also sue the school for failing to provide a safe environment.

Regarding the floor to ceiling stall doors: unlikely to be found in any public school (and many other public restrooms), due to security concerns.

Are we assuming that those security concerns are valid?
posted by corb at 3:59 PM on February 27, 2013


certainly just as valid as amorphous rules that can only be propped up by anecdotal evidence.
posted by nadawi at 4:04 PM on February 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


any amount of knowledge by a child of, say, the physical features of opposite-sex genitalia, or sight of same, is viewed with extreme wariness and fear, particularly among mandated reporters.

I. . . I mean, corb, I am a mandated reporter. I don't know how many more ways i can say it: this just isn't true.
posted by KathrynT at 4:04 PM on February 27, 2013 [23 favorites]


Yeah, it is totally possible that you would not find out you were an XX male until you tried to have children and couldn't - to name just one thing, X inactivation is not even consistent from cell to cell in the body, let alone from person to person, and that can greatly affect what the body ends up looking like in an XX individual. Here is a case report of a person who is unambiguously male, who did not have gynecomastia, etc., and yet was found to lack a Y chromosome (might be paywalled, sorry). Here is a case report of a person who was male but not only did not have a Y chromosome but did not even have one of the main proteins (normally on the Y chromosome) that normally drives male development. Development is somewhat stochastic and definitely more complicated than a karyotype - really, sort of astonishing it produces similar results as often as it does.
posted by en forme de poire at 4:04 PM on February 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


I would prefer that we did not live in a world where I have to have parent teacher conferences because my kid mentioned the word "anus" or "penis" in school. I would prefer that we did not live in a world where you were required to house your children separately because of their sex or be considered a bad parent. I would prefer that we did not live in a world where just letting your child know that you have sex makes you considered an unfit parent.

But we do. We do live in that world


I'm pretty sure I don't. Admittedly, I live in a different jurisdiction than you, and than the topic of this thread. But still. At my local public swimming pool, there are signs on the doors of the change rooms, saying basically "Children over the age of 6 are not permitted in the opposite sex's change room." But, it's okay, because the pool also provides three private "family" change rooms. By doing this, they are explicitly providing an environment where a father can get changed into his swimmers with his 7yo daughter. You seem to be pushing the idea that this is, if not outright illegal, then at least likely to get the father in trouble with CPS.

That's got to be bullshit.
posted by Jimbob at 4:07 PM on February 27, 2013 [5 favorites]


Why does a six-year-old have a state ID card?
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 4:10 PM on February 27, 2013


Why does a six-year-old have a state ID card?

Honestly? Almost certainly purely to have a piece of plastic issued by the state listing her as female so her parents can whip it out when they get hassled.
posted by hoyland at 4:14 PM on February 27, 2013 [9 favorites]


An ID can be very useful for authorities if a child is missing, but in this it seems possible it was done specifically to make sure it was very clear that the child is legally a girl.
posted by Drinky Die at 4:15 PM on February 27, 2013


Are we assuming that those security concerns are valid?
They're valid enough that they're going to survive any rational basis review. It would be good to tether yourself to some solid referents and standards here. Preferably, those that dictate how institutions make their decisions and how they're held accountable.

I think the reality is that it falls under conflation - because adult and child molesters often begin through exposing themselves or sexualizing children, any amount of knowledge by a child of, say, the physical features of opposite-sex genitalia, or sight of same, is viewed with extreme wariness and fear, particularly among mandated reporters.

I think it's a lot simpler than that. We need to teach kids simple safety rules, like "private parts" and those designations end up carrying a lot a parents' anxieties -- both about abuse or predation, and about gender and sexuality. Children absorb that anxiety and are trained to react alarmingly to anything unusual going on in the private parts department. So there's the schools anxiety vis a vis the other kids and itself. I might add that kids are also apt to translate that anxiety (as well as all the other "rules" about boys and girls they've been learning) into negative behavior towards Coy. I wish I saw more concern about that in this thread. Once the school's intransigence is overcome, might the bigger obstacle turn out to be scorn or ostracism from un-accpeting classmates or class-parents? We can hope that Coy's peers will get over it and lend her support when they move on together to another school, but kids aren't always good to each other. I mean, usually they are awful to each other a lot of the time.

It may also be a liability concern - if you are a parent whose child is accidentally exposed to opposite-sex genitalia, you might also sue the school for failing to provide a safe environment.

This, although the fear is probably more of political, administrative or public opinion backlash than litigation itself. At any rate, those fears would be more immediate and don't need the same substance to make them real.

Those fears don't excuse them from doing the right thing, although they might excuse some ham-fisted hand-wringing.

Ham wringing? Prosciutto.
posted by snuffleupagus at 4:15 PM on February 27, 2013


It appears there's no age requirement for a Colorado state ID.

(Also, I note with pride that an Colorado does not consider an Illinois license proof of 'lawful presence' in the US. Good job not being jerks, Illinois.)

An ID can be very useful for authorities if a child is missing, but in this it seems possible it was done specifically to make sure it was very clear that the child is legally a girl.

It seems worth noting that 'legal sex' is super amorphous. Someone might have different things on different documents. Partly because it takes time to change things, partly because of money and partly because the rules are all different for different things and occasionally utterly stupid. In some states, you can get a court order declaring your legal sex to be X, but that may not be worth the paper it's printed on to the state you were born when trying to change your birth certificate. (Or a state might require a court order to change a birth certificate, but a judge in Wisconsin might say "WTF? I don't have the authority to order California to do something." and you have no way to go to court in California because you live in Wisconsin.*) I have no idea if it's worth anything to the federal government. Somewhat bizarrely, Selective Service considers your sex fixed by your original birth certificate for purposes of draft registration, no matter if your original birth certificate is sealed and inaccessible without a court order, no matter what it said on your 18th birthday. I assume a woman with a male original birth certificate (either because she's trans or due to a typo) changed before the age of 18 will sue them eventually. (Of course, this is slightly farcical because Selective Service has no obvious method of ascertaining what birth certificates said at birth.)

*I have no idea what Wisconsin thinks. I believe California requires a court order to change birth certificates. I just picked two random states.
posted by hoyland at 4:33 PM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, if you want to travel out of the country, it's a good idea to have a passport for your child.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 4:37 PM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


OK, sexuality is determined by sexual identity, but I'm asking about sex. As in when your born, and they put down some basic info, like name, height, weight, and then sex...if genitals don't necessarily count, and chromosomes don't necessarily count, then how is a child's sex (not sexuality, not gender) determined?
posted by KillaSeal at 4:53 PM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


At birth, if the child has typical genitals, then those will be used to determine physical sex. If the child's later gender identity conflicts with that determination, then you can have the birth certificate amended (in a process that ranges from tiresome to tortuous depending on the state).
posted by KathrynT at 4:55 PM on February 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


any amount of knowledge by a child of, say, the physical features of opposite-sex genitalia, or sight of same, is viewed with extreme wariness and fear, particularly among mandated reporters

Am I reading this correctly? You are saying that if a child has ANY knowledge of what opposite-sex genitalia looks like, that is viewed with extreme wariness or fear by adults?

I just don't think that is true, at all. I bathed and swam naked with siblings and cousins as a child. I was specifically taught about how my "private parts" differed from others. Kids are curious about this stuff (that's what "playing doctor" is about) and most will figure it out one way or another.
posted by coupdefoudre at 4:59 PM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


...then you can have the birth certificate amended (in a process that ranges from tiresome to tortuous depending on the state).

In the interest of completeness, I would point out that you can sometimes have the birth certificate amended--some states (Ohio, from personal experience; presumably others as well) do not amend birth certificates, full stop.

My kid got a state ID when she was about two--we were traveling through the US and Canada, and it seemed like a good idea.
posted by MeghanC at 5:07 PM on February 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


oh how i wait for the day when these protections are codified federally. i have two friends who are trans in (different) marriages - in their state the legal wrangling around gay marriage threatens to dissolve one of their marriages no matter how the decision comes down about sex at birth vs lived gender being the determining factor for a "legitimate" marriage.
posted by nadawi at 5:41 PM on February 27, 2013


n their state the legal wrangling around gay marriage threatens to dissolve one of their marriages no matter how the decision comes down about sex at birth vs lived gender being the determining factor for a "legitimate" marriage

Wow so the marriage was allowed/accepted and is now under some sort of crazy repeal? I'm really sad that some sort of bureau is tasked with finding these situations and then pursuing them. I can chalk up the whole "it's not legal for all people to marry the people they want to marry" thing to established ignorance but to actually fact-check people's marriages years (any amount of time, I'm guessing here) down the road, is just crazy.

Best of luck to your friends.
posted by RolandOfEld at 5:51 PM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Am I reading this correctly? You are saying that if a child has ANY knowledge of what opposite-sex genitalia looks like, that is viewed with extreme wariness or fear by adults?

I hear arguments like corb's and I am just amazed by how kids are brought up these days. My parents were a bit hippie but I knew about everything from why some men's penises looked different from each other (circumcision!) to how ovulation worked by age 7. It boggles the mind that people think this is weird.

But a lot of stuff in this thread boggles the mind.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:03 PM on February 27, 2013 [9 favorites]


I just called my mother, who is a retired guidance counselor for the state of North Carolina, and who just finished a year of volunteering as a guardian ad litum. She was definitely a "mandated reporter", and she has testified in so, so many court cases in which the placement of a child was at stake. She is very familiar with what's kosher and not kosher, at least in NC. So let's see what she said, off the top of her head. This is almost verbatim, long, a bit generalized, and somewhat chatty because... we were chatting.

"Children aren't taken away just for knowing what the opposite sex's genitals look like. It's when adults have illegal contact with the child, or illegal contact with another person in front of the child -- that's when it becomes an issue. It's when they expose the child to something beyond their maturity level. But no, not just the fact that they saw them naked! No, no! Even if they see an opposite sex parent naked, that's just going to happen. If it's not with malicious intent, or intent to do harm to the child, or to use the child for sexual gratification -- then no, they're not going to take the child away. The child could even see someone having sexual contact, but if it's an accident? No.

"It's histrionic to think we wouldn't look at the whole situation, or even at the family's cultural origins, in case nudity is more casual in their culture. Even when a child is abused by a parent, the ultimate goal is reunification in every state. They put the family into therapy and parenting classes, and if that doesn't work out, the begin the difficult process of terminating parental rights. There's a lot of things they take into consideration, it's not so cut-and-dried."

"There were so many kids over the years that I believed should have be taken away for a large number of reasons, and it still took years. They aren't going to take a child away for just seeing their opposite sex parent naked. In this country, we consider the parent-child thing almost sacrosanct. Until they prove that the parent can't be helped, the state will try to keep the family together. We have a definite legal system that supports the biological family unit being maintained. Abusive parents have to had to have done so much crap, and proven they'll never change. I've been frustrated over the years by the lack of reaction from DSS, not the overreaction."

Then Mom told a story of how she once went on a home visit, and was let into the house by one of the children... only to walk in on the parents having sex on the floor, while the rest of the kids watched cartoons right beside them. "And those kids didn't even get taken away! Some people are low-functioning, and don't understand why that's inappropriate."

So, that's the word from Coatlicue's Former Guidance Counselor Mother. Colored by her decades of personal experience, so it's anecdotal in that sense, and maybe it doesn't all apply across the board. But since she dealt with the system as it works in NC, for almost 30 years... she probably knows a little bit about this sort of thing.
posted by Coatlicue at 6:30 PM on February 27, 2013 [28 favorites]


Coatlicue, if you're going to get all hung up on DETAILS, we're never going to get anywhere.
posted by scrump at 6:56 PM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, not to get to obsessive about corb's comment...but my son is 6, and they are told to use the words "penis" and "anus" in school - the correct terms, rather than slang terms. I really don't understand your experiences of a world where you get called in to school because your child said "penis". Crazy.
posted by Jimbob at 7:12 PM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


So, it's a bit of a superstition, like that keeping trans folks out of bathrooms protects from harassment?
posted by klangklangston at 7:38 PM on February 27, 2013


In the interest of completeness, I would point out that you can sometimes have the birth certificate amended--some states (Ohio, from personal experience; presumably others as well) do not amend birth certificates, full stop.

Having just checked, it looks like the only states that will do nothing are Ohio, Idaho and Tennessee. Kansas may be in doubt. The rest range from 'issuing a new birth certificate and making the old one all but totally inaccessible' to stating it's been amended, but not how, to striking out old information, to sending you some kind of card in the mail (way to go South Carolina). But being willing on paper change birth certificates is different from it actually being achievable.

Illinois constructed a rule so vague they could find reason to refuse virtually any application if they felt like it. Then the Illinois ACLU made a hobby of suing the state. After losing in court two or three times (and saying they'd change every time), they finally changed the policy. (I have no idea why the Illinois ACLU decided they like trans people. I mean, it's a good thing, but it seems kind of random, given that the ACLU generally isn't majorly involved in trans issues.)
posted by hoyland at 7:40 PM on February 27, 2013


Are we assuming that those security concerns are valid?

In an elementary school bathroom?! Yes. Kids get themselves trapped/wedged/just plain refuse to leave/build a nest in the bathroom all the damn time. I have had to personally assist in removing kindergarteners from bathrooms. If a spry adult or complaint child can not enter the stall, someone will eventually get stuck in it.

This is not to mention very serious emergencies such as seizures, asthma attacks, etc. Or even just scared kids suddenly struck by a stomach bug. A bathroom for six year olds should ensure privacy, but the stalls DO need to be able to be opened/entered in an emergency.

On another note: there are a lot of things about gender that are difficult. Pronoun use is not one of them. If you truly don't know and slip up, that's totally ok and a thing that happens. Apologize and move on. However. If someone asks you to use [x gender] pronouns and you go around using [y gender] ...

It doesn't even matter what gender anyone in this scenario is because you're simply an inconsiderate jackass. This is just basic courtesy. If I asked you to please call me "she" and you repeatedly and pointedly called me "he" because you know my gender better than me, I would be beyond offended.
posted by sonika at 9:35 PM on February 27, 2013 [14 favorites]


Long thread is long, but I still feel the need to add something:

I personally would feel a bit squicked out if a cisgendered hetero dude came into the womens' bathroom. Not because ew penises gross, but because - apart from mitigating circumstances like a bowel emergency - it's a transgressive act that presents a non-zero threat of harassment, spying*, etc. Transgressing social norms = unpredictable behavior, and a bathroom is one of the more vulnerable public places I'm likely to visit. The potential threat is too high, imho. See the (really long) Hi Whatcha Reading thread if you're not sure what I mean. Should we all get over ourselves? Sure, but we can't pretend the threat doesn't exist, so until it's not, I'm all for gender-separate bathrooms.

That said: I'm 100% supportive of Coy, because her situation has zero to do with the preceding paragraph. I'm also 100% supportive of mtf and ftm (and other trans* variations) rights to use whatever bathrooms they find most comfortable in.

* There is a shocking amount of spy videos on the internet that were taken in mens' bathrooms and locker rooms by live people (as opposed to hidden static cameras). I know that the risk still exists in womens' rooms (male cleaning staff, etc) but I am honestly glad I don't use mens' rooms.
posted by desjardins at 9:37 PM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


I personally would feel a bit squicked out if a cisgendered hetero dude came into the womens' bathroom.
But how is that even relevant? We are talking about a trans* girl, and we are talking about providing access to gender-restricted restrooms for people who identify as the gender to which the restroom is restricted.

I feel vulnerable when I'm using the toilet because I am half-naked and my pants bind my ankles together. And because I'm using the toilet. I *am* vulnerable, under those circumstances. But what male assailant in the world is going to pretend to be a transwoman just to come into the toilet to assault me? Isn't it a lot simpler and more likely that a man who particularly yearns to assault a woman who is using the toilet would just wait until there was no one watching the restroom? Why would a person who is going to spy, harass or assault seek social approbation for the act of entering the restroom?
posted by gingerest at 10:10 PM on February 27, 2013


We need to clarify a few things, because this is a complicated issue and I think the best way to understand it is to unpack it into its separate elements. The most important question here is whether Coy is male or female. If Coy is female, then the school is guilty of discrimination and they ought to let him use the female bathroom. On the other hand, if Coy is male, then he ought not to use the female restroom because that causes a lot of liability problems for the school when parents find out that male students are being allowed into the female restroom.

So the key issue is, how does one define male? There are two definitions - a legal defination and a dictionary definition. First, let's examine the dictionary definition.

male (meyl)
noun
1. a person bearing an X and Y chromosome pair in the cell nuclei and normally having a penis, scrotum, and testicles, and developing hair on the face at adolescence; a boy or man.
2. an organism of the sex or sexual phase that normally produces a sperm cell or male gamete.
3. Botany . a staminate plant.

In other words, the dictionary definition states pretty unambiguously that Coy is male, since he has not gone through gender reassignment surgery which would change any of his biological characteristics. Therefore, I am referring to Coy as he, not as a political statement but because that is the dictionary-approved term. If Coy were here, I would humor his preference because I see no need to hurt a six-year-old child's feelings, but he's not here and so I will use the proper terminology as defined by every single dictionary definition I have seen, because I value precision more than feelings. Your mileage may vary.

Of course, that is just the dictionary definition. The legal definition is much more relevant, since the expanded Colorado anti-discrimination act passed in 2007 specifically prevents discrimination of this type. In gender-segregated facilities such as restrooms, transgender individuals are specifically allowed to use the restroom appropriate to their reassigned genders. The question thus becomes, would Coy legally be considered transgender and thus qualify for these protections? Or is he just a child that the school has humored up to the point where it was no longer feasible to do so?

Pursuant to the U.S. Const., Amend. 10, which reserves to the states all powers not assigned to the federal government, the legal classification of characteristic sex is state jurisdiction in the United States. The principle is generally extended to the District of Columbia and U.S. territories, though the federal government has power to overrule any decision those non-state entities might make. Thus, the legal gender of a transsexual (as well as a transsex or intersex) individual in the United States does not have one answer but 56 answers – one for each state, the District of Columbia, and the five inhabited territories. In the United States, classifying a person's sex as male or female is a power which is left to the jurisdiction of the states. The degree to which a given state recognizes a transsexual person as his or her desired sex varies and is generally dependent on factors such as the "steps" the person has taken in his or her transition, such as psychological therapy, hormone therapy, and sex reassignment surgery.

So the first relevant question is, has Coy had any of those things? The answer seems to be a definite no. (If I am incorrect, please cite references - I didn't see any evidence of therapy anywhere in the links.) As far as I can tell from reading the articles, the only thing he has are enthusiastic parents who somehow accepted it as perfectly reasonable to decide that a six-year old child was self-aware enough to know he/she must be transgender. I don't think that gives them any sort of expert credentials.

The second question is, what is the Colorado-specific definition of legal gender change? (As opposed to legal gender marker change.) The answer is that there isn't one. Colorado does not have a specific legal procedure to change a person’s gender – for example, you don’t go to court, file some paperwork, and walk out with a certificate saying that you are now legally male (or female).

The third question is, in the absence of a current legal gender change procedure, what should a legal gender change consist of? My opinion is that we need to set a high bar so that we can't have people exploiting the laws for their own amusement. Maybe some of you have faith that people are decent and will unlikely to take advantage of this, but I don't think you have the right to project your high risk threshold onto other people. I believe most people are fundamentally evil and while that certainly doesn't give my opinion more weight than yours, it makes sense to set the bar high so that everybody's individual risk threshold can be respected - not just your own. Since changing information on a state ID or passport is pitifully easy - RMV clerks are overworked and never double-check anything, and I personally know somebody who created an entire false identity this way - I don't think that's a decent bar to set as the goal. I believe that requiring a change of birth certificate is more reasonable, since that requires actual effort and will definitely face a process of review, whereas the state ID and passport generally do not undergo review.

So the fourth question is, did Coy's parents change his gender on the actual birth certificate? Or was it simply a state ID and passport change? If it was a birth certificate, then I will totally eat my words and acknowledge that she was treated unfairly. But I don't see anything in the article about birth certificates, just a change of state ID and passport, which is so easy most of us could do it in our sleep.

Finally, on a personal note, I'm surprised to hear all the attributions of homophobia simply because I don't agree with the definition of Coy as female. I've made out with guys on at least three occasions, so I'm hardly a homophobe. I simply don't believe that people can swap gender identity at will based on how they feel at any given time, since there are so many ways a malicious person could exploit that precedent. There should be a process for these things which everybody needs to follow, and adorable six-year olds don't deserve an exemption just because of the cuteness factor.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 11:44 PM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well, that's an extremely lengthy set of unsubstantiated assertions based on highly questionable premises, followed by an oddly inappropriate-seeming 'some of my best friends are black' type move, but I'm not really sure anyone's going to be convinced by it, as such.
posted by ominous_paws at 12:03 AM on February 28, 2013 [38 favorites]


I'm so glad I'm late to this thread, so that I didn't end up in a screaming match against motherfucking ignorant assholes.

I will suggest that everyone watch Barbara Walter's longitudinal interviews with Jazz, a transgender pre-adolescent who is simply awesome.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:46 AM on February 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'm not sure how useful these "imagine if you woke up tomorrow as the wrong sex/someone changed your genitals in your sleep" thought-experiments are. To feel that you're the wrong sex (or the wrong "biological/physical" gender) because your sex has suddenly changed overnight is not really the same as feeling that you're the wrong sex having never experienced being anything else.
posted by moorooka at 12:58 AM on February 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


VA code that includes info on children of opposite sex in same bedrooms.


H. Children of the opposite sex over the age of three shall not sleep in the same room.

This is with respite care providers, but there are other laws on Virginia's books about this. Foster Home regulations

There are also regulations about subsidized housing in Virginia.

I do not agree with them, but they exist.
posted by SuzySmith at 12:59 AM on February 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


In other words, the dictionary definition states pretty unambiguously that Coy is male, since he has not gone through gender reassignment surgery which would change any of his biological characteristics. Therefore, I am referring to Coy as he, not as a political statement but because that is the dictionary-approved term. If Coy were here, I would humor his preference because I see no need to hurt a six-year-old child's feelings, but he's not here and so I will use the proper terminology as defined by every single dictionary definition I have seen, because I value precision more than feelings. Your mileage may vary.

You do realise that, despite your admiral adherence to the dictionary definition, there are actual trans people both reading and participating in this thread, and that while Coy isn't here to see you lovingly and repeatedly deny her agency and humanity by refusing to correctly gender her, we are, and are capable of extending your misinformed and pedantic lack of respect to our own identities. Further, if you're looking to trans people to take you by the hand and lead you gently away from the dictionary and towards some kind of nuanced conversation a good first step would be to acknowledge the heroic jackassery you've displayed in this thread and quit misgendering her, and by extension, us.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 1:07 AM on February 28, 2013 [107 favorites]


Thanks, ArmyOfKittens. I've been following this mess all day and really wanted to say just that.
posted by Betafae at 1:17 AM on February 28, 2013 [5 favorites]


wolfdreams, you pride yourself on being logical and precise, don't you? Did you notice the "normally" in your dictionary definitions which definitely leave room for some edge cases? Do you write code? How do you deal with the edge cases? Cause that's where we are now.

Here's another definition from Wiktionary: "Someone of male (masculine) gender". I guess you didn't see this one. This is the definition that almost everyone in this thread is using and it is the relevant one in discussions that involve gender identity. For many reasons. If you don't understand this, you need to educate yourself. Start here. Since you value precision, you should understand that these terms have a precise and complex meaning within the scientific communities (psychology, anthropology, sociology, and medicine) from which they originated.

Gender: The mental analogue of sex: one's maleness (masculinity) or femaleness (femininity). (Also called gender identity.)

Gender identity: (psychology) A person's sense of self as a member of a particular gender. Also: A person's sense of being male or female, resulting from a combination of genetic and environmental influences.

Why do you suppose there are processes for changing one's legal gender in the first place? Has it not occurred to you that dictionaries and laws were written by people, in order to reflect societal consensus? And that they are neither infallible, nor unchanging? I don't know why you suppose that one legal procedure (birth certificates) and yet not a second legal procedure (passport/state ID) should be what determines the child's gender. The point here, and what people close to this issue have been trying to say for decades, is that the laws should allow recognition of what already is the child's gender -- female, in this case. And that it is offensive and ignorant to insist that a dictionary or legal procedure or surgical procedure or any other definition can be the sole official determinant of that gender. (And it is offensive to many people including some in this thread that you persist in misgendering this child, so knock it off. If you don't know why this is offensive, go do some reading.)

It may have to be hammered home. Gender is a mental attribute. It lives in the brain, not between the legs. This concept was not invented by people hoping to have fun and spy on people in the 'other' bathroom. Our understanding of gender has emerged from decades of rigorous scientific study alongside the personal experiences of millions of people, especially the 'edge cases' that do not fit into that 'normally' in your definitions.

You have to accept that gender identity is real to have any credibility in this discussion. You just have to. There is so much evidence behind it, so many people speaking from personal experience, so many studies confirming these theories, not to mention examples from other cultures that have much different conceptions of gender -- if you do not accept the existence of gender identity then you must be ignorant of all of this evidence, because you certainly can't refute it or deny that it exists. So please try to begin from this point of view as you grapple with this issue. If you accept that a person can have a gender identity that does not match their physical sexual characteristics -- and you must accept this if you want to argue with any credibility -- then surely you can see that the whole discussion is not about satisfying or "humoring" some whim, or satisfying legal or administrative requirements, but rather about honoring a child's gender identity when that child happens to be one of the edge cases.
posted by PercussivePaul at 1:41 AM on February 28, 2013 [25 favorites]


It seems like the whole "states law" aspect of birth certificate changes hinging on genital surgery for transpeople is simply an issue wherein some states are lagging behind the science (and concept of fundamental human rights, in my opinion), but it's changing:

BBC Transgender Americans take on New York excerpt:
The US government and many US states, as well as the UK and Australia, have done away with the requirement for surgery to convert the genitals. That is partly in response to transgender activists who say the requirement was based on an obsolete understanding of sexual identity.

In 2011 the Transgender Law Center successfully pushed for passage of legislation ending surgery as a requirement to obtain a new birth certificate in California.

In September, Australia began allowing transgender individuals to change the sex on their passports without having to undergo sex reassignment surgery; in October the nation's highest court gave legal recognition to two transgender men who had not had sex-change surgery.

Under the 2004 Gender Recognition Act, the UK does not require genital surgery before allowing individuals to obtain official recognition of their new gender.

And in 2010, the US State Department issued new guidelines requiring only "appropriate clinical treatment" to obtain a new passport or a birth certificate for US citizens born outside the country.
Cases such as those presented in the article, and Coy's situation are forcing re-examination of hoary old laws and practices, just like governments were forced to examine whether the prohibitions against interracial marriage or voting rights for women, etc. were actually good law.

On the bathroom issue, specifically, a very good article here: Civil Rights, Bathrooms, And The “Bathroom Bill” Meme.

"Let’s not make civil rights about bathrooms yet again."
posted by taz at 2:24 AM on February 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


Do we need to extend tolerance and understanding to trolls too?
posted by knapah at 3:06 AM on February 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


Do we need to extend tolerance and understanding to trolls too?

I'd actually be inclined to show a little tolerance to "trolls", or those who appear to be them, when it comes to this subject. It's a hard subject. I have managed to learn a hell of a lot about it from Metafilter in the last year or so by trying to just shut up and read threads like this one. I still don't completely "get it", but I'm learning, and it would be good if the opportunity were given to all to do the same, despite the ignorant shit they may dribble as they walk that path. We're all guilty of that, occasionally.
posted by Jimbob at 3:37 AM on February 28, 2013 [5 favorites]


I tend to agree, but I'm finding it increasingly difficult to accept that some of these comments are made in good faith.
posted by knapah at 3:56 AM on February 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


I've made out with guys on at least three occasions, so I'm hardly a homophobe.

You realize there are lots of homophobes who engage in homosexual activity, right? It's practically a cliche.
posted by Drinky Die at 4:17 AM on February 28, 2013 [16 favorites]


(Not trying to say you are one, just faulty logic you got there)
posted by Drinky Die at 4:21 AM on February 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


[Let's not have yet another all-about-wolfdreams derail, please. Wolfdreams01, we've asked you to find a way to engage here without making every discussion into the Me, Me, Me Show. You need to try a lot harder.]
posted by taz at 4:57 AM on February 28, 2013 [37 favorites]


St. Alia:If you cannot tell whether someone is male or female by their genitalia, you can't tell at all.

Hold up - you can't tell with confidence whether you are talking to a man or a woman unless they have exposed genitals?

Wow. Bake sales around your way must be kind of amazing.
posted by running order squabble fest at 5:24 AM on February 28, 2013 [25 favorites]


VA code that includes info on children of opposite sex in same bedrooms.

Also, not to get to obsessive about corb's comment...but my son is 6, and they are told to use the words "penis" and "anus" in school - the correct terms, rather than slang terms. I really don't understand your experiences of a world where you get called in to school because your child said "penis". Crazy.

So given these and some other comments by people with experience in the thread of being mandated reporters (as well as anecdata from the internet, etc), it seems that this is something that is simply not codified all over. Some states do have rules or norms in this regard - others do not. Some individual mandated reporters or CPS individuals may have a higher - and perhaps faulty - standard, while others may not. Some people do freak out about genitalia, others do not - and it's hard to say why.

Unfortunately, there isn't a lot of reassurance in this area - no one produces a handbook of what does and doesn't fall in the guidelines, so people have a lot of anxiety around this.

"Let’s not make civil rights about bathrooms yet again."

I think part of the problem is that this is something that's really difficult to quantify, and I think the approach does matter.

When one of my good friends came out as trans, everyone struggled with what to do about bathrooms and housing, because it was in a situation where those were relevant. She started out by saying she wanted to make sure everyone was comfortable, talking to us a bit about how she felt, and offering not to stay in the same room if it made us feel unsafe, etc. And we really "felt" her as female, it seemed sincere to everyone, and we assured her that no, it was totally fine and we supported her and she was welcome in the shared housing and bathroom, etc.

But there was no hard rule about that - it was just, "Well, A is a lady, so she can come."

I think it's harder for institutions, because they have to come up with hard-and-fast rules, rather than, "This seems fine/sincere." And those rules, like any rules, are subject to exploitation either way. If they make it based on physical sex change, then they're going to be leaving out genuine transfolk who don't want or can't afford the change. If they make it based on "living as Y gender for a certain period of time," or "says it on an ID" then that will also leave some people out. And if they make it based on, "Identifies as Y gender," then you do have the problem of someone being a dick and saying, "Well, I'm a girl, Mrs. So-and-so, I want to go to the girl's bathroom" when they are absolutely not trans.

So the question is, how does an institution determine who is trans and who isn't? That's something that seems really complicated and not a situation that an institution can resolve uniformly. But institutions don't get the leeway to say, "This person is clearly a girl."
posted by corb at 5:40 AM on February 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have to wonder if anyone who doesn't believe that people have innate gender identity are not themselves somewhat gender-queer (eg lacking in a strong innate gender identity). Because I've met cis people who can say what gender they are, and it has nothing to do with their bodies. They feel that they are male or female, and even if their body changed they would feel that way. Of course, being cis they are lucky. Trans people feel their gender identity strongly enough to go through real difficulty and even danger to be true to who they are. It's not a whim: it's true bravery.

the only people around here who may wish to flip their gender on a whim are some gender queer people (like me). but that's what makes us gender queer, not trans (and also, what would it matter if we wanted to?)
posted by jb at 5:50 AM on February 28, 2013 [5 favorites]


As for the bathroom thing, the solution was posted up thread: anyone who objects to sharing a bathroom with a trans person can use a special segregated bathroom. They are the ones who want to be segregated, so they should be the ones put out.
posted by jb at 5:52 AM on February 28, 2013 [7 favorites]


So the question is, how does an institution determine who is trans and who isn't?

I don't think this is that hard. Is the person in question living as a person of whatever gender they feel that they are? That is: if they're MtF, are they presenting, to the best of their ability, as a woman/girl? (And yes, that means femme or butch.) Are they using a gender-neutral or woman's name? Have they seen a medical professional about it, or changed their state-issued documentation to be in line with their "new" gender? If you've said yes to any of these things, tada, they get to use the bathroom of their lived gender, even if that gender isn't in line with their birth gender.

No one's suggesting that a kid who one day says, casually, "I'm a girl!" and then drops it should be allowed to use the girls' bathroom. But when someone, especially when that someone is a child, who by definition has limited agency, has cared enough to change [whatever is appropriate] and lives that on a day-to-day basis, maybe we should respect that.

No one--seriously, no one--would take on the burden that transpeople carry in the interest of zomg spying on girls in the bathroom. Look at how much hate is demonstrated in this thread. Look at how cruel grown-ass adults, and adults who are, likely, both more tolerant and more educated than the average adult, are treating this six-year-old child. Look at how casually we can toss out statistics about violent crime against transpeople, or about the suicide rates of transpeople. What person would choose that in the hopes that hey, maybe at some ambiguous point in the future, I'll be allowed into women's bathroom and I can get me some upskirt shots!

If you're so threatened, crossdress--really trying to present as the other sex--just for a day or two. Go shopping at your grocery store. Try going to a bar, maybe, or a speed dating event. See how relieved you are to go home at the end of the day. How quickly you become either a joke (haha, dude in a skirt) or a threat (what the shit are you doing in here, faggot?) No one would live that experience, day in and day out, without a good goddamn reason. It's really fucking hard. An end goal of anything other than "living as this gender" just wouldn't cut it.
posted by MeghanC at 6:03 AM on February 28, 2013 [16 favorites]


I think it's harder for institutions, because they have to come up with hard-and-fast rules

Why do they? Why would a school need to decide what they will do in every imaginable or unlikely situation, before it happens?

then you do have the problem of someone being a dick and saying, "Well, I'm a girl, Mrs. So-and-so, I want to go to the girl's bathroom"

Then you deal with this on a case by case basis, by the application of common sense and personal knowledge of the child involved.

If it never happens (surprise), then hoorah! nobody has to discuss the issue at all.
posted by emilyw at 6:03 AM on February 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


So the question is, how does an institution determine who is trans and who isn't?

I don't think this is quite the issue, at least not in this situation. It's that every institution who knows fuck all about trans people thinks they are the ones who know best and will save us all from trans people (including saving the trans people from themselves) or something. In this situation, there's no reason for the school to make that determination--it sounds like the state of Colorado and the State Department have done it for them. And, yet, here we are.

There's certainly a broader issue access to document-changing and an obsession with documents does nothing for people who are seen as gender non-conforming, regardless of whether they're trans or not. Like someone said, cis people get hassled in bathrooms if they're seen as non-conforming--cis privilege is the part where they know they can extricate themselves by pulling out ID or where they haven't had to stand up for their gender seventeen times already that day.

I'm not disagreeing with you. I guess I'm saying I think it's more nuanced than "Institution X needs to decide who's trans to treat trans people well" (which is so crappy a paraphrase that it misrepresents what corb said, but I'm failing at a better one).
posted by hoyland at 6:05 AM on February 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


There's certainly a broader issue access to document-changing and an obsession with documents does nothing for people who are seen as gender non-conforming, regardless of whether they're trans or not. Like someone said, cis people get hassled in bathrooms if they're seen as non-conforming--cis privilege is the part where they know they can extricate themselves by pulling out ID or where they haven't had to stand up for their gender seventeen times already that day.

Er... for some reason I went on a tangent about enforcement of gender stereotypes in bathrooms that doesn't make sense with the start of the paragraph. I was trying to say that even if documents are changeable in an accessible manner, an obsession with documents doesn't save people (trans or not) from hassle whose documents are right or 'right enough', but whose gender is perceived to not match their documents.
posted by hoyland at 6:08 AM on February 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


If you're so threatened, crossdress--really trying to present as the other sex--just for a day or two.

Just make sure not to plan to interact with children while you are crossdressing, or you will be denied for being inappropriate for reasons nobody can quite explain.

HuffPo: Philadelphia's beloved drag cabaret mainstay was cordially invited to speak to a group of 25 kids in an after-school program in New Jersey as part of National Read Across America Day, but had her invitation retracted after officials deemed her act "inappropriate."

The Martha Graham Cracker Cabaret got an email from Mark Simmons, a supervisor at Haddonfield Child Care in Haddonfield, N.J., requesting Martha Graham Cracker read a Dr. Seuss book for the kids as well as maybe sing a few kid-friendly numbers.

Illogical and sometimes hysterical reactions to the perceived dangers of people who violate gender norms are an ever present real problem people deal with every day. It's extremely frustrating to have the conversation be dominated by a hypothetical fear about someone abusing trans rights to pull a juvenile bathroom prank in the face of so many serious issues. It's especially frustrating because it's difficult not to feel the concern about such pranks may be rooted in those sorts of illogical reactions.
posted by Drinky Die at 6:26 AM on February 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


I am way late to be saying this, since I just got here through the "Popular Favourites" page, but there's once nuance in fatbird's highly-favourited comment that bugs me and I didn't see it brought up anywhere else.

Penises are not essentially male - she doesn't have "boy parts." She's a girl. Her body is a girl's body because it belongs to her.

Now to go back and read the discussion here a little more thoroughly, although I always have a sense of trepidation w.r.t. trans issues. I fear the internet has made me cynical.
posted by one of these days at 6:36 AM on February 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


Actually, corb, thinking about it, in a lot of situations, it's not actually that hard to determine if someone's gender in many institutional contexts. In a lot of contexts, one can ask. If we bothered to believe people when they told us their genders, that would solve a lot of problems. But in the context of public bathrooms, even if we believe there are regularly people maliciously sneaking into bathrooms, a two-fold test of a) Does it seem remotely possible this person is presenting as gender X? and b) Are they behaving appropriately? does the job. If someone is behaving inappropriately in a bathroom, their gender isn't relevant. We could also add c) if it's a single-user bathroom, for god's sake, keep your mouth shut. (Or d) if it's a gender neutral bathoom and you hassle someone, there's a special place in hell for you. I kid you not, this has been an issue at my university.)
posted by hoyland at 6:48 AM on February 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


then you do have the problem of someone being a dick and saying, "Well, I'm a girl, Mrs. So-and-so, I want to go to the girl's bathroom" when they are absolutely not trans.

No, you don't.

You get to use the girl's bathroom if you identify as female. Which means if you dress as "female" (pretty nebulous, there are infinite varieties of how a "female" dresses), use feminine pronouns, and live your day to day life as female. There are no little kids saying "I'm a girl and want to use the girl's bathroom, but call me he and I wear boy's clothes." That's not happening.

What IS happening is that a little girl who dresses like a girl, uses feminine pronouns, and lives her life as a girl, is being told she can't use the girls' bathroom.
posted by sonika at 6:59 AM on February 28, 2013 [9 favorites]


Penises are not essentially male - she doesn't have "boy parts." She's a girl. Her body is a girl's body because it belongs to her.

Is there any greater male signifier than the penis? Penises are the ultimate symbol of physical male identity.
posted by foot at 7:02 AM on February 28, 2013


Is there any greater male signifier than the penis? Penises are the ultimate symbol of physical male identity.

So if I put on a strap-on, would I then be a guy?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:08 AM on February 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


On the other hand, I've always held that when a transgendered person engages in romantic/sexual contact with another individual while actively disguising their identity (as happened in the Gwen Araujo case1), it is an offense roughly equivalent to assault.

Oi, this is such a stupid comment.

First, for thinking that the whole "unexpected penis" scenario happens much outside of shitty b-movie comedies
Second, for calling something like this assault when really, finding out that girl you fancied might've had boy parts at one point really shouldn't be that big a trauma to adults
Third, for the simple fact that this uncomfortably close to the trans panic defence, where those who assaulted trans people try to plead themselves free by arguing that the realisation that no, this girl "really is a boy" was so traumatising that they had no choice but to try and beat her to death.
Fourth, for mentioning a trans panic victim as your example and apparantly realising that this is sensitive territory, but not caring enough to avoid such incendary examples.
Fifth, for being clueless about who is in the main the assault victim in violent confrontations between cis and trans people.

My point was that doubting that a 6 year old is transgender is not douchebag behavior

In your opinion. Personally I think that the people who seemed not to have read up about the circumstances of this particular case but still have an opinion about whether or not she "really is a girl" are, well, not shining examples of tolerance and openmindedness.
posted by MartinWisse at 7:09 AM on February 28, 2013 [26 favorites]


It's extremely frustrating to have the conversation be dominated by a hypothetical fear about someone abusing trans rights to pull a juvenile bathroom prank in the face of so many serious issues. It's especially frustrating because it's difficult not to feel the concern about such pranks may be rooted in those sorts of illogical reactions.

I think that it's difficult, because both sides have valid concerns. On the one hand, folk are saying "99% of people saying they are trans in order to gain bathroom access are going to actually be trans, and they need to be able to both go to the bathroom and to feel normal as one of their peers." And this is probably true - your average, everyday trans situation is going to be someone who is genuinely trans and needs accomodation. On the other hand, people are saying, "Maybe it's only 1%, but people (particularly boys) are cruel, girls are already under attack, we need to figure out a way to make sure that douchebag teenagers don't abuse or harass already at-risk women." Which is somewhat more than a "juvenile bathroom prank," it can enter into the territory of sexual harassment, and how do you guard people, etc. etc.

Simplified, this seems like an argument of, "Most people really need X, so let's let X happen" versus "If X, there's an extremely low chance of Y happening, but when it does, Y is really, really bad, so let's not let X happen."

I am trying to think about this in the context of another debate going on right now - which I am not going to name so as not to derail - and think about which of these I tend to favor. The answer is I don't know, so I want to try to find a way that we can do X while still disallowing Y. And I think that does take work.

You get to use the girl's bathroom if you identify as female. Which means if you dress as "female" (pretty nebulous, there are infinite varieties of how a "female" dresses), use feminine pronouns, and live your day to day life as female. There are no little kids saying "I'm a girl and want to use the girl's bathroom, but call me he and I wear boy's clothes." That's not happening.

It probably doesn't happen with elementary school kids, in part because they don't have the sophistication to try something like that. But junior high? High school? Are you saying there isn't one person who's willing to be a dick about that for /one day/?
posted by corb at 7:12 AM on February 28, 2013


So if I put on a strap-on, would I then be a guy?

No, you're just appropriating a male body part.
posted by foot at 7:13 AM on February 28, 2013


girls are already under attack, we need to figure out a way to make sure that douchebag teenagers don't abuse or harass already at-risk women.

Transgender girls are already under attack, they are already at-risk women too. The choice here seems to be girls getting harassed in bathrooms (by hypothetical cis-boys going in on a prank), or girls getting harassed in bathrooms (because the school is forcing them to use the boys' restroom.) That's a harassment problem, not a gender problem.
posted by heyforfour at 7:17 AM on February 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


Are you saying there isn't one person who's willing to be a dick about that for /one day/?

It's like you're intentionally disregarding what people are saying. No one is arguing that a buy who one day, out of the blue, announces that he's a girl and wants to use the girls' bathroom should be immediately allowed to do so. Not a single person in this thread has made that argument.

If said boy said hey, I'm really a girl, and asked to be referred to with female pronouns, and changed their name from Christopher to Kristen, and started wearing a padded bra and plucking all their facial hair, and did these things in their day to day life--not for a day, but as a long-term change, then that child should be allowed to use the women's bathroom. It's pretty clearly a really different thing from what you're describing. I really don't see why it's so hard.
posted by MeghanC at 7:19 AM on February 28, 2013 [6 favorites]


It probably doesn't happen with elementary school kids, in part because they don't have the sophistication to try something like that. But junior high? High school? Are you saying there isn't one person who's willing to be a dick about that for /one day/?

I still don't understand what your concern is. That a high school boy will come to school in a dress one day, state that he's now a girl, and access the girl's bathroom in order to harass someone?
posted by coupdefoudre at 7:19 AM on February 28, 2013


Is there any greater male signifier than the penis? Penises are the ultimate symbol of physical male identity.

Again, foot, the bake sales around your way must be amazing. Most of us have to rely on cues like name, style of dress and hairstyle, but I've got to respect your commitment to penis, here.

Regarding institutional complexity, I don't know if there is necessarily a huge problem as long as the political will exists. The European Court's rulings have led to legislation across Europe that looks something like the Gender Recognition Act in the United Kingdom, where somebody who is recognized as having transitioned (which may or may not involve a range of possible medical procedures, but does not need to) can get a gender recognition certificate, which entitles them to be legally recognized as their gender, get a resissued birth certificate and so on. That's not going to stop you from being beaten up by bigots, but it's a fairly uncomplicated way to acknowledge that the state is supportive of gender transition.

Of course, there are people who will not fit the criteria, or who will not want to go through the bureaucratic process, or who are not yet far enough along their journey to get recertificated.

(Or, indeed, people who want to stay married - the current separate-but-equal set up in Britain means that two people of the same gender cannot be married, so you have to get a preliminary certificate saying you are about to change gender, which then serves as a cause for a no-fault divorce, whereupon you get your real certificate and can get civilly partnered. Or the other way around.)

At that point, the complex process of not being a douche begins, but again it's relatively easy to navigate. And in this particular case it seems even easier, because a decision has already been made about Coy's gender identity by the State of Colorado, so it's odd that the district is trying to make a different case.
posted by running order squabble fest at 7:19 AM on February 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm not one to be the PC bandleader or word-use nazi but the use of the word "dick" as a casually used pejorative meaning 'rude/callous/egocentric' in this conversation isn't helpful for quite few reasons. Not calling out corb, really, but I did see it a few times during the thread.

If it could be avoided here that would be great.

posted by RolandOfEld at 7:20 AM on February 28, 2013


No, you do not get to use a bathroom by identifying as [gender] for one day. No one is saying that. That is not what any of this is about. This is about the shape of your entire life and no one would fake living as trans to pull a prank in a bathroom. No one.

The bathroom shenanigans panic is a huge red herring. I was harassed, constantly, in the bathroom and locker rooms in elementary and middle school by other girls who were variously just being jerks or claiming I stuffed my bra or whatever. Should we start banning girls from the girls bathroom because they're using it as a venue for harassment?
posted by sonika at 7:20 AM on February 28, 2013 [7 favorites]


Again, foot the bake sales around your way must be amazing. Most of us have to rely on cues like name, style of dress and hairstyle, but I've got to respect your commitment to penis, here.

If you want to bury your head in the sand and pretend that a penis isn't a biological signifier of physical male identity, go right ahead. Coy was born with a penis and testicles, and that's why the "male" box was checked on the birth certificate.

I'm approaching this topic as a mature adult, and I expect you to do the same. You'll understand this if you want me to respect anything you write, even if I disagree with it.
posted by foot at 7:26 AM on February 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Why is it so threatening for a *child* to identify as one gender over another? From the reaction here, you would think she's going to single handedly tear down western civilization by its roots. Compassion is not in limited supply, y'all.
posted by stoneweaver at 7:28 AM on February 28, 2013 [7 favorites]


Transgender girls are already under attack, they are already at-risk women too.

Transwomen (and transmen) are more at hisk for harassment and assault than cis women.
posted by jb at 7:35 AM on February 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Are you saying there isn't one person who's willing to be a dick about that for /one day/?

I wrote a long comment about how my school did a really bad job of handling trans issues, but how they demonstrated that you can try to protect a trans person, even if you screw the big picture up entirely. And then I realised, no, this is a silly argument. Kid tells teacher they are of gender X and will use bathroom X. Teacher says "Okay, but we'll need to sort things with the principal first, so can you use the nurse's bathroom today?" Both to stall and because to keep the kid safe, the administration will have to know not to hassle them. Then you try to ascertain if it's safe to call the kid's parents to make enquiries and then you call their parents. If Little Johnny is just being an asshole, he'll give up long before you let him in the girls bathroom.

(Also, thread, we seem to have forgotten that trans men exist. Either because of the situation in the FPP or because it's lazy to talk about trans women as a dangerous other, I don't know.)
posted by hoyland at 7:39 AM on February 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


If you want to bury your head in the sand and pretend that a penis isn't a biological signifier of physical male identity, go right ahead.

Biology is not destiny.

If a male identified person has a penis and loses it in an accident, is he now female? No? Right. That's because biology isn't ALL of gender identity. A newborn can't tell you their gender, and yes, most people's gender aligns with their genitals so that's the determination among newborns. But this isn't a newborn. She's six and capable of saying "I am a girl with a penis."

Furthermore, do you know for certain that everyone you meet with a penis identifies as male? No, you don't. A penis is a signifier that you have male sex organs, not that you ARE male. The determination of what gender you are is what gender you feel that you are.

Why is this difficult to accept? Why do you need to define other people by their genitals to the point of disregarding *everything else* about them?
posted by sonika at 7:41 AM on February 28, 2013 [8 favorites]


foot: If a hypothetical male is in a car accident and his penis and testicles are ripped off, is he no longer a man?
posted by tittergrrl at 7:42 AM on February 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Jiiinx.
posted by tittergrrl at 7:42 AM on February 28, 2013


Other things on your birth certificate that are subject to change: your height, weight, and name. It's a document showing who you were at birth, not who you will be for the rest of your life. My baby is no longer 6lbs and 14oz and it's conceivable that the box checked as "sex" at birth could change over time as well.
posted by sonika at 7:46 AM on February 28, 2013 [12 favorites]


corb: " It probably doesn't happen with elementary school kids, in part because they don't have the sophistication to try something like that. But junior high? High school? Are you saying there isn't one person who's willing to be a dick about that for /one day/?"

Identifying a pupil as transgender isn't a "one day" assessment. Children aren't simply allowed to use a bathroom designated for the opposite gender in a school immediately just because they suddenly announce they are transgender. That could conceivably open the institution up to lawsuits.

All schools have private bathrooms. The child will generally be allowed to use them or one that is designated for use by transgender individuals until the school can make a formal determination how the child's needs will be handled.

There are resources online that can advise private schools how to treat the needs of their transgender students. Public institutions (especially colleges) have been slow to enact such policies, but they are doing so.
posted by zarq at 7:49 AM on February 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


The European Court's rulings have led to legislation across Europe that looks something like the Gender Recognition Act in the United Kingdom, where somebody who is recognized as having transitioned (which may or may not involve a range of possible medical procedures, but does not need to) can get a gender recognition certificate, which entitles them to be legally recognized as their gender, get a resissued birth certificate and so on.

This is one of those situation where the Court has ruled, but the situation on the ground hasn't changed in a lot of countries. I think the ruling is that you have to change birth certificates, but it doesn't speak to what a country can require of someone before they change the birth certificate. But even then, this is the sort of thing where someone from every country has to go to the ECHR and win, even if people from other countries have already won. (As far as I know, the provisions in the GRA about not outing people are unique, but I could be totally wrong.)
posted by hoyland at 7:52 AM on February 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


If a male identified person has a penis and loses it in an accident, is he now female? No? Right. That's because biology isn't ALL of gender identity.

I've said nothing about gender, only that an individual born with male sex organs will be identified as a male at that point in time.

Why is this difficult to accept? Why do you need to define other people by their genitals to the point of disregarding *everything else* about them?

Don't put words into my mouth. At no point have I said anything about disregarding other non-biological *gender* signifiers. I'm refuting the statement that "Penises are not essentially male".
posted by foot at 7:53 AM on February 28, 2013


foot: "I've said nothing about gender, only that an individual born with male sex organs will be identified as a male at that point in time. "

This seems like a pretty reasonable and non-contentious point. Would you say, foot, that it's reasonable for an adult to go back and have its birth certificate altered based on gender identity?
posted by boo_radley at 8:10 AM on February 28, 2013


I'm refuting the statement that "Penises are not essentially male".

Maybe read it instead as "penises are neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition for maleness", if that helps. That phallic symbols (the phallus itself chief among them) are strongly correlated with popular cultural conceptions of maleness is not in dispute, for sure, but when you dig into gender identity that turns out to be a very blunt and insufficient rubric by which to engage with what's going on with people's bodies and minds.
posted by cortex at 8:11 AM on February 28, 2013 [15 favorites]


Also, thread, we seem to have forgotten that trans men exist. Either because of the situation in the FPP or because it's lazy to talk about trans women as a dangerous other, I don't know.

Trans men get a pass on a lot of this stuff while everyone panics about trans women, I think, due to a weird mixture of sexism and misogyny - it's really all about the centrality of cis men and their anxieties about their genitals. A trans woman must not be a real woman if she has a penis (or had a penis!) because if a penis isn't the ultimate arbiter of maleness, that makes a lot of cis dudes really uncomfortable. At the same time, trans dudes aren't dangerous because after all, we want to *be* men, proving that Man Is Best, but we can never have the Original At Birth Penis Experience, so we don't actually threaten the status of cis men, who remain the ultimate penis-bearing example of Real Manhood.

As to why cis women get so freaked about about trans women (and I've heard way too many stories about cis women who have no problems with trans dudes but who don't like trans women)...I can only surmise that this has something to do with a belief that it's difficult to live as a woman anyway, and therefore anyone who says that they want to be a woman must be lying or trying to hurt cis women, plus some anxieties about how trans women will be "better" women than cis women due to believing that trans women all transition easily via surgery and make-up into femmebots. And of course, this has nothing to do with actual trans women and only makes sense if you don't actually know any out trans women.

(This is very present in Joanna Russ's novel The Female Man, but Russ was trying to make a slightly different political point and had the decency to apologize later.)
posted by Frowner at 8:13 AM on February 28, 2013 [22 favorites]


Would you say, foot, that it's reasonable for an adult to go back and have its birth certificate altered based on gender identity?

I think it's reasonable for an adult to make that decision. From what I've read and understand, it is not an easy process to legally alter a birth certificate, nor is it a decision that one makes lightly. And I respect that.
posted by foot at 8:18 AM on February 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've said nothing about gender, only that an individual born with male sex organs will be identified as a male at that point in time.

That's some passive language right there. Yeah, they will be defined by someone else as male at some point. And at that point, if they say "Actually, I'm female," only extremely rude, insensitive people will insist on continuing to call that person by male pronouns. It's really not that difficult.

There are a lot of people in this thread who have been pretty clear that they don't know much or anything about the nitty-gritty of being trans - the medical, psychological, and legal issues, let alone the social - (have not, in fact, ever thought much about gender or sex) and yet seem to have no difficulty in speaking as authorities on the subject, making pronouncements about How Things Work even when they are explicitly offered links and explanations that show them that no, that's not actually How Things Work.

There are other people in this thread who didn't or don't know much about trans issues who seem to have healthy enough egos that allow them to say "I don't know much about this. Is blahblah an issue? Where can I read more about this?"

Being ignorant is not a crime and does not make anyone a bad person. Acting like you know it all when it's been demonstrated that you really don't means that you think your ego is more important than educating yourself or being able to acknowledge that you were mistaken about something. This is sad.
posted by rtha at 8:19 AM on February 28, 2013 [19 favorites]


Some of you, out of fear of the desperately remote possibility that one jerk might one day go into a girls' bathroom, would have trans children's lives become (more of) a living hell.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:23 AM on February 28, 2013 [15 favorites]


"I think that it's difficult, because both sides have valid concerns."

No, they don't. One side has a history of exclusion, violence and psychological trauma — one side is suffering because of ignorance and injustice, and the other side is some hypothetical bullshit that never really happens and can be dealt with under the rules as they already exist in every sane place.

That's the problem — it's like saying that trans people should suffer because ghosts. Sure, everyone acknowledges that there's never been a real ghost sighting, BUT WHAT IF?!

It's bullshit.
posted by klangklangston at 8:27 AM on February 28, 2013 [13 favorites]


"Trans men get a pass on a lot of this stuff while everyone panics about trans women, I think, due to a weird mixture of sexism and misogyny - it's really all about the centrality of cis men and their anxieties about their genitals."

Yeah, one of the awkward realities of campaigns for trans equality is that trans men are disproportionately represented, especially doing traditionally masculine stuff like sports. Unfortunately, "Would you deny him the right to play football?" is a lot more resonant with people in the moveable middle, which is why the opposition always tries to make it about trans women in bathrooms creeping on people.
posted by klangklangston at 8:30 AM on February 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yeah, one of the awkward realities of campaigns for trans equality is that trans men are disproportionately represented, especially doing traditionally masculine stuff like sports. Unfortunately, "Would you deny him the right to play football?" is a lot more resonant with people in the moveable middle, which is why the opposition always tries to make it about trans women in bathrooms creeping on people.

Yes. Also... bizarrely, Western society tends to fearfully cast all men as potential sexual offenders -- an attitude which is not particularly rational. Look at the recent ridiculous controversy over whether men should be allowed to sit next to unaccompanied children on planes. But the ones who take that to its worst and most offensive extreme are the homophobes who liken a male sexual preference for other men to pedophilia, and who try to ban gay men from teaching or raising children.

The attitude that men and boys aren't trustworthy, that they may lie about their own gender and risk being shunned and humiliated to break taboo in order to fool and sexually harass women, isn't that far removed from such extremism.
posted by zarq at 8:45 AM on February 28, 2013 [9 favorites]


I have been using public and semi-public bathrooms for more than forty years - school bathrooms, divey bar bathrooms, fancy restaurant bathrooms, office bathrooms, fraternity bathrooms, airport bathrooms, bus station bathrooms, coffee shop bathrooms, ballpark bathrooms...

You get my meaning.

And never ever once not ever has a skeezey person pretended to be trans so that they could get into the bathroom I was using in order to be skeezey. Never. And if they had? Well, what with laws about harassment and assault and privacy violations already being on the books, then their pretending to be trans has nothing to do with it.

I used to live in a big house with about 20 other people. There was one main bathroom that had several toilet stalls, three (I think) shower stalls, and an open bank of sinks. The showers had curtains across them, not doors. The house was inhabited by people of all genders and sexes. So you might find yourself some mornings taking a shower in a stall next to someone of a gender/sex not your own. And then you might find yourself, wrapped in a towel, brushing your teeth next to some other towel-clad person.

You know what happened? Nothing. In a house full of late-teen/early-20somethings in full hormonal overdrive and usually altered by some substance or another, nothing happened. People did not stare or leer or try to get into a shower with someone else. The worst thing was if someone in the toilets forgot to yell "Flushing!" when they flushed when someone else was taking a shower - that could get the shower-taker scalded. But really, it was so not a big deal that it didn't rise to the level of any kind of deal at all.
posted by rtha at 8:50 AM on February 28, 2013 [15 favorites]


These kind of threads are one of the most disappointing things about MF. It’s nearly impossible to have a conversation because within seconds it turns into "WHY DO YOU HATE THE TRANS PEOPLE?!?!?! I LOVE THEM!!!" I understand that people are passionate, but all the name calling and straw men doesn’t really produce anything constructive.
posted by bongo_x at 9:12 AM on February 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


name calling, like constantly misgendering trans people? yeah, that really is lame and everyone should know better once it's explained to them the first time. i think we're probably disappointed in this thread for different reasons.
posted by nadawi at 9:15 AM on February 28, 2013 [21 favorites]


bongo_x,

I disagree. There are many people on here who are ignorant (including me) and ask good faith questions in a genuine attempt to combat their ignorance.

There are others who bring up highly unlikely scenarios and lack the basic decency to refer to Coy with the appropriate gender pronoun.

What point is there to engage with someone who isn't operating from a position of mutual respect and tolerance?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 9:17 AM on February 28, 2013 [8 favorites]


bongo_x: "It’s nearly impossible to have a conversation because within seconds it turns into "WHY DO YOU HATE THE TRANS PEOPLE?!?!?! I LOVE THEM!!!" "

We seem to be reading different threads.

I agree with rtha. There's a tremendous amount of ignorance being shown in this thread about what being transgender means and how much stigma and oppression that entails. Which in and of itself would be okay if the people exhibiting that ignorance were asking questions rather than trying to declare their rightness about everything. There's nothing wrong with asking questions when one doesn't know firsthand. Perhaps if more people did so these threads would go more smoothly.
posted by zarq at 9:18 AM on February 28, 2013 [7 favorites]


It is amazing to me how much fear and bigotry masquerading as protecting children comes to the fore when discussing transgender issues. One little girl clearly represents such an astounding threat to many. What happens if we let transgender kids pee in the bathroom they'd prefer? They use the bathroom and are not traumatized by other people commented that they're in the wrong place. What happens if we force a little girl to use the boys' room? She is far more likely to be teased, harassed and bullied. Life for trans kids is already far more challenging than it is for cis kids - why make it worse? Coy is being outed by the schools - it's not clear to me that anyone she didn't tell would know if it weren't for that - so the school system puts her more at risk than if they'd simply, quietly, agreed that girls can use the girls' room.

And to extend that line of thought further - how somebody else identifies and presents does not affect how I identify or present myself. Further it has nothing to do with my marriage. I see absolutely no valid reason to make someone else's life harder over these issues.
posted by leslies at 9:18 AM on February 28, 2013 [8 favorites]


MisantropicPainforest said it for me. I learn a lot from these threads by sitting back and letting my questions be answered, and watching ignorant jerks butt in a say things that assure me I do not want to view things the way they do.
posted by coupdefoudre at 9:20 AM on February 28, 2013 [6 favorites]


"These kind of threads are one of the most disappointing things about MF. It’s nearly impossible to have a conversation because within seconds it turns into "WHY DO YOU HATE THE TRANS PEOPLE?!?!?! I LOVE THEM!!!" I understand that people are passionate, but all the name calling and straw men doesn’t really produce anything constructive."

It sure is disappointing to see things like your comment, which misrepresent the conversation as erring too much on the side of trans people and not enough, apparently, deference given to the yelping fantods of the accidentally and willfully ignorant. Especially since there are actual trans people in this very conversation.

But what, specifically, did you have in mind, Bongo? Because your representation seems like bullshit to me, but maybe you had a modicum of evidence?
posted by klangklangston at 9:25 AM on February 28, 2013


I think it's willfully ignorant to deny that public school restrooms are, and will continue to be, segregated by sex and not by gender identity.
posted by foot at 9:28 AM on February 28, 2013


I think it's willfully ignorant to deny that things can and should change, but then there's been a lot of willful ignorance on display here.
posted by palomar at 9:31 AM on February 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


I think it's willfully ignorant to deny that public school restrooms are, and will continue to be, segregated by sex and not by gender identity.

Except that, by law, in Colorado, they are to be segregated by gender identity, if they are to be segregated.
posted by hoyland at 9:32 AM on February 28, 2013 [6 favorites]


foot: I think it's willfully ignorant to deny that public school restrooms are, and will continue to be, segregated by sex and not by gender identity.

Of course they are not segregated by sex. If school officials never had any inclination that Coy had male genitalia, she would be using the girls room without issue.
posted by Rock Steady at 9:32 AM on February 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


You can read the letter the TLDEF sent the school quoting the relevant bits of statute.
posted by hoyland at 9:33 AM on February 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


Except that, by law, in Colorado, they are to be segregated by gender identity, if they are to be segregated.

Definitive source please? I'm willing to be corrected if this is actually the case.
posted by foot at 9:34 AM on February 28, 2013


Of course, that is just the dictionary definition. The legal definition is much more relevant . . .

Excellent point, let's not let humanity get in the way of the dictionary or the law.
posted by MoxieProxy at 9:36 AM on February 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


How about the link right above your comment?
posted by leslies at 9:36 AM on February 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Definitive source please? I'm willing to be corrected if this is actually the case.

Read the letter hoyland linked directly above. It lays it out pretty clearly. Specifically:
Rule 81.11 on Gender-Segregated Facilities provides:
All covered entities shall allow individuals the use of
gender-segregated facilities that are consistent with their
gender identity. Gender-segregated facilities include, but
are not limited to, restrooms, locker rooms, dressing rooms,
and dormitories.
posted by KathrynT at 9:36 AM on February 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


Just to insert some good news into the thread, the US House of Representatives just passed the Senate version of the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. U.S. This version is trans-inclusive, and explicitly protects LGBT survivors of domestic violence, and gives enhanced protections for Native American and immigrant survivors, and campus safety provisions

It's about friggin' time.
posted by zarq at 9:37 AM on February 28, 2013 [32 favorites]


Am utterly astounded that the House passed VAWA - truly great news!
posted by leslies at 9:38 AM on February 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


There's a tremendous amount of ignorance being shown in this thread about what being transgender means and how much stigma and oppression that entails.

I think I’ve been following all this, but where are these swarms? Have there been a lot of deleted comments? I’ve only seen a few of people that had pretty mild disagreements or lack of knowledge about some of this.

It sure is disappointing to see things like your comment, which misrepresent the conversation as erring too much on the side of trans people and not enough, apparently, deference given to the yelping fantods of the accidentally and willfully ignorant.

Things like your statement here are exactly what I’m talking about. I made no such statement or even insinuated anything like that. Mostly because I don’t feel like that. But you feel it’s OK to put hateful words in my mouth because you’ve decided I’m the enemy.

It would be better if people listened to what others actually say instead of quickly deciding which side they're on and attacking or supporting them accordingly.
posted by bongo_x at 9:42 AM on February 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


"I think it's willfully ignorant to deny that public school restrooms are, and will continue to be, segregated by sex and not by gender identity."

Isn't it more willfully ignorant to make pronouncements like that, which are not actually representative of the law in all places (most notably Colorado), but rather are representative of your personal prejudices, especially after you've been repeatedly informed of said law?
posted by klangklangston at 9:42 AM on February 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm stunned (happily) that they passed the Senate version! The one the House came up with didn't have any of the extra protections.
posted by zarq at 9:43 AM on February 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Eagleside was not denying Coy of any facility use, alternatives in the school were available. They were in compliance with the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act:

discriminatory practice and unlawful for a person, directly
or indirectly, to refuse, withhold from, or deny to an
individual or a group, because of ... sexual orientation ...
the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services,
facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of a
place of public accommodation....


Now, the Colorado Civil Rights Commission has published rules about allowing transgender students to use restrooms that match their gender identity. Understood. But these are suggested rules, not laws.
posted by foot at 9:44 AM on February 28, 2013


"Things like your statement here are exactly what I’m talking about. I made no such statement or even insinuated anything like that. Mostly because I don’t feel like that. But you feel it’s OK to put hateful words in my mouth because you’ve decided I’m the enemy."

That's exactly what you're talking about? I thought "'WHY DO YOU HATE THE TRANS PEOPLE?!?!?! I LOVE THEM!!!'" was exactly what you were talking about, something that doesn't actually appear to have been written in the thread? And since it's not actually in the thread, it seems to be an irrational fear — a yelping fantod, if you will.

So, no, I'm not deciding that you're an enemy — I'm saying that your previous comment was bullshit and I'm calling you on it.
posted by klangklangston at 9:44 AM on February 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


wolfdreams01: "Finally, on a personal note, I'm surprised to hear all the attributions of homophobia simply because I don't agree with the definition of Coy as female. I've made out with guys on at least three occasions, so I'm hardly a homophobe. "

What in the actual fuck
posted by scrump at 9:45 AM on February 28, 2013 [31 favorites]


Requiring Coy to use the nurse's bathroom is by no means "the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of a
place of public accommodation."
posted by KathrynT at 9:45 AM on February 28, 2013 [5 favorites]


"Eagleside was not denying Coy of any facility use, alternatives in the school were available. They were in compliance with the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act:

discriminatory practice and unlawful for a person, directly
or indirectly, to refuse, withhold from, or deny to an
individual or a group, because of ... sexual orientation ...
the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services,
facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of a
place of public accommodation....

Now, the Colorado Civil Rights Commission has published rules about allowing transgender students to use restrooms that match their gender identity. Understood. But these are suggested rules, not laws.


See how that says "full and equal enjoyment"? Why don't we think back to Brown v. Board of Ed and wonder if having separate, alternative facilities is congruent with "full and equal."
posted by klangklangston at 9:46 AM on February 28, 2013 [8 favorites]


So the first relevant question is, has Coy had any of those things? The answer seems to be a definite no. (If I am incorrect, please cite references - I didn't see any evidence of therapy anywhere in the links.) As far as I can tell from reading the articles, the only thing he has are enthusiastic parents who somehow accepted it as perfectly reasonable to decide that a six-year old child was self-aware enough to know he/she must be transgender. I don't think that gives them any sort of expert credentials.

ABC News "When Coy began complaining about "something wrong" with her body, her parents took her to a specialist, who diagnosed gender identity disorder. Doctors recommended no immediate medical intervention but to let her "live as a girl[.]"

San Francisco Chronicle/Associated Press: "When Coy asked to be taken to the doctor to be "fixed," they took her to a psychologist who diagnosed her."

Colorado Springs Gazette: [Coy's parents] consulted a psychologist, doctor and other parents of transgender children and support groups.
posted by jamaro at 9:47 AM on February 28, 2013 [14 favorites]


I think I’ve been following all this, but where are these swarms? Have there been a lot of deleted comments? I’ve only seen a few of people that had pretty mild disagreements or lack of knowledge about some of this.

Well, you could start with comments from one poster in particular who continues to insist that it is more correct to refer to Coy (and by extension, any other trans person) by the pronoun that she does not refer to herself by because she has not leapt through each and every hoop the poster deems must be leapt through before he will deign to respect them enough to use the pronoun they have asked to be used. If you think this is "mild" then I don't know what to say.

Other people have said quite clearly that they don't know much about the issue but they make assertions as if they are facts when in fact, they are not facts. Apparently no amount of encouraging them to google or even read the links posted (not to mention the lived experiences of trans and other non-gender-conforming people right here in this thread) makes a dent.
posted by rtha at 9:51 AM on February 28, 2013 [12 favorites]


And yeah we have deleted a fair number of comments.
posted by jessamyn at 9:53 AM on February 28, 2013 [6 favorites]


Plus there was the person who asserted a couple of things about Child Protective Services which are demonstrably wrong, including that "any amount of knowledge by a child of, say, the physical features of opposite-sex genitalia, or sight of same, is viewed with extreme wariness and fear, particularly among mandated reporters." and was corrected by an actual mandated reporter in this thread.
posted by zarq at 9:57 AM on February 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


[Folks, talking about other commenters in this thread as if they are NOT RIGHT HERE is not really how we do things. If you need to go to MetaTalk, we understand.]
posted by jessamyn at 10:01 AM on February 28, 2013


Now, the Colorado Civil Rights Commission has published rules about allowing transgender students to use restrooms that match their gender identity. Understood. But these are suggested rules, not laws.

Except that that's not how administrative law works. IANAL, but these are not "suggested rules," these are regulations promulgated by an executive agency that is specifically charged with making and enforcing such regulations by statute. The Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act gives the Colorado Civil Rights Commission the power "To adopt, publish, amend, and rescind rules and regulations, in accordance with the provisions of section 24-4-103, which are consistent with and for the implementation of parts 3 to 7 of this article." Colo. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 24-34-305 (West). That means that when those rules and regulations are created and passed pursuant to the relevant requirements of state and federal administrative and regulatory law, they have the same force as statutes passed by the legislature. So if the Colorado Civil Rights Commission says there's a rule requiring public places to allow people to use the bathroom of the gender with which they identify, it is against the law to fail to do so unless and until either the legislature or a court says otherwise.

This happens all the time. For example, the federal Congress doesn't pass a law that says how wide a doorway has to be in order to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Instead, it passes a law saying that you can't discriminate against people with disabilities, and then it grants power to the relevant agencies to create and promulgate regulations that state how wide a doorway has to be or how many accessible parking spaces you have to have in a lot of a given size or what sort of medical leave an employer has to give you to take care of health problems. The law works this way because legislatures don't have the relevant expertise on every detail of how things should work. Members of Congress may know that they don't want people importing unsafe children's toys from China, but they don't know what the safe lead level is or how small a moving part can be before it presents a choking hazard, so they just say "no unsafe toys," and then instruct agencies who can do research and figure out the details to create rules about what is and isn't allowed.

Bottom line, you are wrong. If the Civil Rights Commission has a rule covering this situation, that rule has the force of law. It is not "suggested," it is the law, just as if the legislature had passed a statute saying "you have to let trans kids use the bathroom that matches their self-identified genders." So if the Civil Rights Commission has a rule that requires public schools to allow people to use gender-segregated facilities consisted with their gender identity, and it appears that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission does have such a rule, then what the school is doing would be illegal.
posted by decathecting at 10:16 AM on February 28, 2013 [15 favorites]


I appreciate your IANAL insight on Colorado's civil rights law. Do you have an actual link to your quoted text? I can't seem to find it on Google, and it would strengthen your argument if you linked to the definitive source. Bottom line, it is yet to be determined if Eagleside's actions were illegal.
posted by foot at 10:34 AM on February 28, 2013


Here?
posted by Drinky Die at 10:41 AM on February 28, 2013


Geesh, facts suck, don't they?
posted by ericb at 10:45 AM on February 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


I did cite a definitive source, the statute itself. You can find the text by googling the statute by number. But here it is for you, § 24-34-305.

Yes, in some sense, it is "yet to be determined" whether the school's actions were illegal, in the same way that if I were to admit to having murdered someone in cold blood for no reason, and all of the evidence were consistent with my having committed such a murder, but I had not yet had a trial, it would be "yet to be determined" whether I had broken the law. If you were a juror in my case, I would really appreciate the fact that you are willing to withhold judgment until the end of my trial and maintain that my actions were yet to be proven. However, I think that we as lay people would feel pretty comfortable under such circumstances saying that I had done something illegal, given that all of the available evidence supported such a conclusion and that I myself had admitted that I committed the crime.

Here, the law prohibits an educational institution from refusing, directly or indirectly, to allow a person to use a gender-segregated facility consistent with her gender identity. Eagleside, which is an educational institution, has refused to allow Coy, who is a person, to use a gender-segregated bathroom, which is a facility, consistent with her gender identity, which is female. I feel pretty comfortable as a lay person saying that they are doing something illegal.
posted by decathecting at 10:45 AM on February 28, 2013 [11 favorites]


Oh, and if you'd like to read any other Colorado statutes, or read the relevant ones in their full context, LexisNexis has free, public access to all Colorado statutes, as well as court rules and the state and federal constitutions.
posted by decathecting at 10:49 AM on February 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think it's willfully ignorant to deny that public school restrooms are, and will continue to be, segregated by sex and not by gender identity.

Someone in the past probably said something much the same with regards to the status quo and lunch counters or water fountains (and restrooms actually).

Something like this perhaps: I think it's willfully ignorant to deny that lunch counters, water fountains, and restrooms are, and will continue to be, segregated by race.
posted by RolandOfEld at 10:49 AM on February 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


If the Civil Rights Commission has a rule covering this situation, that rule has the force of law. It is not "suggested," it is the law, just as if the legislature had passed a statute saying "you have to let trans kids use the bathroom that matches their self-identified genders." So if the Civil Rights Commission has a rule that requires public schools to allow people to use gender-segregated facilities consisted with their gender identity, and it appears that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission does have such a rule, then what the school is doing would be illegal.

Right. But how does this work in practice? What is a trans kid (or person) and what does "self identified" mean in a legal context. We all know, or think we know, what it means in everyday practice.

I don’t see how there can be any option other than "anyone can use any restroom". Some here have stated that it’s obvious if someone with a penis is "presenting" or for example. But that’s a pretty ridiculous assertion. You can’t say anyone born with female parts can appear anyway they want and use the women’s room, but someone with a penis must wear a dress, or appear stereotypically female. Who decides if someone is sincere or "trans enough" to pass the test? Do you get an official Trans card? I don't know that having to have "pick a team" official sanction of the exact nature of your gender is what many are wanting.

My point has been that many here seem to think that there could be some kind of law that says "it’s cool if trans people use the restroom and mean people can’t stop them". That would be great, but that’s not really how things work, as far as I can tell. Laws are specific. What are the specifics?

"Anyone can use any restroom" is going to be OK with a minority of people, and not with many others. It’s not going to be OK with many people who would be fine with trans people sharing restrooms. What then? You could have 3 restrooms, but the cost of adding another restroom to every building in the country is completely out of the question.

I thought that would be an interesting discussion, but apparently that’s just me.
posted by bongo_x at 10:54 AM on February 28, 2013


Coy has state ID that indicates her gender is female. This information is right here in the thread.

There is also a lot of other information and links to same about what exactly a trans person in the U.S. has to do in order to be (legally) considered trans/other gender. Control-F for Frowner in particular, I think. But others have put in links and info as well. Please read the comments that already address your questions.
posted by rtha at 11:01 AM on February 28, 2013 [9 favorites]


I don’t see how there can be any option other than "anyone can use any restroom".

Then you should read the thread.
posted by Drinky Die at 11:01 AM on February 28, 2013 [5 favorites]


decathecting - thank you for the links. I appreciate your insight, and while I disagree that Eagleside did anything illegal based on my interpretation of the statutes, I understand the direction you and others are coming from.

RolandOfEld - I believe American society will always have an issue with individuals using bathrooms meant for the opposite sex. In my opinion, Coy's case will reinforce the widely-held belief that public school restrooms need to be segregated by sex, and not by gender identity.
posted by foot at 11:02 AM on February 28, 2013


I thought that would be an interesting discussion, but apparently that’s just me.

People have a hard time seeing 'discussion' of what one might consider basic dignities (pissing without shame and harassment, eg) as interesting. More infuriating. Threatening. Hurtful.

Just FYI.
posted by PMdixon at 11:03 AM on February 28, 2013 [8 favorites]


Right. But how does this work in practice? What is a trans kid (or person) and what does "self identified" mean in a legal context.

Luckily, the state of Colorado has answered that question as well.

"(A) The term “sexual orientation,” as defined in the Law, means a person's orientation toward heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality, transgender status or another person's perception thereof. (B) The term “transgender” means having a gender identity or gender expression that differs from societal expectations based on gender assigned at birth. (C) The term “gender identity” means an innate sense of one's own gender. (D) The term “gender expression” means external appearance, characteristics or behaviors typically associated with a specific gender." 3 Colo. Code Regs. 708-1.

So yes, a person gets to assert what gender he or she is based on his or her own "innate sense" of his or her own gender, and state law then prohibits discrimination against that person for his or her gender or for having a gender identity that is different from what other people think his or her gender identity should be.
posted by decathecting at 11:05 AM on February 28, 2013 [5 favorites]


"Anyone can use any restroom" is going to be OK with a minority of people, and not with many others.

Perhaps we could start by making it OK for a young, impressionable portion of our population that doesn't have a lot of gender-based baggage. Perhaps we could start teaching kids that it is OK in, say, elementary schools?
posted by Rock Steady at 11:05 AM on February 28, 2013 [6 favorites]


I believe American society will always have an issue with individuals using bathrooms meant for the opposite sex

Not trying to beat a dead horse, but you can apply the same logic I applied in my previous comment to your previous statement to your latest statement. I'll leave that as an exercise to the reader.

Do some people still wish we have segregated by race water fountains? I'm sure there are some, but thankfully they have been relegated to the fringes of the discussion where they belong.
posted by RolandOfEld at 11:06 AM on February 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


. Who decides if someone is sincere or "trans enough" to pass the test?

Dear oh dear, don't play dumber than you are just to win an argument.
posted by MartinWisse at 11:06 AM on February 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


ericb: "Geesh, facts suck, don't they?"

Hey, this thread is sorta fraught and maybe if people don't gloat it'd be more civil.
posted by boo_radley at 11:06 AM on February 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


Who really worries about whether or not some boy will pretend to be trans just to get a glimpse of the forbidden wonders of the girls bathroom if we allow this little girl to go to the toilet for the gender that's in her passport?

Other than to win a discussion on the interwebs that even if won, makes you look a douche, that is.
posted by MartinWisse at 11:09 AM on February 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


I disagree that Eagleside did anything illegal based on my interpretation of the statutes

May I ask you to articulate how you are interpreting the statutes, rules, and other applicable law to permit Eagleside's actions?
posted by decathecting at 11:09 AM on February 28, 2013


-MartinWisse

Are you just incapable of doing this without name calling and belittling? "Because I care so much" is not an excuse.
posted by bongo_x at 11:14 AM on February 28, 2013


People have a hard time seeing 'discussion' of what one might consider basic dignities (pissing without shame and harassment, eg) as interesting. More infuriating. Threatening. Hurtful.

Just jumping in to say that the reason you think that this discussion is interesting, and that people are being uncivil, is because none of this directly affects you in any hugely damaging or hugely beneficial way.

There are people on here, and in a lot of our lives, whom it does affect, very directly, up to and including their physical safety (all the comments about bathroom violence, for instance.) We find it hard to be dispassionate about something that could quite literally make the difference between life and death for a loved one. For me, I have a trans friend coming to visit soon. I live in the American South. There is no way, no way at all, that I can contemplate movement towards laws that will make her safer while she's here and not be upset that people are arguing against them as some kind of interesting intellectual exercise in what gender means under the law. This kind of legal protection could make the difference between my trans friend having me and the cops to back her up if she goes into the bathroom (or changing room, or clothing section, or anything else's that gendered) that's right for her gender, and having just me and no cops and both of us being beaten or in her case, quite possibly, killed.

The whole 'but it would be hard to do legally!' argument is hard for me to find sympathy with. I don't give a shit if it's gonna be hard to do legally. I don't give a shit if it makes you uncomfortable. I care about my friend coming out of a bathroom (or a bedroom, or a dark alley, or wherever) not in handcuffs, and even more importantly, alive.
posted by WidgetAlley at 11:16 AM on February 28, 2013 [21 favorites]


Again, I highly recommend watching the programs listed above about 6 y.o./11y.o. Jazz.
Barbara Walters interview with her and her family.

The program -- 'I Am Jazz -- A Family in Transition' -- Parts 1, 2, 3.
Listen to what Jazz, her family and specialists have to say about their lives. Watch how Jazz interacts with her friends, classmates and siblings.

Watching may help some move beyond the abstract and see, listen and 'meet' these people -- real flesh and blood, real challenges, real struggles and real joy.
posted by ericb at 11:17 AM on February 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


I believe American society will always have an issue with individuals using bathrooms meant for the opposite sex. In my opinion, Coy's case will reinforce the widely-held belief that public school restrooms need to be segregated by sex, and not by gender identity.

America for the most part very rarely becomes more intolerant over time. I don't know how you could watch how quickly the landscape on gay rights has changed and think basic conceptions of trans rights can't potentially be shaken up.

The artificial rules of society can be surprisingly fragile, a black President was something a lot of people thought wasn't possible. Maybe in the short term defending Coy will result in backlash, the backlash is there because of the fragility of the rules. It doesn't take too many people pushing past the barriers to have the whole house of cards fall apart. In civil rights, one person making one powerful stand really can sometimes change the world.

It will take massive amounts of work, but it's an achievable task. I am not saying this as an act of willful ignorance, I am saying it as a realistic observer of American politics and social change. I would encourage you to get on board and help, these kids need every hand they can get.
posted by Drinky Die at 11:17 AM on February 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


bongo_x: "Anyone can use any restroom" is going to be OK with a minority of people, and not with many others. It’s not going to be OK with many people who would be fine with trans people sharing restrooms. What then? You could have 3 restrooms, but the cost of adding another restroom to every building in the country is completely out of the question."

Well, let's look at how colleges across the US are handling the bathroom situation. (This is from a link I put in an earlier comment upthread.)
Because gender-diverse students are often subject to harassment and violence when using male- or female-specific campus restrooms, a rapidly growing number of colleges and universities are creating gender-neutral bathrooms, either through renovations or by simply changing the signs on single-stall male/female restrooms. Currently, more than 150 campuses have gender-neutral bathrooms, including Oberlin College, which has two gender-neutral bathrooms in its student union and at least one in every residence hall; the University of California, San Diego, which has changed male/female signs on 88 single-stall restrooms in campus buildings; and the New College of California, where all campus bathrooms are gender-neutral. Many of the colleges and universities with gender-neutral bathrooms, including New York University, Ohio University, UCLA, and the University of Colorado, Boulder, list the locations of these restrooms on their websites.

Along with developing gender-neutral restrooms, some institutions, such as American University, Kent State University, Ohio State University, the University of California, Santa Barbara, and Washington State University, have implemented or are in the process of implementing policies requiring that all extensively renovated and newly constructed buildings include at least one gender-neutral bathroom.

The University of Arizona has established a bathroom policy that affirms that individuals have the right to use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity. The statement is available at http://fp.arizona.edu/affirm/restroomaccess.htm.

posted by zarq at 11:17 AM on February 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, Gender Neutral Bathroom Resources from safe2pee.
posted by zarq at 11:20 AM on February 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


At birth, if the child has typical genitals, then those will be used to determine physical sex. If the child's later gender identity conflicts with that determination, then you can have the birth certificate amended (in a process that ranges from tiresome to tortuous depending on the state).

This seems like a pretty reasonable and non-contentious point. Would you say, foot, that it's reasonable for an adult to go back and have its birth certificate altered based on gender identity?

This is a part that I'm still curious about, so another serious question: if the sex of a child is usually a biological determination based on mostly visual cues (i.e., the doctor looks at the genitals of the child upon birth (or in an ultrasound), and declares that the child is a "boy" or "girl"), and gender is based upon a person's self identity, do the gender and the sex on the birth certificate have to match? For example, in Coy's case, since she identifies as a girl, but was determined upon birth to be a "boy" (or "male"), is the fact that she identifies as a "girl" enough to be able to change a birth certificate, when the determination of "male" or "female" on said birth certificate is not (at least originally) based upon gender? Or is it that the sex of a person (as identified on a birth certificate) is just as fluid as gender, and can be changed based purely upon preferred gender (or self identity), without regards to genitals, chromosomes, or other traditional cues used to determine sex?
posted by KillaSeal at 11:20 AM on February 28, 2013


Currently, more than 150 campuses have gender-neutral bathrooms

I went to a college that had coed dorms (which was another "oh no!" topic from decades ago) and coed restrooms which included shower facilities. It was very much no big deal and this was in the late 80s. Parents who had issues or people who felt they needed more personal privacy had the option of a single-occupancy bathroom at the end of the hall or they could opt to be on one of the single-sex halls or apartments or live off campus. I get that this seems weird for many people but they may not understand just how widespread gender neutral bathrooms already are in many parts of the US. I'd be curious to know what the trends are in other parts of the world.
posted by jessamyn at 11:21 AM on February 28, 2013 [6 favorites]


KillaSeal: "This is a part that I'm still curious about, so another serious question: if the sex of a child is usually a biological determination based on mostly visual cues (i.e., the doctor looks at the genitals of the child upon birth (or in an ultrasound), and declares that the child is a "boy" or "girl"), and gender is based upon a person's self identity, do the gender and the sex on the birth certificate have to match? For example, in Coy's case, since she identifies as a girl, but was determined upon birth to be a "boy" (or "male"), is the fact that she identifies as a "girl" enough to be able to change a birth certificate, when the determination of "male" or "female" on said birth certificate is not (at least originally) based upon gender? Or is it that the sex of a person (as identified on a birth certificate) is just as fluid as gender, and can be changed based purely upon preferred gender (or self identity), without regards to genitals, chromosomes, or other traditional cues used to determine sex?"

Some states (I don't know about all of them,) will alter your birth certificate if you have had a sex change operation. NY, NM, AZ and MN definitely do. In Minnesota (the first example I found through a Google search,) you need to "demonstrate to [a judge's] satisfaction, by documenting sex-correction surgery through a letter from their surgeon, that the sex information on their initial birth record is "incomplete, inaccurate, or false" and that the judge is authorized to order a correction."
posted by zarq at 11:24 AM on February 28, 2013


Are you just incapable of doing this without name calling and belittling?

Ehh. I don't think anything is gained by going over the same old ground of worrying about the hypothetical dangers that might evolve if we just let one trans person have a little dignity for once, with the same old people who didn't listen the first six dozen times the subject came up.

Do these concerns actually deserve to be taken seriously? Or are they just figleafs for people to defend the icky feeling they get thinking about trans people?

And of course, when you're doing all the little chin stroking hypothesing about the girl at the heart of this story, and as some have done, persist in calling her a boy and all that, but you sort of stay polite towards the people you're talking too, you're not actually engagin in polite conversation either.
posted by MartinWisse at 11:25 AM on February 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


As I mentioned earlier, Eagleside did not "directly or indirectly, to refuse, withhold from, or deny to an individual or a group, because of ... sexual orientation ... the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of a place of public accommodation." It appears that Coy had full and unfettered access to restroom facilities, even if it that meant using the nurse or faculty bathrooms.

It will take massive amounts of work, but it's an achievable task. I am not saying this as an act of willful ignorance, I am saying it as a realistic observer of American politics and social change. I would encourage you to get on board and help, these kids need every hand they can get.

Well put, and American politics and social change can go through some rather wild and unexpected permutations. Right now I think the pendulum is swinging very much towards a more socially liberal American society, but that pendulum will eventually swing back the other direction.
posted by foot at 11:26 AM on February 28, 2013


jessamyn: I went to a college that had coed dorms (which was another "oh no!" topic from decades ago) and coed restrooms which included shower facilities. It was very much no big deal and this was in the late 80s.

Me too, but mid-90s. When I transferred to a school that had strict mens/womens bathrooms, if felt strangely prudish.
posted by Rock Steady at 11:28 AM on February 28, 2013


For example, in Coy's case, since she identifies as a girl, but was determined upon birth to be a "boy" (or "male"), is the fact that she identifies as a "girl" enough to be able to change a birth certificate, when the determination of "male" or "female" on said birth certificate is not (at least originally) based upon gender?

Just identifying that way, no. Various states have various requirements, but in the ones that I'm familiar with, to get this changed, you usually have to first socially transition--you live as your preferred gender for a period of time, and, in this time, you change your name and see [doctors--requirements vary as to what sort and how often, as well as what, if any, medical intervention is required]. It's usually then required that you be on some sort of treatment plan--this, whatever it is, is worked out in conjunction with your physicians. In Coy's case, it's probably simply "let her live as a girl, and we'll talk about hormones when puberty starts looming".

After that, you need certification--some states require full-on surgical transition, up to and including genital reconstruction, others require that you be receiving medical care and have a treatment plan, others have lots of grey area. But you need some sort of Official Documentation From Medical Professionals that this is your deal, and that you're not, you know, crazy, and that you're not going to regret having done it, and that the new gender is in line with what you perceive your gender to be. (You also need this certification, generally speaking, for things like surgery.) At that point, you can get...something! Which, again, varies by state. Some states will let you change your driver's license at that point, but nothing else. (Thanks, Ohio!) Some states will go back and amend your original birth certificate to reflect the correct gender.

So to some extent, it's based upon self-identity, but you have to convince a lot of people of who your self is before you can get to that point.
posted by MeghanC at 11:28 AM on February 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


really, saying "all the other girls in the class can use THIS bathroom but you have to use THAT one" is not equal in any sense of the word.
posted by KathrynT at 11:30 AM on February 28, 2013 [7 favorites]


Thank you very much for clarifying, MeghanC.
posted by zarq at 11:31 AM on February 28, 2013


It appears that Coy had full and unfettered access to restroom facilities, even if it that meant using the nurse or faculty bathrooms.

That is irrelevant, because the Colorado Civil Rights Commission (which we've already established can make rules with the force of laws) says about schools:

Rule 81.11 on Gender-Segregated Facilities provides:
All covered entities shall allow individuals the use of
gender-segregated facilities that are consistent with their
gender identity. Gender-segregated facilities include, but
are not limited to, restrooms, locker rooms, dressing rooms,
and dormitories.


The school is a covered entity. Colorado considers her of the female gender under law. There is absolutely no leeway in this interpretation as it stands. I mean, you can disagree with Colorado's granting her the status of "female" if you want, but it doesn't actually matter, because we've already established that she's female for the purposes of Colorado law. So she gets access to the bathrooms legally. We can debate the morality and wisdom, but I have no freakin' clue why we're still talking about the law. It's perfectly clear.
posted by WidgetAlley at 11:35 AM on February 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


Foot, the "separate but equal" argument is one that's been pretty thoroughly debunked, if you look at American history at all. Allowing a child to use a separate, special bathroom, and that bathroom only, has clear precedents as Not Equal.

Also, re: swinging back towards conservationism: I suspect not, really. It's awfully hard to take rights away from people. The fight for trans and queer inclusive social rights is going to be a hard-fought one, but suggesting that in fifty years we'll be swinging back to the good old days when we didn't have all this LGBTQ-rights (which trans rights are a part of) is like someone in the sixties thinking that they're pretty sure that this new-fangled "desegregation" stuff won't last long.

It's arguably telling to look at polls about various queer issues--I'm thinking specifically of marriage, but I'm betting that you'd see the same pattern (if lower numbers) with trans issues. The people who oppose it the most are the baby boomers and people older than them. They are, demographically speaking, opposed go many pushes for gay rights. Drop down to gen x, and support goes up. Amongst millennials, support goes up even more. (Cite for all that.) I don't have easily available numbers on hand, but I'm going to bet that amongst the kids who are just now in middle or high school, the kids who'll be voting in the next five to ten years? I'm going to bet that the overwhelming majority of those kids don't give a single fuck about who marries a boy and who marries a girl.

Trans rights are, as evidenced by this thread, really clearly not at the same place that queer marriage is at, but I'd bet that in another fifteen years years, they'll be pretty close. Because much like the dreaded gays, trans people are pretty much...you know. Like people. And the vast, vast majority of them want nothing other than to live their lives, and to have friends, and a family, and a career, and to be respected for who they are. Which, I think people are slowly realising, isn't actually all that scary.
posted by MeghanC at 11:42 AM on February 28, 2013 [9 favorites]


Colorado considers her of the female gender under law. There is absolutely no leeway in this interpretation as it stands. I mean, you can disagree with Colorado's granting her the status of "female" if you want, but it doesn't actually matter, because we've already established that she's female for the purposes of Colorado law.

At this point, I don't think it's perfectly clear that the state of Coloradao recogonizes Coy as a female. Coy's passport and state ID denote that Coy is a female, yet that conflicts with Coy's offical birth certificate. Which of these documents carries more legal weight?
posted by foot at 11:43 AM on February 28, 2013


Here is an image of a Colorado birth certificate. Assuming that they haven't changed the format recently (and I can find no evidence that they have), the birth certificate says nothing about the person's gender. It only identifies them by sex. So there is no "conflict" between her birth certificate and any other document that might identify her gender as female, nor is there a "conflict" between her birth certificate and her self-stated gender identity.
posted by decathecting at 11:54 AM on February 28, 2013 [6 favorites]


Colorado will happily change her birth certificate as soon as she's old enough to get surgery. So they certainly don't consider the sex assigned at birth immutably weighty, and it's a pretty poor defense for discrimination under the law, especially since they let her update her passport and ID.

So you're saying... what? That they might rule she's not enough of a girl NOW, but that the second a scalpel is involved she's enough of a girl to have protection under CADA? I mean, I guess that's theoretically possible. Either way, your argument that the birth certificate might get the school out of this is, at best, a delaying tactic.
posted by WidgetAlley at 11:57 AM on February 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


And of course, when you're doing all the little chin stroking hypothesing about the girl at the heart of this story, and as some have done, persist in calling her a boy and all that, but you sort of stay polite towards the people you're talking too, you're not actually engagin in polite conversation either.

I really have no idea what you’re talking about. I haven’t called her a boy. I do sometimes stroke my chin and it isn’t very large.

I asked whether the answer to the problem would be unisex bathrooms or an official designation of ones gender, neither of which seems to me like it will satisfy enough people. I really don’t understand why that question would make anyone mad.

Or are they just figleafs for people to defend the icky feeling they get thinking about trans people?

I just don’t understand where you are getting this from and why you think it’s OK say that about me. It’s amazing how people justify their bad behavior with righteousness.

It’s OK, some subjects are just too highly charged and I was foolish for not knowing better. I’m gonna find some sort of cat video thing.
posted by bongo_x at 11:59 AM on February 28, 2013


I believe the Passport is considered the highest level of identity in the land. It verifies both a valid proof of citizenship and valid proof of identity. It also has a photograph, something a birth certificate does not.

A passport requires a birth certificate as a primary source of identification. The US government has seen the birth certificate, and still has issued the female identifier. She is female. Period, full stop.
posted by tittergrrl at 11:59 AM on February 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


official designation of ones gender,

she HAS an official designation of her gender!
posted by KathrynT at 12:00 PM on February 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


At this point, I don't think it's perfectly clear that the state of Coloradao recogonizes Coy as a female.

This was addressed in this comment:

"(A) The term “sexual orientation,” as defined in the Law, means a person's orientation toward heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality, transgender status or another person's perception thereof. (B) The term “transgender” means having a gender identity or gender expression that differs from societal expectations based on gender assigned at birth. (C) The term “gender identity” means an innate sense of one's own gender. (D) The term “gender expression” means external appearance, characteristics or behaviors typically associated with a specific gender." 3 Colo. Code Regs. 708-1.

So yes, a person gets to assert what gender he or she is based on his or her own "innate sense" of his or her own gender, and state law then prohibits discrimination against that person for his or her gender or for having a gender identity that is different from what other people think his or her gender identity should be.


From that linked code:

Rule 81.11 - Gender-Segregated Facilities

(A) Nothing in the Act prohibits segregation of facilities on the basis of gender.

(B) All covered entities shall allow individuals the use of gender-segregated facilities that are consistent with their gender identity. Gender-segregated facilities include, but are not limited to, restrooms, locker rooms, dressing rooms, and dormitories.

(C) In gender-segregated facilities where undressing in the presence of others occurs, covered entities shall make reasonable accommodations to allow access consistent with an individual’s gender identity.


Bold emphasis mine. Colorado has issued her official documents recognizing her gender.
posted by rtha at 12:04 PM on February 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


I went away for a while, but it looks like foot is still keen to die on this hill, so I may as well finish the thought I was having...

If you want to bury your head in the sand and pretend that a penis isn't a biological signifier of physical male identity, go right ahead. Coy was born with a penis and testicles, and that's why the "male" box was checked on the birth certificate.

I'm approaching this topic as a mature adult, and I expect you to do the same. You'll understand this if you want me to respect anything you write, even if I disagree with it.


Well, this is interesting. I hope it doesn't sound like bad faith to say that I am not wholly sure that having you respect anything I write is high up on my list of priorities. I mean, it would be nice, sure - who doesn't like to be respected? - but I have other, acculturated priorities which probably sit above it.

For example, I am acculturated to be disquieted when unusual interest is displayed in the genitalia of children in anything other than a wholly medical capacity - whether in this thread or in the school district's actions. I don't really understand why the school in this instance is taking an interest in the genitals of one of its students, for example, and I find it disturbing that a settled question like the legally recognized gender of a child is being reopened in this way, apparently for no very clear reason.

So, I'd like to understand how your assertion fits into that structure, but i'm afraid I have to risk that we are not going to respect each other's opinions, because I am already not feeling very comfortable with your goals and behavior in this thread. If you aim were merely to argue that the identification of a particular phenotype at birth is used as a guide to what to put on the birth certificate under "sex" ... well, that's obvious, and not really relevant to this particular situation, but fair enough.

However, a few hours down the line, it turns out that that this is not, looking at your ongoing conversation in the rest of the thread, what you are seeking to do. You are in fact specifically stating, apparently based on limited legal knowledge but some really solid conviction, that the statement made on the birth certificate, based on a doctor's assessment of the newborn's body, is the "true" and definitive statement of sex, and thus of gender - much as people's height, hair color and weight remain as they are described on the birth certificate, despite illusions to the contrary.)

And then I think that quite visceral feeling of creeped-out-ness is complemented by a further feeling of being creeped out by the way that, in these discussions, trans people's bodies are pathologized, and treated as abnormal objects used as speaker support for expressions of belief rather than as the physical extrusion of a human being.

With those elements in mind, I have a feeling that it's going to be quite hard for me to prioritize gaining your respect over expressing my ambivalence about your position and the way you are expressing it.
posted by running order squabble fest at 12:06 PM on February 28, 2013 [7 favorites]


"As I mentioned earlier, Eagleside did not "directly or indirectly, to refuse, withhold from, or deny to an individual or a group, because of ... sexual orientation ... the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of a place of public accommodation." It appears that Coy had full and unfettered access to restroom facilities, even if it that meant using the nurse or faculty bathrooms.

Except they did. You're entitled to your retrograde opinions, but you are not entitled to invent contrary meanings that go against the obvious and imminent reading of the law and administrative ruling. Your very statement here contradicts itself: You cannot have a full and unfettered access to equal facilities and accommodations if you have to go to a separate segregated place. This is impossible, and if you could let go of your focus on excluding a six-year-old girl from her legal and moral rights and instead think about it from her perspective for even a second, you'd understand what cruel and officious exercises your attempts to segregate her are.
posted by klangklangston at 12:08 PM on February 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


And then I think that quite visceral feeling of creeped-out-ness is complemented by a further feeling of being creeped out by the way that, in these discussions, trans people's bodies are pathologized, and treated as abnormal objects used as speaker support for expressions of belief rather than as the physical extrusion of a human being.

What does that even mean? You responded like an immature fool to my first comment, and I let you know that I don't respect that approach.

Not looking for your respect, and apparently that feeling is mutual. So here we are...
posted by foot at 12:10 PM on February 28, 2013


"I just don’t understand where you are getting this from and why you think it’s OK say that about me. It’s amazing how people justify their bad behavior with righteousness."

Because your very first comment in the thread is a tendentious appeal to a hypothetical harm over the interests of a six-year-old girl while declaiming that this isn't the place to argue gender politics.

I am sorry that your feelings are hurt when people tell you that you are full of shit, but unfortunately, the best remedy is for you to stop being full of shit.
posted by klangklangston at 12:11 PM on February 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


I believe the Passport is considered the highest level of identity in the land. It verifies both a valid proof of citizenship and valid proof of identity. It also has a photograph, something a birth certificate does not.

Umm... yeah, this is nonsense. Fortunately, the law here specifically talks about gender identity, which Coy has abundant evidence regarding hers.
posted by hoyland at 12:11 PM on February 28, 2013


That said, I've enjoyed the discussion so far and will be watching closely as Coy's case unfolds in the courts. Thank you all.
posted by foot at 12:16 PM on February 28, 2013


hoyland: I have no idea if it is truly the highest form of identification or not, but it does take into account birth certificate, and does prove both citizenship and identity, which I believe no other ID does. It also takes into account gender identity... the gender identity they choose to be known as.

I'm just stating that in the eyes of the law, that she is female. We're all on the same page.

EDIT: Er I mean for all countries. I doubt another country will accept a georgia ID, but will accept a US passport. Again, I dunno. But I was just using it as proof of her femaleness.
posted by tittergrrl at 12:17 PM on February 28, 2013


If my genitalia were suddenly swapped for the opposite sex's my reaction would be "ew ew ew, get it off me, get it off!"

No offense, guys. Male genitalia can be fun, but I do not wish to wear them.

Poor kid.
posted by caryatid at 12:17 PM on February 28, 2013


I think a lot of concern for the other children comes from a place of wanting to appear compassionate while, well, pissing, on the rights of one specific child.

It's not actually helping ANY children - certainly not Coy - and not her classmates who didn't know she was different from the other girls. It's not only harming Coy in the sense of making her feel Othered, but it's opening her up to all kinds of bullying for being different. I have trouble wishing that upon any kid, especially trans kids who are more likely to be bullied anyway, in the name of protecting some hypothetical population of kids from hypothetical uncomfortable situations.

It also harms other kids who are taught that trans people are people they need to be protected from. How are they going to learn to respect trans rights and be compassionate to people who may present gender differently if we as adults police who is and isn't "really" their gender?
posted by sonika at 12:23 PM on February 28, 2013 [11 favorites]


So there is no "conflict" between her birth certificate and any other document that might identify her gender as female, nor is there a "conflict" between her birth certificate and her self-stated gender identity.

decathecting, do we know if Coy's state ID and passport refer to sex, or to gender? I just checked my passport and my driver's license, and they both say "sex". So if Coy's birth certificate shows the "sex" as male, but the state ID show the "sex" as female, wouldn't that be a conflict? Or would you say that part of the problem is that these terms have been used interchangeably (in a legal sense) for so long, that now it gets a little confusing when trying to separate them?
posted by KillaSeal at 12:24 PM on February 28, 2013


Or would you say that part of the problem is that these terms have been used interchangeably (in a legal sense) for so long, that now it gets a little confusing when trying to separate them?

this. My driver's license says "sex: F" too; so do the drivers' licenses of both the transwomen I know.
posted by KathrynT at 12:29 PM on February 28, 2013


I asked whether the answer to the problem would be unisex bathrooms or an official designation of ones gender, neither of which seems to me like it will satisfy enough people. I really don’t understand why that question would make anyone mad.

How many is "enough"? I have both official documents from birth certificate on up and official...biological bits that identify me as female, and yet because I am sometimes read as male, I get challenged when I go into women's bathrooms. Should I grow my hair long again?* Wear skirts and shave my legs? Grow my C/D-cup boobs more? What more should I do in order to satisfy whatever number of people counts as enough for you?

* Having long hair did not prevent people from thinking I was trying to "pass" as male and calling me names and threatening me. People are weird.
posted by rtha at 12:30 PM on February 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


KillaSeal, I was pretty careful in my comment to say that there's no conflict between one document that says that her sex is male and another document that says that her gender is female. I have no idea whether there exist documents that say that her sex is female. And many states do conflate the two, as you say. Fortunately, Colorado does not seem to be one of those states. Colorado anti-discrimination law protects both sex and gender identity, in separate parts of the law, recognizing that the two may not always be the same thing. So no matter what Coy's birth certificate (or any other document) says about her sex, if her gender identity, based on her own innate sense of her gender, is female, she is entitled to access female facilities. The fact that she has government-issued documents and doctor's notes and a long history to back up her self-stated gender identity is just icing on the cake.
posted by decathecting at 12:31 PM on February 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


decathecting, do we know if Coy's state ID and passport refer to sex, or to gender? I just checked my passport and my driver's license, and they both say "sex". So if Coy's birth certificate shows the "sex" as male, but the state ID show the "sex" as female, wouldn't that be a conflict?

Sure, and it's a conflict many trans people deal with. The classic example is Ohio, which refuses to change birth certificates (definitely gender and I think name), but where it's not too hard to change your driver's license. That's within a single state. Now imagine the mess that ensues when multiple federal and state gender markers are involved. Basically, there's no notion of "legal" sex or gender in a lot of places, but it's not an issue for cis people.
posted by hoyland at 12:49 PM on February 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


Or would you say that part of the problem is that these terms have been used interchangeably (in a legal sense) for so long, that now it gets a little confusing when trying to separate them?

This, definitely this, and not only is it wrong in a scientific sense, it's kind of illogical in a common-sense way too.

So, my sociology classes have always defined "gender" as something that is entirely socially constructed. We use physical things that are generally sexual or secondary sexual characteristics as markers of gender -- breasts, hips, genitalia, beards, etc.-- but when we interact with these physical characteristics, we are usually only doing so in a way that enhances gender performance: push-up bras for women, groomed beards for men. But breasts and hips and beards and genitals in themselves are not gender. Gender is social cues, roles, performances, and identity, both self-identity and the identity that society(ies) give you. Because these are very visible, they have been talked about in such a way as to develop many categories. Hence transvestite, transgender, genderqueer, boi, qurl, male, female, and all the rest.

Now, sex is different. Sex is still not a binary category, even though we usually think of it as such. But it is your physical characteristics. So your breasts, hips, hormones, chromosomes, all of those compile into this aggregate of current biological facts that makes up what most scientists would call your "sex". Sex is tied to reproductive function, but it's not reproductive function. Sex is tied to chromosomes, but it's not just chromosomes. As a matter of fact, sex, when you start to think about it, is just as nebulous a term as "gender", which is why we have all these discussions about like, "What if you were XXY? What if your penis were cut off?" Really, when we say sex, we are talking about is your primary/secondary sexual characteristics, your hormones, your genetics, and this huge pile of other stuff. Because these are usually less visible than what we do with them (for instance, we might notice someone wearing a pushup bra and think, "Girl!", but you haven't actually seen her breasts, so you don't actually know if they are padding or were put there surgically or happened at puberty or whatever-- so you're judging on gender, not on sex), we don't have the same diversity of words to encompass people who don't necessarily fit the neat binary boxes of "male" and "female" sexed. Because of that, people get really tangled up talking about the difference between intersexed and transgender and everything else and sex and gender become used interchangeably, including by the government. We're still really struggling with how to talk about things like sex and gender and where they intersect and where they end. New terms are used and discarded and picked up again all the time.

But really, if you think about it, the government has no interest in your sex. They don't test you for hormone levels and chromosomes. The only point they ever give do any sex testing at all is just to look at your genitalia at birth and as we've already established, genitalia is just one component that makes up sex. And then they fit you into a binary box that also makes no sense based on one component of a huge complex system. That's the last they ever care about your physical sexual characteristics, really.

But they care a lot about your gender, even if they say sex. When they ask you your sex on your driver's license and passport, it's not so that they can test your chromosomes and make sure you have the correct genitalia every time you get pulled over for a speeding ticket or go through customs. They want to make sure they can identify you correctly based on how you look and behave and self-identify. If you murder a bunch of people, they want to make sure they're looking for a 5'7" white woman instead of a 5'7" white man, because those two phrases imply such differences in appearance (which, again, gender performance, not sex. If you're looking for someone with boobs, it doesn't matter whether they were born with them or not. You're just looking for someone with boobs.) So really, all those boxes on your passport and ID should say, gender, not sex.

But the government does not hire social scientists to deal with things like this very often. Hence, possibly, all the confusion.
posted by WidgetAlley at 12:56 PM on February 28, 2013 [21 favorites]


In fact, now that I really think about it, the only place that sex ever really matters is in the context of health and (possibly) intimate sexual relationships. Doctors should know if you have an unusual arrangement of chromosomes, for instance, or if you're trying to get pregnant and it's not working and they find out it's because you don't have a uterus. Likewise if you have ambiguous genitalia, it would certainly be polite to mention that to a sexual partner before taking off your pants. If your parents are concerned about your sexual characteristics when you're born, they can talk to the doctors.

Otherwise, honest to God, I don't see that it's anyone else's business what sex you are, including the government's. We don't arrange our societies by sex and we never have, that I know of. It's always been about gender. Sometimes that gender is tied to a specific primary or sexual sexual characteristic, but that's hardly a good enough test to say we're judging by sex. ("It's turtles gender all the way down!")
posted by WidgetAlley at 1:01 PM on February 28, 2013 [5 favorites]


What does that even mean?

In the simplest terms available?

Hypothesis: some people in this thread might have been less eager about focussing in on and discussing the genitals of a cisgendered child

Basis of hypothesis: experience of the way trans people's bodies are often treated by people seeking to prove their deviancy or abnormality.
posted by running order squabble fest at 1:06 PM on February 28, 2013


Maybe it would be illustrative to make a list of all the gender markers I can think of:
-driver's license
-passport
-birth certificate
-Social Security
-health insurance
-Selective Service
-my university transcript (WTF? But there is one)
-the VA, when applicable (they can ban trans people from the military, but they can't stop veterans coming out)

I'm sure I missed some. But all of these places are going to have different, possibly arcane rules about changing your gender marker, if they let you do it at all. They're often going to want money to change it, possibly a fair bit of money in the case of something like your passport. No one is going to manage to change them all simultaneously, not least because you have to physically go to the DMV. The only reason there aren't people walking around with more than two gender markers is because the US only has two gender markers available (I want to say Nepal officially has a third gender and some countries will issue a passport with an X in the gender space). Else people would be liable to end up with 17 things all disagreeing.
posted by hoyland at 1:06 PM on February 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think I understand it better now, Decathecting and KathrynT. Thanks for clarifying.

My new opinion on this is that the bathroom issue is a gender issue, and since Coy's gender is "girl", she should be able to (and will probably win the legal right) to use the girl's bathroom. Also, while's Coy's birth certificate, state ID, and passport may or may not have the same letter under the "sex" column, I think that in the end, the issue of "gender identity" (and not "sex", as determined by legal documentation) will be the deciding issue in this particular case.

BTW, I started to discuss the particulars of this case with some of my colleagues at work, and the funny part is, most of them think it's a really simple issue. Maybe I'll convert some of them into MeFites, or at least get them to read this thread...I can't speak for others, but I have found it very, very, very, very, eye-opening and educational.
posted by KillaSeal at 1:07 PM on February 28, 2013 [26 favorites]


I started to discuss the particulars of this case with some of my colleagues at work, and the funny part is, most of them think it's a really simple issue.

Well, they're right, it is a simple issue when you stick to the particulars of a little girl not being allowed to use the girl's bathroom because her school has some unfounded fears about it maybe causing problems, when the law says, that actually, they cannot do that.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:27 PM on February 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


For what it's worth, those of you feeling discouraged here, I'm happy you're keeping on in this thread. I'm learning quite a lot.

jb, particularly, thanks for this comment, which clears up a lot of confusion I had about how to relate my own (mostly arbitrary) sense of identity to these bigger issues.
posted by cmyk at 1:30 PM on February 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


Identifying a pupil as transgender isn't a "one day" assessment. Children aren't simply allowed to use a bathroom designated for the opposite gender in a school immediately just because they suddenly announce they are transgender. That could conceivably open the institution up to lawsuits.

All schools have private bathrooms. The child will generally be allowed to use them or one that is designated for use by transgender individuals until the school can make a formal determination how the child's needs will be handled.


zarq and hoyland, who both suggested some version of this: that sounds reasonable to me: the school offers an intermediary alternative (nurses's bathroom/transgender bathroom) until they make a formal determination. It weeds out the people who would want to try to abuse the system, because those people are not going to have the dedication to try to live one way just for it. (Let me just say however that I find the constant lowering of the concern of, say, teenage boys trying to get into the girls' bathroom to sexually harass them as a "prank", implication: harmless, kind of bothersome as well)

But at the same time, isn't this what happened with Coy, albeit on a more long-term scale, and there's a lot of talk in this thread about how having her use the nurses' bathroom instead of the girl's bathroom was really damaging. So I'd just like to hear from other people: would people find that this sort of thing, while the schools investigate, would be appropriate?

Also, sidenote to MartinWisse: When you are talking about people on the thread, you are conflating all of us into one, when we do not all share the same characteristics or misgendering. It seems kind of jerkish.
posted by corb at 1:38 PM on February 28, 2013


"My new opinion on this is that the bathroom issue is a gender issue, and since Coy's gender is "girl", she should be able to (and will probably win the legal right) to use the girl's bathroom."

Welcome to the right side of history, man.

Can I ask, out of curiosity, if you can think of specific phrases or quotes that helped change your mind? Or that helped change your coworkers' minds? Believe it or not, not all of my interactions are as churlish as the ones here, and I'm interested in figuring out what bits work best in making the issue sympathetic and clear.
posted by klangklangston at 1:44 PM on February 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


Hate Group Leader: Massachusetts’ Pro-Transgender Schools Are Like Nazi Camps
"When you talk to some of these ex-trangenders, the horrible things that it does to them is just astounding. It’s insanity.

A boy cannot change his sex. Your DNA does not change. And you can call yourself something different, you can dress differently, you can take hormones, you are always a boy.

And these school administrators, you know, you think of them as like the Nazi concentration camp guards must have been like, where they’re doing this horrible evil, and, you know, they’re just taking orders or something… they believe in it.

And people need to rise up because it’s only going to get worse.”
posted by ericb at 1:47 PM on February 28, 2013


So I'd just like to hear from other people: would people find that this sort of thing, while the schools investigate, would be appropriate?

I wouldn't. It makes it blatantly obvious that Coy is different from her peers, and it doesn't meet the standards required by law. She's already jumped through a lot of hoops to document her gender identity, that should be sufficient.
posted by KathrynT at 1:48 PM on February 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


"It weeds out the people who would want to try to abuse the system, because those people are not going to have the dedication to try to live one way just for it. (Let me just say however that I find the constant lowering of the concern of, say, teenage boys trying to get into the girls' bathroom to sexually harass them as a "prank", implication: harmless, kind of bothersome as well)"

There is a recurring fixation on "abuse" of systems by folks of a more conservative mindset, and that fixation often overwhelms their ability to understand that the good outweighs the bad (and that we have fairly decent systems already set up to catch abuse). You see this with welfare and health care, but even here, on whether or not a six-year-old girl should be able to use the girl's bathroom.

I'm not saying that we should be naive about abuse, or discount it entirely. Just that it's so often used as a justification for maintaining systems that do actual harm to people — whether poor, or people of color, or LGBT — that it unduly dominates discussion and gets in the way of making actual progress to alleviate that harm. When it's based on fairly hypothetical or improbable or just irrational fears, it's even more frustrating.

I know that the way to get through that is to overcome fear with reflection, but there are just so many times where that reflection and correction is offered and ignored, that it becomes impossible to treat these concerns as legitimate and not as a justification for continuing to harm people because something, somewhere might abuse the system. It's irrational and has a real cost.
posted by klangklangston at 1:51 PM on February 28, 2013 [28 favorites]


(Let me just say however that I find the constant lowering of the concern of, say, teenage boys trying to get into the girls' bathroom to sexually harass them as a "prank", implication: harmless, kind of bothersome as well)

The thing is, is teenage boys can already do this if they want to without pretending to be trans, and there are already rules and laws in place to address harassment, no matter the gender of the person who is doing the harassing. People are dismissive of this "teenage boy pretending to be trans in order to harass girls in a bathroom" because it is a boogieman.
posted by rtha at 1:52 PM on February 28, 2013 [11 favorites]


I've been reading this thread all day. I always find transgender discussions very helpful and interesting on Metafilter.

The discussions always remind me of any discussion of privilege. I'm a minority (Indian American) woman in the US, and it frustrates me when internet discussions or even real life ones sort of position me as inherently unprivileged because of that, even if it's well meaning. I feel like it removes some of my power to speak from the position of privilege, which is something I can do.

I think privilege is layered, and I have a TON of privilege actually, despite some of the inherent disadvantages of not being male or white. I'm straight, my BMI is in the normal range, I am able bodied, I grew up upper middle class and know all the social/cultural touchpoints of that group, I have a college education, I am a member of a minority group that is usually stereotyped as hard working, affluent, and educated, rather than groups that are unfairly stereotyped with more negative associations. I'm also cisgendered.

In the practical sense, I fully believe Coy is female and should be allowed to use the girls' restroom, because she is a girl, end of story. I don't need to do any math or rationalization in this particular context because she identifies as a girl, she is happiest as a girl, she is a girl and that's it.

However, the larger issue of gender identity is terribly confusing to me the way it's interpreted in terms of transgender people, because I equate gender identity and presentation as so closely tied to social pressure and norms that I can't understand how to reconcile that someone could feel biologically like a woman/girl/female or the opposite without having that social pressure, entirely constructed as it is by society, entering strongly into it. It seems like it would follow that people who identify as women, born that way or not, have some genetic/biological preference for skirts, shopping, and pink, and that's something I (and a lot of people in this thread I'm sure) would reject.

HOWEVER. Because of my cisgendered privilege, I feel like it doesn't really matter that I don't get that as long as I am appropriately supportive of the cause.
It's like when I read a thread about women's issues and some guy or sometimes even a woman who isn't really tapped into these issues or somehow doesn't notice them strolls in with a casual "Hey just spitballin' here but maybe there is no real patriarchal privilege in this scenario because --xyz." They're just tourists in the issue, not people who are living with it every day.
I can think about transgender issues when there is a thread about them or when talking to a few friends who have gone through this, and then forget about it the rest of the time. I can find the conversation "interesting" and work on the things I continue to not fully understand. But I'm not living with it the way Coy does and the way many people in this thread are.
posted by sweetkid at 1:52 PM on February 28, 2013 [11 favorites]


the constant lowering of the concern of, say, teenage boys trying to get into the girls' bathroom to sexually harass them as a "prank",

I referred to it as a prank once we got to the point where the potential behavior described was literally nothing more than standing in the bathroom washing hands.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:52 PM on February 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


"And these school administrators, you know, you think of them as like the Nazi concentration camp guards must have been like, where they’re doing this horrible evil, and, you know, they’re just taking orders or something… they believe in it."

Yes, Nazi concentration camps were well known for their acceptance and nurturing of transgender folks. That's pretty much the number one characteristic they had.
posted by klangklangston at 1:53 PM on February 28, 2013 [12 favorites]


I'm not saying that we should be naive about abuse, or discount it entirely. Just that it's so often used as a justification for maintaining systems that do actual harm to people — whether poor, or people of color, or LGBT — that it unduly dominates discussion and gets in the way of making actual progress to alleviate that harm. When it's based on fairly hypothetical or improbable or just irrational fears, it's even more frustrating.

I know that the way to get through that is to overcome fear with reflection, but there are just so many times where that reflection and correction is offered and ignored, that it becomes impossible to treat these concerns as legitimate and not as a justification for continuing to harm people because something, somewhere might abuse the system. It's irrational and has a real cost.


Klangklangston, I do understand that logic, because honestly, that's how I feel about gun rights and some other rights - which is why I said that I can really understand the feeling on both sides. I feel like I have been in your position - really frustrated with people who are insistent on talking about edge cases that are statistically improbable instead of what feels like a lot of people who are suffering harm. I'm not mentioning this so we can fight that issue out - there's a thread for that - but just to say, I do get where you're coming from.

That said, I'd ask that you'd consider that reflection and correction is in the eye of the beholder. There are times when I try to offer reflection and correction, and it's shot down pretty hard. There are times when you try to offer reflection and correction, and it's the same. And maybe that's bad - maybe everyone needs to take more breaths and try to think about stuff. But I don't think it's going to happen when we yell at each other, or assume that because someone isn't or hasn't listened, they're arguing in bad faith or that their concerns are illegitimate.
posted by corb at 1:59 PM on February 28, 2013


I get challenged when I go into women's bathrooms. Should I grow my hair long again?

Maybe it'd help if you lost the goatee! ; )
posted by ericb at 2:02 PM on February 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Dude, I am so not that hipster, despite living in the Mission and owning more than one fedora!

(And while my leg hair is a luxuriant forest that would require a lawn mower to cut back at this point, the hair on my face is pretty minimal and I wouldn't be able to grow more without medical intervention!)
posted by rtha at 2:11 PM on February 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Klangklangston, here's one thing that really swayed me...this is what rtha posted:

From that linked code:

Rule 81.11 - Gender-Segregated Facilities

(A) Nothing in the Act prohibits segregation of facilities on the basis of gender.

(B) All covered entities shall allow individuals the use of gender-segregated facilities that are consistent with their gender identity. Gender-segregated facilities include, but are not limited to, restrooms, locker rooms, dressing rooms, and dormitories.


Another thing is remembering that at the end of the day, Coy (or anyone else) is still a human being that deserves to be treated with a certain basic level of dignity and respect. Sometimes it's easy to lose sight of that, and get caught up in hypotheticals and legal definitions and other crazy (or sometimes not so crazy) stuff. Reading some of the comments, stories, and personal experiences has helped me to regain sight of "the big picture", so to speak.

It's hard for me to go back and pinpoint exact quotes in this thread (it's a long thread), and I haven't exactly convinced any of my colleagues on anything, because some of them make almost identical statements to what's been posted here (the child is only six, using a separate-but-equal bathroom is OK, how can a six year old be sure about this, etc.) But I did notice that when I started talking about choice of pronouns for transgendered people, and how biological sex and gender identity can be (or are) two different things, and how the parents have been thoroughly involved from the beginning, then I noticed that everyone suddenly got quiet...almost as if they were, you know...thinking.

I also tried putting the issue into the terms of "so if Coy was your child, your telling me that..." Putting it in those terms stopped one of my colleagues cold, so maybe that's another way to get your point accross.
posted by KillaSeal at 2:23 PM on February 28, 2013 [55 favorites]


KillaSeal, that was amazing. Thank you.
posted by KathrynT at 2:24 PM on February 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


sweetkid - i think i used to have that stumbling block. like jb discusses above, i'm genderqueer and so my gender presentation has always felt off and dictated by external pressures. well, mostly external pressures - i first started researching trans* issues when (forgive my bluntness) i started reaching for my (non existent) cock when masturbating or dreaming about sex. i'm super cis-gendered in presentation these days - long hair, wide hips, big boobs, dainty hands - and i'm a little overweight so all of those characteristics are even more rounded and feminine seeming - but it's still a struggle some days because it all feels so artificial at times. i know sliding more masculine or androgynous feels just as artificial to me (because i've worn those costumes for days/weeks/months at a time), so i do the thing that seems the easiest.

but, that's all just about me. i know i don't feel a particular gender more than another (or, more accurately, which gender i feel more aligned with changes). i also recognize that this isn't the same for everyone. sort of how i know i'm pansexual but allow for others to be rigidly straight or gay without thinking it's just because society forces them to pick a side.

i think i found it helpful when i first started unpacking my assumptions about trans* issues to think about intersex people (i had a very patient and wonderful friend who was intersex and would answer my questions). there is so many (horrifying) stories of people being born with ambiguous genitalia and having it "fixed" and never letting the kid know that there something different. parents were strongly instructed to pick a sex/gender and to reinforce it. so many of those kids knew something was wrong. it wasn't that they wanted to play with dolls but they only were given trucks - this was gaslighting on a grand scale.

now, if you accept that intersex people exist and that they can feel their forced gender presentation doesn't match who they are, it seems a small leap to realize that for some people the parts we can see might say one thing while the brain is sending different signals.

there are many external gender things that are reinforced and it's good to fight against them on a grand scale - that not all women have long hair or wear makeup or love shopping - but it's not very useful to say women can't have long hair or wear makeup or love shopping, or that the only reason those things are done is to please the patriarchy. fighting against forced femininity or forced masculinity will hopefully allow more variation in gender presentation - but even then we'll have people who are trans* who say, my gender doesn't match my born sex - not related to shoes or clothes or anything - just because that is who i am.

thank you for your comment and being so open about your own hiccups in the conversation. i love your last paragraph about being a tourist. that is one of the most useful things for people of any particular privilege to realize, that an intellectual argument for some is deeply personal to others.
posted by nadawi at 2:44 PM on February 28, 2013 [9 favorites]


MartinWisse: When you are talking about people on the thread, you are conflating all of us into one, when we do not all share the same characteristics or misgendering. It seems kind of jerkish.

I think I can live with that. There's no point in getting into every esoteric reason or bad faith argument about why this six year old girl should be denied the right to pee in the correct bathroom. That's giving these arguments far more credit than they deserve.

But never fear, if you feel that the shoe fits, there's hope for you. At least you realise you're wrong. That's the way progress can also be made.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:44 PM on February 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Another thing is remembering that at the end of the day, Coy (or anyone else) is still a human being that deserves to be treated with a certain basic level of dignity and respect.

So much this. Some of us get wicked hot under the collar in discussions like this one because it is not just an intellectual exercise, and it's not a hypothetical, and it's not just bullshitting on the internet like we do about, I dunno, what's going to happen in a future season of GoT or when exactly the Simpsons jumped the shark.

This is our lives, or the lives of people we know and love. We have been harassed and threatened, assaulted, killed. We've been shamed out of using bathrooms, we've been yelled at by strangers on the street. We are denied compassionate medical care.

So yeah. We get frustrated when people treat this as a "but have you ever really looked at your hand??!" issue, and when some hypothetical edge case gets dragged out again and again and again while actual, completely non-hypothetical, non-edge cases are ignored because they happen to us.
posted by rtha at 2:45 PM on February 28, 2013 [24 favorites]


In the end all objections towards letting her pee where all other girls do come down to a simple preference for avoiding hypothetical future problems to cis people over avoiding actually existing harm to trans people.

In this case, the idea that it's better for Coy to be treated differently from every other girl in the school, to avoid problems that might happen later if she is allowed to go to the girls' bathroom like every other girl.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:51 PM on February 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


It's hard for me to go back and pinpoint exact quotes in this thread (it's a long thread), and I haven't exactly convinced any of my colleagues on anything, because some of them make almost identical statements to what's been posted here (the child is only six, using a separate-but-equal bathroom is OK, how can a six year old be sure about this, etc.)

I want to point out that you totally convinced your colleagues of something because you showed them that it's okay for a non-trans person to stand up for trans people. Just saying "So these people on the internet really made me think about this and how I'm thinking about this is evolving as I learn" is a big deal. It's likely no one in your workplace has ever done that before.
posted by hoyland at 3:05 PM on February 28, 2013 [20 favorites]


I equate gender identity and presentation as so closely tied to social pressure and norms that I can't understand how to reconcile that someone could feel biologically like a woman/girl/female or the opposite without having that social pressure, entirely constructed as it is by society, entering strongly into it. It seems like it would follow that people who identify as women, born that way or not, have some genetic/biological preference for skirts, shopping, and pink, and that's something I (and a lot of people in this thread I'm sure) would reject.

It is very interesting. It's quite clear that the deep-down feeling that one is female isn't just "I love "girl stuff" and hate "boy stuff" therefore I must be female." So there must be many trans women out there - just like there are many cis women - who are repelled and disgusted by "girl stuff." Dresses, which I cried when forced into as a child. Makeup. Dolls. Pink. Sparkles. There must be many, just like many cis women, who are disgusted by the idea that because they are women they should act or carry themselves in a "girly" way.

I would be incredibly fascinated to hear from those trans women. There's gotta be some kind of writing out there, there must be many women who feel this way.
posted by cairdeas at 4:04 PM on February 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


i can't off the top of my head point you to any of these things, but yes, there are lots of writing about feminine (or masculine) performance from the perspective of people who are trans who don't feel the need to perform it quite so hard. i know that reading those things helped me see how for some (many) their performance is partially or wholly a safety thing. as you can see in threads like these, people have all sorts of weird hurdles that trans or non-gender conforming people have to hit and not hitting enough of them can be very dangerous indeed. it can add an extra layer of pressure for people who are constantly trying to figure out if their day will include an assault of some kind. sometimes these conversations are within conversations about "passing" (a powder keg of a topic that i'm not trying to kick off here - just trying to give you an idea of what to search for).
posted by nadawi at 4:16 PM on February 28, 2013


You may be interested in Julia Serano's book Whipping Girl.
posted by gingerbeer at 4:27 PM on February 28, 2013 [6 favorites]


Yes, Whipping Girl.
posted by librarina at 4:36 PM on February 28, 2013


Cairdeas - I am one of those non-girly trans women.

As a feminist, I think it's kind of presumptuous to present as if high-heels and makeup and sparkles and bows really are femininity. Certainly I think all humans have a right to present as they wish, but in my case I'd rather not take on the trappings of stereotypical femininity.

In addition, I find that if I leave the house dressed like cis women my age (mid 30's) I am subject to a lot more random street violence than if I leave in jeans, combat boots, and spiked accessories.

Lastly, I like being androgynous - it just plain suits me. Perhaps it was coming of age during the time of the riot grrl movement, but I like pairing combat boots with skirts and generally being a little punk, a little threatening, and a little sweet. Part of that is personal preference, part of that is to ease street violence, and part of it is to give off a bit of a threat signal to potential attackers, of which there are many in the American Midwest.

As for bathrooms, there is never a good choice for me. I dj at a few clubs in my city, and always have issues when it comes time to pee. I've been subjected to violence and creepy come-ons in mens bathrooms, and am terrified to use womens' bathrooms - to the point where I'll bring along cis friends if I have to pee.

Most nights I wind up holding it until I get home because there is no good answer.
posted by Betafae at 5:08 PM on February 28, 2013 [35 favorites]


Betafae I really appreciate your comment. Thank you for sharing. So sorry to hear about the violence you face.
posted by sweetkid at 8:05 PM on February 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


wolfie:If I am incorrect, please cite references - I didn't see any evidence of therapy anywhere in the links
A psychologist confirmed then that Coy was indeed transgender,

If it was a birth certificate, then I will totally eat my words and acknowledge that she was treated unfairly.
Colorado: Gender Changes Due to Surgical Procedures. Since it's already been established that surgery is an unnecessarily difficult procedure ....

I guess the only question is BBQ sauce or mustard.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:11 PM on February 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


KillaSeal: " But I did notice that when I started talking about choice of pronouns for transgendered people, and how biological sex and gender identity can be (or are) two different things, and how the parents have been thoroughly involved from the beginning, then I noticed that everyone suddenly got quiet...almost as if they were, you know...thinking."

KillaSeal, I just hit my favorite limit for the day, or…

DAMMIT FAVORITE LIMIT. *grumble*
posted by Lexica at 8:16 PM on February 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


Most of the time gender is a really loaded thing for me as a masculine appearing cisgendered female and I'm glad I missed this thread until now. And I think I'll likely just do this drive-by to say that some of you are awesomesauce. Others? Not so much.
posted by FlamingBore at 8:35 PM on February 28, 2013


If you look at some of the older public schools in NYC, a lot of them still have the signs for separate boys and girls entrances. The reasons the signs are still there is because at the time these schools were built, this was considered an established enough distinction to engrave the entrances in stone above the doors. Our societal notions of these things however, are not etched in stone. Boys and girls can all enter the school through the same door now. What a world, huh?

People are indeed weird about those signs on the bathroom doors. Right up until those signs come off the doors. I've always found it fascinating when places with single occupancy bathrooms put m/f signs on the doors, how rigidly people follow that convention, even to the point of policing others. But when places with single occupancy bathrooms just label them "toilet" everyone just naturally goes to whichever bathroom is available first. You'd think with all the rigidity surrounding labeled toilets, people would self-segregate in unlabeled situations. But they don't.

There are plenty of establishments in modern society with unisex bathrooms, none of which have seemed to cause the downfall of society. I recently stayed in a hotel with shared bathrooms at the end of the hall. The showers and toilets had locking floor to ceiling doors, but the main bathroom area was unisex. Everyone seemed pretty comfortable going about brushing their teeth, drying their hair, shaving and whatnot in their towels, robes, undies, and birthday suits without incident or scandal. And it wasn't like this was a hippie youth hostel. There was a pretty wide range of folks staying there.

Point being, I think people get so caught up with signs and labels, that the idea of removing them seems downright unimaginable. But the second the signs are gone, we as a people tend to adjust pretty quickly. As much as we want to think the signs and rules of today are just "how things are" we should keep in mind that in the past the rules were different, and in the future they will be different, in other places, countries, and cultures they are different.

Sure, I can acknowledge that there are lots of good reasons to have m/f bathrooms, but i can't wrap my head around holding on to that idea so rigidly as to disadvantage someone who's needs are different than yours.
posted by billyfleetwood at 10:03 PM on February 28, 2013 [13 favorites]


Late to respond to this, but I will: One Of These Days said "Penises are not essentially male - she doesn't have "boy parts." She's a girl. Her body is a girl's body because it belongs to her."

Your point is dogmatic, and kind of misses a big part of the problem my wife's student is dealing with, which is a mismatch between her self-perceived gender and her genitally-ascribed gender. This mismatch is not caused by the rest of us labeling penises as 'boy parts'. She is experiencing dysmorphia that is independent of social constructions, and dealing with her circumstances means finding some balance amongst the mismatch--and that balance may end up being surgery to eliminate the dysmorphia. Saying to her "your penis is a girl part because you're a girl" suggests that the dysmorphia is all in her head, and it most assuredly is not.

I'm a bit sensitive on this point because relegating her issues to social or psychological problems takes us back to "all she needs is the talking cure," either to accept herself as she is or to act appropriately for her genitals. She needs the full spectrum of medical support, which currently, for her, includes hormones to suppress the development of male secondary sexual characteristics like an Adam's Apple and facial hair.
posted by fatbird at 10:19 PM on February 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


There is a meTa now, just to let folks reading/following/commenting in this thread.
posted by rtha at 10:24 PM on February 28, 2013


Since starting to watch Star Trek: Enterprise, I now hear myself arguing in the voice of Dr. Phlox. You should try it, it's awesome.
posted by fatbird at 10:25 PM on February 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


But, barring a major overhaul of Western civilization, and, given the system we have

Overhaul Western civilization? We're not talking about abolishing representative democracy, or sweeping economic changes. We're talking about letting a girl take a dump in peace without first having to file a lawsuit. Western civilization has handled the change to indoor plumbing pretty well, I think we'll manage having penises and vaginas separated by only a stall wall instead of drywall.

Right now I think the pendulum is swinging very much towards a more socially liberal American society, but that pendulum will eventually swing back the other direction.

I'm sorry, but people's rights are not a pendulum that neutrally and naturally swings back and forth. The transpanic/gaypanic defense is not equivalent to bell-bottoms that come back into and out of favor every 25 years.
posted by Garm at 12:18 AM on March 1, 2013 [22 favorites]


Until perhaps 200 years ago it would have been a near universal experience even in Europe and certainly in most societies for children to witness adults in their household or community having sex. It is --or was-- a matter of zero shame in many indigenous cultures, where large family groups often live cheek by jowl in small or single room homes, as is still the case in much of the world. Missionaries were often scandalized, and were largely responsible for introducing shame as a reaction to sexual expression being anything but secretive and private. If seeing adults' genitalia, let alone sexual behavior, traumatized children for biologically based organic reasons, none of us would be here.

I think many problems could be solved by recognizing that there are far fewer 'natural' bases for most of our hang ups about sex and gender than we assume. We are, I think, more messed up by uptight prudery than by permissiveness.

And don't get me started on the reduction of 'family' to a shadow of its role in human cultural evolution. We made a sexually repressed hell and called it civilization.
posted by spitbull at 5:03 AM on March 1, 2013 [7 favorites]


It is very interesting. It's quite clear that the deep-down feeling that one is female isn't just "I love "girl stuff" and hate "boy stuff" therefore I must be female." So there must be many trans women out there - just like there are many cis women - who are repelled and disgusted by "girl stuff." Dresses, which I cried when forced into as a child. Makeup. Dolls. Pink. Sparkles. There must be many, just like many cis women, who are disgusted by the idea that because they are women they should act or carry themselves in a "girly" way.

I would be incredibly fascinated to hear from those trans women. There's gotta be some kind of writing out there, there must be many women who feel this way.


Hi! To be honest, I'm not sure what it is you want to hear, exactly - that I also don't wear dresses, own anything pink, wear makeup, or have anything sparkly, despite both being trans and a woman? It would feel completely wrong to replace trying to fake one sense of identity and self with another that - while it perhaps wouldn't be equally ill-fitting - would not represent me in any meaningful sense. So I'm still pretty scruffy, both in dress and general appearance, because that's somehow just who I am. I'm a woman; never claimed to be a lady.
posted by Dysk at 5:11 AM on March 1, 2013 [12 favorites]


fatbird: I'm a bit sensitive on this point because relegating her issues to social or psychological problems takes us back to "all she needs is the talking cure," either to accept herself as she is or to act appropriately for her genitals. She needs the full spectrum of medical support, which currently, for her, includes hormones to suppress the development of male secondary sexual characteristics like an Adam's Apple and facial hair.

The problem is, this kinda works both ways. The implications of what you're saying are that trans people who choose not to have surgery are in some way incomplete in their gender. As a woman, I resent the implication that my having an adam's apple means parts of me are male (as, I'm sure, do some of the many cis women who also have prominent adam's apples). It's entirely possible to accept that no parts are inherently gendered one way or another, and still conceive of dysmorphia as something other than merely a response to cultural/societal input, and something to be solved through therapy. That many trans people feel their body is wrong shouldn't invalidate those trans people that don't feel that way, nor indeed vice versa.
posted by Dysk at 5:19 AM on March 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Dresses, which I cried when forced into as a child. Makeup. Dolls. Pink. Sparkles.

I've been thinking about this, and trying to really remember my own tomboyhood. If my mom were alive, I would ask her about this in a flash, but she's not, so what I've got are my own inexact memories.

I don't remember feeling repelled by traditionally girly things - there are pictures of little-kid me in dresses, looking pretty happy chasing pigeons at the park, or at a birthday party. I remember when I was maybe 8 or 9, my stepmother (who was an excellent seamstress) wanted to make me a nice outfit to wear to nice restaurants and things, I asked if she could make me a pantsuit (what? it was the 70s!) and she made me this beautiful ash-rose-colored pantsuit that I loved. I spent a lot of my childhood in bathing suits and shorts and Wranglers (indestructible!), but yeah, there was a sprinkling of dresses in there. For me, I think, it was less that I hated girly things and more that I was drawn to or liked boy things better. I had dolls that I played with, but I also turned sticks into guns or bows and arrows. I wore skirts occasionally in high school, mostly for choir concerts, and I wasn't a huge fan of doing that but I didn't feel revulsion either - more like "Damn, my knees are cold, I can't wait to change back into my pants."
posted by rtha at 6:36 AM on March 1, 2013


Right now I think the pendulum is swinging very much towards a more socially liberal American society, but that pendulum will eventually swing back the other direction.
I'm sorry, but people's rights are not a pendulum that neutrally and naturally swings back and forth.

I obviously can't speak to this as a general and universal thing, nor can I really speak to the American experience - but this is absolutely a thing that we talked about over my past 3 years in law school, both in regards to human rights issues and rights of the accused. There is still a trend, it's not neutrally swinging, but it's more like the "two steps forward, one step back."

I don't think it's a good thing, mind you. But my understanding is that it is a reality and should be prepared for.

Up here I would say that we're actually on the conservative end of the pendulum. At lease I hope so.

Corb said that this proposal: "the school offers an intermediary alternative (nurses's bathroom/transgender bathroom) until they make a formal determination. It weeds out the people who would want to try to abuse the system, because those people are not going to have the dedication to try to live one way just for it. " was essentially what "what happened with Coy, albeit on a more long-term scale"

Personally (and as someone who's a straight cis guy, so I don't have the lived experience): it's a fair compromise in the general situation, but for Coy isn't it kind of already over? The school isn't the one that should do the investigation - this is not their area of expertise, nor should it be. The investigation, assuming for now that there needs to be one, would essentially be done by doctors / the State [in the form of identity documents]. Here, she has those, so the school should just be saying ok we're all done here.

They're not, they think they have a right to be involved with that determination. And I think that raises a lot of warning signs for people, because usually whenever there's a party that shouldn't care pushing hard to be involved in a decision, it's meant that they're coming at it from a place of bigotry.

Hopefully that made sense.
posted by Lemurrhea at 6:58 AM on March 1, 2013 [5 favorites]


When I was six, I knew what gender I was.

Maybe I was an immature six, but I agree, I also knew what gender I was - because my parents told me that was what I was. Beyond that, I would likely have had no idea what anyone was talking about. I am not sure if I knew the word "gender" (though I was a precocious child, and reading LOTR by myself by third grade [for me, age 8], at 6 I was still pretty immature)

I empathize with the parents and the school - this is all tough stuff, and transgendered children are at the frontier right now, the first (I think) generation of children in which some are allowed to live more authentic lives right now. Tough stuff all around. I could wish they weren't going on tv (for Coy's sake), but for the sake of other children living transgendered lives who feel isolated, it is probably a good thing for the others.
posted by arnicae at 7:32 AM on March 1, 2013


Maybe I was an immature six, but I agree, I also knew what gender I was - because my parents told me that was what I was.

Could this not just be an artifact of being cis (assuming you are), though? Like... if you're a boy and your parents tell you you're a boy, you're not necessarily going to notice that you're a boy independent of them telling you. But if you're a boy and your parents are insisting you're a girl, you're more likely to notice that you have a gender, precisely because it doesn't coincide with what you're being told. Some kids are going to say "Oh, I guess I must be a girl then. That sucks." and not mention it ever again until they're older (or never mention it at all) and some are going to fight back at the age of six.
posted by hoyland at 7:43 AM on March 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


I've been avoiding this thread--a rather sad thing to say as a trans* MeFite--because I knew how emotionally draining it would be to engage with it. But I do want to point out something about bathroom panic.

I am about as privileged as a trans* person gets. I'm an adult. I'm a trans* man. I'm white. I am a tenured professor at a university that bars discrimination on the bases of gender identity or expression.

But when I came out at work and explained that I was gender transitioning, within two days I was receiving threats of physical violence if I used the mens' rooms. And when I brought this to the attention of the office of equity and diversity at my university, the response of the institution was to gather three deans and a host of administrators together and construct a memo stating that I would use one single bathroom on my university campus, which other men could avoid at will, and send that memo out to everyone teaching or working in the building housing that bathroom. (This was especially, super-duper awkward because the administration would not allow me to send an email explaining that I was transitioning to anyone outside my home department--so colleagues found out tangentially in the context of a weird memo about where I would pee.)

So: dealing with bathroom panic is sadly, bizarrely central to transphobia and contemporary trans* experience. How ridiculous it is that six-year-old Coy is treated as some sort of sexual threat. How ludicrous the school assertion that her genitals are a problem, when bathrooms have these novel things called stalls and doors. How depressing it is that my trans* wife's life is so deeply constrained by her inability to find a safe place to pee in public, because in a men's room she'll be assaulted, and in a woman's room at risk for having the cops called on her.

I can't express how tired I am of bathroom panic.
posted by DrMew at 7:50 AM on March 1, 2013 [55 favorites]


I'm just thinking about this, here, so bear with me, but:

I'm hearing a lot of transfolk here who say they're concerned about being assaulted in men's bathrooms. There was some talk here and a lot more on another thread that I can't recall from memory (but maybe hoyland can because of quoting it elsewhere?) about how women and girls are concerned about boys/men in girls/women's rooms.

Is there room for suggesting that possibly one of the major problems operating here is not specifically "which bathroom is which" but a hugely problematic real or perceived male tendency towards aggressive sexual violence? Transmen or those who know them, have you experienced or been made aware of problems going to women's bathrooms that were not related to those two fears?

If so, would working to eliminate this real or perceived tendency to violence help eliminate a lot of these problems?

I'm just thinking over it, because it seems just kind of the default assumption that if a transwoman enters the men's bathroom, they're going to be met with violence. And I know I personally would be afraid, as a cisgendered woman, of entering the men's bathroom because of similar fears of violence. But when did those assumptions become okay? It seems mindboggling.
posted by corb at 8:29 AM on March 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


But when did those assumptions become okay? It seems mindboggling.

Since... that's been the lived experience of trans persons and other people?

This is not an assumption based on some kind of hand-waving "it might happen" theory. If a transwoman enters the men's bathroom, there is a high likelihood that she will be met with violence. Have you not seen any of the stories that other Mefites have shared, of scars and attacks and cops getting called?

Sadly, the reverse is also true. If a transwoman who doesn't pass perfectly enters the women's restroom, she is also likely to get the cops called on her. And that is because of incidents like the time I witnessed a man coming into the women's bathroom to continue harassing his bawling girlfriend who was trying to get away, or the time an older man came into the bathroom with a cellphone and started taking pictures until a friend of mine saw and came up and said, "WHAT THE EVERLOVING SHIT DO YOU THINK YOU'RE DOING?!"

None of this was from transwomen who didn't "pass," it was all from cisgender men. But if women can't tell at a glance that you're self-identifying as a fellow woman, we become suspicious. That's not fair to transwomen-- they shouldn't have to hang a sign on themselves just to go to the bathroom-- but in a currently very strongly gendered bathroom system, where the only other people who look like men come in for suspicious reasons, it's sort of horrible-but-understandable.

If so, would working to eliminate this real or perceived tendency to violence help eliminate a lot of these problems?

Hell yes it would! (And the answer you're looking for is real tendency to violence. Come on, we have the stats for the murder and abuse rates of trans persons. They've already been linked to. Please do the trans persons in this thread the courtesy of saying "real violence.") And part of that working towards ending violence includes not making trans persons "others" who are "sick" and whom it's okay to beat on because they're weird and don't fit and fucked up and must be pedophiles or "tricky" sexual predators trying to make you gay or any one of a hundred other explanations that are used to justify violence. And part of the overall culture of normalizing trans persons means letting them use whatever bathroom they feel fits. And also taking things like male sexual harassment and abuse of women, in public space and in private, much, much more seriously.
posted by WidgetAlley at 8:43 AM on March 1, 2013 [6 favorites]


There was some talk here and a lot more on another thread that I can't recall from memory (but maybe hoyland can because of quoting it elsewhere?) about how women and girls are concerned about boys/men in girls/women's rooms.

More detail, if you can? Where did I quote it? I know I mentioned it in an earlier comment in this post, but that was a reference to yet earlier comments in this post. Usually, though, if I reference something off-site and don't link it, I can tell what I was referencing and find it later. So I might be able to track down what you're looking for if the discussion further up wasn't it.
posted by hoyland at 9:17 AM on March 1, 2013


If so, would working to eliminate this real or perceived tendency to violence help eliminate a lot of these problems?

Are you talking about violence against transgendered people or violence in general? I can't speak to the issue of transgendered men using the men's room. But there is some fear of what happens when men use the ladies' room and I think this is carried over to the issue of when transgendered women use the ladies' room. I (a lady, genetically and identity-wise) have witnessed some violence late at night in a public women's restroom when a man entered right after me. I don't know if either the woman who was being beaten up by the much larger man were transgendered or not -- it doesn't matter. It's scary -- bathrooms are enclosed spaces with usually one exit. You sometimes don't have your purse/phone with you -- you leave it at your desk/table/whatever. You're a bit vulnerable; you might have your clothes off in the stall; you might be sick; etc. Women are smaller than men. There aren't usually cameras in restrooms (not sure I would want there to be...). I think this vulnerability is maybe where the fear comes from? It's the same fear that women feel late at night walking down a street with a strange man behind them. Probability dictates it's nothing, but you can't help but feel a bit scared in a way you don't when a lady is following you.

It's an irrational fear and separate from what is being discussed here, but I think when people think about transgendered ladies using the ladies' room, this is may be what they picture. When what they should be picturing is just a person using the ladies' room as per usual. You would never know what their sexual/urinary organs are like, and that's just fine.
posted by bluefly at 9:26 AM on March 1, 2013


And the answer you're looking for is real tendency to violence. Come on, we have the stats for the murder and abuse rates of trans persons. They've already been linked to. Please do the trans persons in this thread the courtesy of saying "real violence."

Sorry! I should state that I believe real violence exists against both cisgendered women and transwomen, often perpetrated by cisgendered men. I tried to use the "perceived" label so as to avoid being called out as being unfair to men, or something.

More detail, if you can? Where did I quote it? I know I mentioned it in an earlier comment in this post, but that was a reference to yet earlier comments in this post.

I think it may have simply been a previous iteration of the trans/bathroom conversation that came up on the blue, but happened to have some good links/discussion on it. I was maybe hoping to be lazy and reproduce the best and avoid the worst!
posted by corb at 9:40 AM on March 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


And also taking things like male sexual harassment and abuse of women, in public space and in private, much, much more seriously.

Yes. And I'd like to add that it would be awesome if we could stop using teenage boys as an example of people who would of course game the system of gender-neutral bathrooms in order to harass teenage girls. This example has been offered here as if it's a thing that well hell yeah! it's totally predictable that teenage boys are just waiting for the right circumstances to become sexual predators, and this is a thing we must guard against by.... making non-gender-conforming people hold their pee. Not by recognizing that actually, most teenage boys are not sexual predators in the making; not by teaching all kids that harassing and assaulting people is not okay.

I used to know a lot of teenage boys, when I was a teenager. In our group of friends, we often had group sleepovers (everybody in the living room or den); when I lived in dorms in college, I shared hallways and sometimes bathrooms with boys/young men. Their having a lot more testosterone than me was not a guarantee that they would try to assault or harass me, because pretty much none of them did if they weren't assholes. Being a dude did not automatically make them assholes is what I'm saying.
posted by rtha at 9:51 AM on March 1, 2013 [6 favorites]


I really, seriously, cannot imagine a boy (or man) putting on a dress and risking the social approbation of his peers just to creep on women in the bathroom. Seriously, a high school boy would never live that down. Also, the example is completely irrelevant to Coy's situation.
posted by desjardins at 10:03 AM on March 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


A lot of people have made a big deal of a boy putting on a dress just to creep on women - like no one could do it, because no boy would ever put on a dress.

While I understand the frustration with the example, I also have a lot of confusion with this image. Because the boy wouldn't have to put on a dress. Dressing like a girl is dressing like whatever a girl wants to dress like, which is, really, anything. Transwomen don't have to wear dresses, so someone claiming (Falsely) to be one wouldn't need to take so much as the smirk off their face.

A lot of people also seem to have a better impression of teenage boys than I do. My impression of teenage boys when I was in high school was a whole lot of sexual harassment and assault to myself and my friends. I'm not saying all teenage boys have to be assholes, but I think the proportion of assholes to not-assholes is larger than anyone wants.
posted by corb at 10:12 AM on March 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


A fact that I think has been overlooked in this debate:

6-year-old cis boys end up in women's public restrooms ALL THE TIME.

At the age of 6 many, many kids of all gender persuasions:

1.) Are still too short to reach the soap / hand dryers in some public bathrooms.
2.) Still lack the fine motor skills to handle unfastening and refastening certain types of clothing (belts, particularly complicated pants, etc.) with 100% success.
3.) Are sometimes nervous about going into an unfamiliar bathroom by themselves, for various reasons.
4.) Sometimes have parents who are nervous about letting a child that age go into an unfamiliar bathroom alone.

I am a woman and the parent of a boy, and I can tell you that when he was that age I brought him into women's bathrooms with me many, many times for various reasons, and no little girls (or grown women for that matter) ran screaming from the bathroom in traumatized response. I have also, as a woman, seen plenty of boys up to the age of 10 or so using the restroom, waiting for their mothers in the restroom, or helping a younger sister in the restroom, and this has never, ever bothered me, nor do the vast majority of women and girls in the restroom react as though this is some sort of unusual or untoward situation (because it isn't -- it happens regularly).

I think it's absolutely Coy's right as a trans person to use the bathroom she feels most comfortable in. But beyond that, I really, really do not see why the idea of a penis-having child using a women's bathroom is at all unusual or should make anyone uncomfortable, because it happens all the time. Girls of all ages see boys in the women's restroom on a regular basis, and remain unscathed.

Therefore as I see it, the only reason certain people at this school were made so uncomfortable by Coy's desire to use the restroom that makes her feel most comfortable (and matches her legal ID) that they decided to ban her from doing a perfectly ordinary and everyday thing is that they are afraid of trans people, not that they are afraid of how the presence of a kid with a penis in a women's restroom may somehow be detrimental or unfair to other girls. Let's be clear: the school officials are making a choice to discriminate against this girl because of her medical condition. They are not trying to "protect" the other girls from having to share a public restroom with a person with a penis, because girls sharing a public restroom with penis-having people happens all of the time.
posted by BlueJae at 10:34 AM on March 1, 2013 [13 favorites]



A lot of people also seem to have a better impression of teenage boys than I do. My impression of teenage boys when I was in high school was a whole lot of sexual harassment and assault to myself and my friends. I'm not saying all teenage boys have to be assholes, but I think the proportion of assholes to not-assholes is larger than anyone wants.

I just can't understand what exactly you think is going to happen here.

A boy who 10 minutes earlier announced he is a girl and has no documentation or medical diagnosis or parental endorsement stands in the girl's room sexually harassing the girls as they poop even though this will make him a total social pariah, anywhere. A crying teacher is being led out by a police officer in handcuffs because her attempt to ask the boy to leave constituted a violation of his rights. The boy smirks as the teacher is escorted out. He resumes his sexual harassment, another officer stands off to the side to make sure his rights as a transgender individual are not violated again.

This grim future is what we face! (if the people who write the regulations are complete idiots who write a terrible law, or in this case overturn the law already written to replace it with a worse one, and harassment laws are repealed.)
posted by Drinky Die at 10:38 AM on March 1, 2013 [5 favorites]


A lot of people also seem to have a better impression of teenage boys than I do. My impression of teenage boys when I was in high school was a whole lot of sexual harassment and assault to myself and my friends. I'm not saying all teenage boys have to be assholes, but I think the proportion of assholes to not-assholes is larger than anyone wants.

My argument is that if generic teenage boys are such uncontrollable assholes now, then they don't need the "excuse" of claiming to be trans in order to harass girls. They will and are doing it without pretending to be anything except teenage boys.

Their right to claim to be a different gender is irrelevant if their behavior is harassing.Can you acknowledge that?
posted by rtha at 10:44 AM on March 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'm just thinking over it, because it seems just kind of the default assumption that if a transwoman enters the men's bathroom, they're going to be met with violence. And I know I personally would be afraid, as a cisgendered woman, of entering the men's bathroom because of similar fears of violence. But when did those assumptions become okay? It seems mindboggling.

Well, for some of us, it isn't so much about the violence or fear thereof (in my case because I have the dubious privilege of being 6'3" and the clearcut privilege of being able to be pretty intimidating) as it is the looks, the verbal abuse, and the fact that it outs you to anyone who might otherwise have read you correctly, and the fact that it's just damn uncomfortable to be using the wrong bathroom.

While I understand the frustration with the example, I also have a lot of confusion with this image. Because the boy wouldn't have to put on a dress. Dressing like a girl is dressing like whatever a girl wants to dress like, which is, really, anything. Transwomen don't have to wear dresses, so someone claiming (Falsely) to be one wouldn't need to take so much as the smirk off their face.

With regards to the specifics of school bathrooms, this isn't relevant. You aren't anonymous in that way at school - people know who you are. If you're trans and wanting to transition in your school life, this is something that teachers will be told of. So it's not like any teenage boy could just claim to be trans and get away with it when they're caught in the girls' toilets.
posted by Dysk at 10:51 AM on March 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


I feel like I'm being misunderstood, so I'm going to try to be clearer.

I think there are a few different conversations all going on at the same time, and we all want to respond to all of them, but sometimes it means things get mixed up as belonging to one conversation when they're really in another.

So there's the "This thing happened to Coy" conversation. There's the "This thing happened to Coy and that's why we need better laws" conversation. There's the "How is trans defined" conversation. There's the "What kind of bathroom access should transfolk have" conversation. There's the "Trans folk are discriminated against" conversation. There's the "How do you balance competing rights" conversation, and the "How do you make people feel safe" conversation. And probably a few other I'm forgetting.

Do I think that 6 year old Coy intends any harm whatsoever? No. Do I think that the school itself knows that? Probably. But what I do think is that as an institution, schools are generally bound to enforce laws, rules, and policies. I don't think - and if someone shows me evidence, that's great! - that schools are allowed to choose on an individual basis, particularly when it comes to something that could be classified by some as a civil rights issue. So I think the school has the difficulty of things like: "If we allow Coy to do it, what about fifth or sixth graders who are already engaged in puberty? How do we know who would be allowed to do it?" Etc. And that's part of the Coy-others conversation.

I just can't understand what exactly you think is going to happen here.
Their right to claim to be a different gender is irrelevant if their behavior is harassing.Can you acknowledge that?


Trying to take these as good faith questions despite some snark:

The situation I would envisage as most likely is: teenage boys find it hilarious just to /be/ in the girl's bathroom. Maybe to spy on girls, maybe to follow them in, maybe to listen to them pee or talk or whatever the fuck have you.

Someone comes out as trans / rules are made around that/ what have you. Teenage boys decide to be dicks, and start walking in. Maybe they just wash their hands. Maybe they shit to try to gross out girls. Maybe they just listen. I don't know what they want, I'm a teenage boy. But maybe, just maybe, they do things that don't cross the boundary of harassment if you were trans/belonged in that bathroom. When caught, they say, "I'm trans, just like Kid Y, I get to be in that bathroom, who are you to say I'm not?" Are they being assholes? One hundred percent. But it's hard to dime them on it, if you get that.

I would love to stop all harassing behavior, but I think that sometimes teenage boys do shitty things that are kind of greyline harassing behavior, and often don't get disciplined for it.

And again, I stress, this is not the hill I die on. This is just one thought about the extrapolation that might be going on or could go on if there weren't clear rules.
posted by corb at 11:06 AM on March 1, 2013


You take the boy out of the bathroom and call the parents to discover if this is a real issue. Your concern is met, it wasn't hard, stop acting like it is.
posted by Drinky Die at 11:17 AM on March 1, 2013 [8 favorites]


I really don't think the idea that somewhere someday some boy might try to abuse trans rights to play an immature practical joke (OMG boy pooping near me!*) is a good reason to deny a whole group of people basic rights. In fact, I think it's a smokescreen.

More realistic a concern about later years, if you want to get into that, is how the less understanding (or adversely indoctrinated) of adolescent girls will react and what they might do to a girl like Coy. That's still not a reason to deny her rights (because that's when it goes from the institutional equivalent of well meaning concern to self-protective concern trolling).

*My freshman year dorm had co-ed bathrooms and shower rooms. We got over it in about a week.
posted by snuffleupagus at 11:18 AM on March 1, 2013 [7 favorites]


Teenage boys decide to be dicks, and start walking in. Maybe they just wash their hands. Maybe they shit to try to gross out girls. Maybe they just listen. I don't know what they want, I'm a teenage boy. But maybe, just maybe, they do things that don't cross the boundary of harassment if you were trans/belonged in that bathroom. When caught, they say, "I'm trans, just like Kid Y, I get to be in that bathroom, who are you to say I'm not?" Are they being assholes? One hundred percent. But it's hard to dime them on it, if you get that.

That's kind of like saying that visually impaired children shouldn't be allowed to bring a guide dog to school because then other children could bring a random dog to school and get away with it by pretending to be visually impaired. Not only is it not something that would realistically happen in the first place, but it would be relatively easy to put rules in place that can differentiate between a child that the policy actually applies to and one that is just trying to use it as an excuse to be disruptive.
posted by burnmp3s at 11:24 AM on March 1, 2013 [26 favorites]


When caught, they say, "I'm trans, just like Kid Y, I get to be in that bathroom, who are you to say I'm not?" Are they being assholes? One hundred percent. But it's hard to dime them on it, if you get that.

Yeah, no - it's easy to call the kid on his bullshit. You point out that he hasn't been to see you or his classroom teacher about his wanting to be seen as a girl, he hasn't, in fact, made any indication whatsoever of his supposed transness, and that it's bullshit. A reasonable school would allow trans people to use whatever bathrooms they're most comfortable with, but it wouldn't be unreasonable to require them to come out as trans by some means other than suddenly using the other bathrooms relative to what they used to, without talking to anyone about it, and with no other indication that they're trans.
posted by Dysk at 11:25 AM on March 1, 2013 [5 favorites]


I am still completely baffled at your scenario, corb.

When caught, they say, "I'm trans, just like Kid Y, I get to be in that bathroom, who are you to say I'm not?" Are they being assholes? One hundred percent. But it's hard to dime them on it, if you get that.

What, is the kid going to file a lawsuit? Call the cops? What's he going to do if he's caught?
posted by desjardins at 11:26 AM on March 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


That's kind of like saying that visually impaired children shouldn't be allowed to bring a guide dog to school because then other children could bring a random dog to school and get away with it by pretending to be visually impaired. Not only is it not something that would realistically happen in the first place, but it would be relatively easy to put rules in place that can differentiate between a child that the policy actually applies to and one that is just trying to use it as an excuse to be disruptive.

Yeah, I think that's a good analogy.
posted by sweetkid at 11:26 AM on March 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


I would love to stop all harassing behavior, but I think that sometimes teenage boys do shitty things that are kind of greyline harassing behavior, and often don't get disciplined for it.

Yes. And that is not a good thing. And the lack of discipline, the ways in which we are all socialized to accept/engage in/not challenge those types of behaviors need to be addressed.

And. What should not happen is the further subordination/repression of people who do not have the same level of privilege to exercise power/engage in harassing behavior/toe that line.
posted by anya32 at 11:28 AM on March 1, 2013


A reasonable school would allow trans people to use whatever bathrooms they're most comfortable with, but it wouldn't be unreasonable to require them to come out as trans by some means other than suddenly using the other bathrooms relative to what they used to, without talking to anyone about it, and with no other indication that they're trans.

Right, so this is what I'm interested in - how would the practicalities of all this work? What would a reasonable standard be in those cases? What would a reasonable "while we investigate" standard be? Are you even able to say that you need to place standards or investigations for an issue of determining gender identity? What would reasonable accomodations be if people did feel uncomfortable or unsafe for any reason?

This is not me saying, "Teenagers suck, so Coy should have to use the boy's bathroom." This is me saying, "This discussion is interesting, and makes me think of these other questions around how authority entities who are supposed to protect people would apply rules in order to protect everyone."
posted by corb at 11:31 AM on March 1, 2013


Corb - So on the "This thing happened to Coy and we need better laws" front: we don't, really. The law seems to be in place, as is discussed above. In this instance we need the school to abide by those laws. That's the point I made above - the school shouldn't have to make a determination. I know if I were an admin I'd love to be able to pass the buck and say "her docs say girl, she's a girl. Do your docs say girl? No? Well today let's get you to the nurse's washroom and set up the first of a long series of meetings to get them to say that"

I...would hope I could say it a bit more compassionately than that if it seemed legit. You know what I mean.

I guess it could conceivably be a concern in the future, if the school's rules were such that they didn't need any form of confirmation that the kid is a trans girl. But that seems unlikely in the near future, so I would argue that we should not hunt for problems we don't have.

Since you're asking questions in good faith, a question also in good faith for you.

You said that you think Coy is not intending harm, and that the school probably knows that. You also mentioned the need for clear laws/rules for a school, which I agree with completely.

So, and I'm absolutely not trying to lead you down the garden path as a gotcha: In Coy's case, where Colorado law requires equal access to bathrooms (and given history wouldn't accept a separate bathroom just for her), and where she has state ID that says she's a girl, would you agree that she should be permitted to use the girl's washroom? Or do you think no, she should use the boy's washroom? Or do you think that more information is required by the school - if so, what is it?
posted by Lemurrhea at 11:31 AM on March 1, 2013


To be clear
a thought about the extrapolation that might be going on or could go on if there weren't clear rules
fails any balancing test as a rationale against the recognition of someone's basic rights.

how would the practicalities of all this work?
I'm fairly confident you already know how to use the restroom.
posted by snuffleupagus at 11:31 AM on March 1, 2013


I would love to stop all harassing behavior, but I think that sometimes teenage boys do shitty things that are kind of greyline harassing behavior, and often don't get disciplined for it.

Teenage girls do shitty not-quite-breaking-the-rules harassing behavior to other teenage girls in bathrooms. The solution to this is not to close all the bathrooms and make everyone pee in the bushes or something. It is the behavior that must be addressed, not the gender or gender identity of the person doing that behavior, and addressing only their gender/identity doesn't solve the problem you have identified, which is that sometimes people will be jerks.
posted by rtha at 11:31 AM on March 1, 2013 [8 favorites]


Right, so this is what I'm interested in - how would the practicalities of all this work?

Corb, trans bathroom panic is a huge part of transphobia in general and an offensive stereotype. "What if a man uses this to sneak into the ladies room to harass people!?" is a godawful place to start a dry discussion of the details of school recognition of trans status.
posted by Drinky Die at 11:34 AM on March 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


So, and I'm absolutely not trying to lead you down the garden path as a gotcha: In Coy's case, where Colorado law requires equal access to bathrooms (and given history wouldn't accept a separate bathroom just for her), and where she has state ID that says she's a girl, would you agree that she should be permitted to use the girl's washroom? Or do you think no, she should use the boy's washroom? Or do you think that more information is required by the school - if so, what is it?

We should doubly emphasise that Colorado law is not actually interested what one's ID says. The relevance here is that having female state ID and passport is doubly, triply emphasising how the school is run by idiots.
posted by hoyland at 11:34 AM on March 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


So, and I'm absolutely not trying to lead you down the garden path as a gotcha: In Coy's case, where Colorado law requires equal access to bathrooms (and given history wouldn't accept a separate bathroom just for her), and where she has state ID that says she's a girl, would you agree that she should be permitted to use the girl's washroom? Or do you think no, she should use the boy's washroom? Or do you think that more information is required by the school - if so, what is it?

Specifically in Coy's case, given the information provided above by various mandated reporters that accidental genitalia exposure is not taken by the state as an issue or danger to children, I would say she should be permitted to use the girl's washroom, but the issue would need to be revisited if any of the other girls complained or felt unsafe. (Now I don't think this is likely, persay, I'm just saying this is my default that if people feel unsafe the situation that makes them feel that way needs to be examined.)
posted by corb at 11:35 AM on March 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


On the one hand we have reality and facts: a child who lives and thinks as a girl, has done so for almost all her life, and who furthermore has been examined by a gauntlet of professionals who have run a battery of tests and concluded that, yes, she's a girl.

And on the other hand we have your fantasied situation where a teenaged boy who has never presented as anything but a boy with boy behaviour and thinking, suddenly claiming to be trans so as to get a wreak havoc in the girls' bathroom for an afternoon's entertainment, and not only is your fantasy boy able to get away with it, but he is fully supported by the administration.

And you wonder why no one takes you seriously.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:35 AM on March 1, 2013 [8 favorites]


I would say she should be permitted to use the girl's washroom, but the issue would need to be revisited if any of the other girls complained or felt unsafe.

Why? If you support Coy's rights, then it has to be their problem, and the school's, to overcome. We don't give racists a heckler's veto over pooping with people of a different ethnicity.
posted by snuffleupagus at 11:44 AM on March 1, 2013 [11 favorites]


the issue would need to be revisited if any of the other girls complained or felt unsafe.

No, it doesn't need to be revisited, any more than it would be if white girls complaining about a black girl making them feel unsafe in the bathroom. Bigots don't get to be catered to, even if they're 6. We can explain and educate, but not cater to.
posted by desjardins at 11:46 AM on March 1, 2013 [11 favorites]


jinx, snuffleupagus!
posted by desjardins at 11:46 AM on March 1, 2013


Fair enough. I'd personally argue that if the other girls complained that they're the ones who need to be educated, segregated or what have you, but I agree with you that at that age, especially, it won't come up. Thanks!
posted by Lemurrhea at 11:47 AM on March 1, 2013


On the bathroom topic, what do you guys think about the "solution" in the Colleen Francis episode?

Colleen Francis was a 45 year old woman who underwent hormone therapy in her transition two years before, but did not want to alter her body. So, she still had a fully formed adult male body.

Colleen was in the sauna naked with her penis visible in the locker room at Evergreen State College, when two girls' swim teams from the Olympia school district came in to use the locker room. The girls (apparently between the ages of 6 and 18) were alarmed by seeing Colleen's genitals, and left the locker room to tell their coach. The girls' parents did not want their daughters to undress in front of Colleen.

Colleen was asked to leave the locker room in violation of her rights under Washington State law (which mandates equal rights to access state facilities regardless of gender identity).

The temporary solution reached by the school and the girls' school district was that Colleen should continue to use the main locker room while the girls swim team was given a smaller locker room in a different area to use.

Bad solution/good solution? Should the swim team have even been provided with separate accommodations? Was this a bigoted decision?
posted by cairdeas at 11:51 AM on March 1, 2013


We should doubly emphasise that Colorado law is not actually interested what one's ID says. The relevance here is that having female state ID and passport is doubly, triply emphasising how the school is run by idiots.

Yes. Thank you, I frankly got lazy and didn't check exactly what the law said. I still think that state ID is a good shorthand for administrative ass-covering, but should have been clearer.

cairdeas, I personally (and to re-iterate don't have the lived experience so grains of salt) think that's reasonable...as long as they don't pull a "oh no yours is totally the official locker room" while "accommodating" everyone else? I think that happened with the girl from...Mississippi(?) at the prom. Barring something like that, it's acceptable if not ideal.
posted by Lemurrhea at 11:56 AM on March 1, 2013


When caught, they say, "I'm trans, just like Kid Y, I get to be in that bathroom, who are you to say I'm not?" Are they being assholes? One hundred percent. But it's hard to dime them on it, if you get that.

I don't understand this harassment concern. If someone is harassing someone else in the bathroom, you should discipline them for harassment no matter what gender they are. If a girl is harassing other girls in the bathroom, it's not like you can't discipline them because they're in the right bathroom.
posted by ultraviolet catastrophe at 12:06 PM on March 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


Colleen Francis responded to the "solution" by saying that it was like having black water fountains and white water fountains, and it's hard to logically argue against that.
posted by cairdeas at 12:06 PM on March 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


Something that has been troubling me (just a little) since this thread began is how teed-up this particular instance was for acceptance and understanding. As a trans woman with a different set of advantages (nobody questions whether I'm "old enough" to know my gender identity) and challenges (I don't always pass, my license does not reflect my gender, and I live in a state without such clearcut protections) than Coy's, it is uncomfortable to see bigoted comments answered with the readily available "oh, she has an F on her state ID," "did you see the picture of her at the top of the article," or "here are the exact statutes supporting her right to use the girls' bathroom."

While I'm gladdened to see how much Coy has on her side to be marshaled to her defense, I've seen threads (and continue to expect to see threads) more relevant to my own experience with multiple hangups all causing the conversation to go to shit simultaneously. That is to say, here, the sticking point seemed primarily to be her age, but elsewhere it's a lot harder to stand up for myself when I know I haven't yet been able to jump through all of the hoops that in this thread have been used as indisputable arguments in her favor. Hell, in this thread someone was attempting to use bottom surgery as a bar to be met for respect, and I haven't even got the correct letter on my ID!

I guess my point is that we ought to be careful about how much we agree to meet bigots on their home field to play their own game using their own rules, even when it makes the conversation simpler. It's certainly useful and wonderful and fortunate that Coy has these things going for her, and it's hard to know where the line is between appeasement and statement of happy facts, or whether at any given point we are talking about legality or common decency, but try to be mindful that in taking the easy path to addressing an objection we aren't inadvertently ceding ground on which others may be standing.
posted by Corinth at 12:08 PM on March 1, 2013 [9 favorites]


You know what? I've seen some penises in my time and they did not blind me. I am alternately bemused and disturbed by this whole "there is a penis in the locker room! Whatever shall we do?" line. If there's someone staring at you or behaving badly in some other way in the locker room, it's reasonable to complain. If you're not expecting a penis-having person in the locker room, it's reasonable to find out what is going on; if you are a penis-having person who knows that she'll be in a situation where there's a lot of nakedness and people are going to be surprised, it's reasonable to expect the institution/organizers/etc to do some prep work to educate attendees that there may be penis-having people around - and this education would vary in nature depending on the situation, group, etc.

I wish that everyone who is treating this as a fascinating abstract discussion and logical puzzle - which is why we're getting all these edge cases and imaginary scenarios - would remember that this isn't some kind of science fiction thought experiment about the lives of tentacled gascloud-dwelling space squid but rather about the lives of actual friends, neighbors, partners and colleagues...and treating them/us like we're bugs under glass is...hm....to be deplored, actually.

Also, seriously, so the girls on the team saw a penis unexpectedly. Who exactly was horribly harmed by this? It is weird to me that "but if we let trans people in our bathrooms and saunas there may....occasionally be an awkward situation where people are confused and embarrassed for a few minutes!" is being used as some kind of "take that, we must keep people segregated by genitals!"
posted by Frowner at 12:15 PM on March 1, 2013 [14 favorites]


(I add that as a girl-living person of eight years old, I was actively instructed by the staff at my local YMCA to use the boys' locker room - there was some work being done on the girls', the boys' was supposed to be cleared out for girls to use, but between the time that I left my stuff there and the time my swim lesson ended, the staff had finished the work and (very stupidly) decided that now girls should go back in the girls and boys in the boys. (I assumed they'd been using the men's one.) Going back in to get my clothes wasn't particularly fun - it was horribly embarrassing, actually, and I felt really helpless because I'd just been trying to do what the staff had told me. But the reason it was embarrassing was purely social, not because there were boys - it was awful because I knew was breaking the rules and making people freak out. If folks had been all "oh, here, grab your stuff, it's cool", I would have been fine. This idea that it is the worst thing in the world to be in a situation with naked people who aren't your gender is just silly. See, I'm totally down with people being able to use a women's locker room if they want; I'm not saying that, say, an Orthodox Jewish woman or someone who has trauma around sexual assault or even someone who just wants a women's only locker room shouldn't have one; I'm just saying that the idea that people who are of average emotional resilience cannot handle the occasional, accidental contact with naked Others....well, it seems like either a foolish or a fake argument to me.
posted by Frowner at 12:24 PM on March 1, 2013


Also, seriously, so the girls on the team saw a penis unexpectedly. Who exactly was horribly harmed by this?

I think there's a difference between seeing a penis unexpectedly which is then covered, and an adult penis just kind of hanging out for a while around 6 year old girls. If the girls were not allowed a separate space, I think it would be a huge and legitimate issue. Do you think that girls should be forced to see it if they don't want to and it makes them feel uncomfortable?

Also, who is harmed by this accomodation? Colleen Francis still was able to use the locker room - even the main, big one. The swim team of girls got to have their own space.
posted by corb at 12:25 PM on March 1, 2013


Frowner, I think the fear is that a man in the womens' locker room is by definition creepy and a possible threat. I don't think it's an unreasonable fear. Why would a guy go in there if not to look at women? I can only think of one legitimate reason: there is something wrong with the mens' room, e.g. it's flooded. (Yes, I know Colleen is not a man, but the girls had no way of knowing that.)
posted by desjardins at 12:25 PM on March 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


A lot of people also seem to have a better impression of teenage boys than I do. My impression of teenage boys when I was in high school was a whole lot of sexual harassment and assault to myself and my friends.

I'd like to ask you to do an experiment. I will do it along with you.

When you're commenting online - here or wherever - or just mulling something over in your head, and you're on your way to making a statement about The Way Things Work, preface that statement with "In my experience...."

It's totally normal for everyone to think their experiences are normal, because for them, they are. But they're not necessarily universal, and it can be a hard place to land - as we've all discovered at one or more points! - when you insist and insist that yes, this is how it is only to find out that that may have been how it was for you, but that's really not how it is for everyone. This doesn't make anyone bad or wrong for having had a different experience. But starting sentences with "In my experience...." is a good reminder both to one's own self and to other people that you are not (and should not) assume that your experience is universal.
posted by rtha at 12:33 PM on March 1, 2013 [3 favorites]



Also, who is harmed by this accomodation? Colleen Francis still was able to use the locker room - even the main, big one. The swim team of girls got to have their own space.


Honestly, the accommodation is "eh" to me - I think things like that need to be worked out among people who treat each other respectfully as individuals. In some situations, that accommodation could be respectful - like, if Colleen Francis felt comfortable with it; in others it would be cruel and humiliating - kind of depends on how people in a situation relate to each other.

I add that even when I was a tiny child, I was pretty completely educated on the "don't stare at people's naked bits" front, so I don't quite understand the idea that the kids are being "forced" to do anything. And little kids aren't even allowed in saunas - as opposed to showers - generally, right? At least they aren't around here.

I will go so far as to say that I think genital panic is a bad thing, and that where it is used as a prop for transphobia it needs to stop. The mere fact that a body part exists and can be seen is not a reason to shame or exile people.

Actually, when I was little, it was disabled and very old people who freaked me out in the locker rooms! And yet even then 1. I was not traumatized even though I was sometimes disturbed; 2. I knew that seeing people whose bodies were disturbing to me was just part of being in the public sphere; and 3. the most scary parts were things where I could not get information. Why did that old woman have those weird lumps on her legs? Why couldn't that person speak without gargle-mumbling the words? Those things scared me, but they would not have scared me if I'd had explanations.

My point is that there's lots of stuff that's scary to little kids about bodies; also that those fears are social and can be handled with social methods.
posted by Frowner at 12:35 PM on March 1, 2013 [7 favorites]


that those fears are social and can be handled with social methods.

100% this.

My kids are still young, less than five years each and they haven't been to public school yet. They have zero fear of nudity, or genitalia. I see no reason to instill that kind of fear into them, though I imagine it will happen without my help anyway. But it's something I'd like to fight against.

Trans* issues don't just affect trans* people, they affect everybody. Transphobia is in utter lockstep with other bigotries, like body shaming, slut shaming, and of course homophobia. It falls under that umbrella of so-called normalcy, the insidiously toxic view that there is a "right" way to live, to be. There are only two boxes, check one.

And it's not just a gender binary. It's an EVERYTHING binary. Some of this varies by location, but it's almost impossible to avoid, especially when you're young. If you don't fit the entirely arbitrary, inherently fucked-up mold of 'normal' that has been defined for you by your peers, which they probably learned from their older siblings or their parents...if you don't fit in that mold you become an outcast. An Other.

My 4 year old is a cisgendered boy. For all I know, he is a boy, since he's never told us otherwise. He's also incredibly tender. If he feels affection for you he'll run up and put his arms around your neck and plant a big kiss on your lips. It is the sweetest thing ever, it makes my day every time. But you know, he has an uncle who is a well-meaning sort of person but just thinks it's just wrong wrong wrong for a boy to kiss anybody except for his mother. When my son tries to kiss this uncle --who he utterly adores and looks up to-- he's pushed away, every time. You should see the look of discomfort on his uncle's face: like it's just so weird and bad for your little nephew to want to kiss you. Seriously, bro.

Of course my son is only 4 so it takes all of 2 seconds for him to forget the rebuff and move on to something else (ooh! firetruck!), but I wonder what small signals this exchange has formed in his mind. As time passes what will happen? Will there come a day when he's too ashamed to kiss me, his own father? I sincerely hope not.

If we can't even stand up for a 6 year old girl, who just wants to do the same things that other girls in her class do (like use the same bathroom), then we're just perpetuating that shame and fear and even if YOU aren't trans* that shame and fear and bigotry will still trickle down to you and yours and one day you may find that you've hurt by this institution of ignorance, the wholly constructed false idealism that we've been trying to hold on to for far, far too long.
posted by Doleful Creature at 1:38 PM on March 1, 2013 [17 favorites]


In related news: Centreville spa openly rejects homosexual, transgendered customers. It is our policy, representative says. In response to a BBB complaint, the Spa said, "It is our policy to not accept any kinds of abnormal sexual oriented customers to our facility such as homosexuals, or transgender(s)." There is a petition started now. To be told that you are "abnormal" and unwelcome in a space where you were peacefully living your life is a painful, horrible act of violence.
posted by anya32 at 1:40 PM on March 1, 2013 [5 favorites]


And one follow-up: A quote from Spa World Manager Sang Lee: "Also, for the safety and the comfort of young children at Spa World, we strongly forbid any abnormal sexual behaviors and orientation in our facility. Despite the controversial issue of homosexuality and transgender, it is our policy to not accept them." Again, "the children" are always used to defend violence.
posted by anya32 at 1:42 PM on March 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Centreville spa openly rejects homosexual, transgendered customers. It is our policy, representative says.

And people keep saying Fairfax County Virginia is so much more progressive than it was when I grew up there.
posted by sweetkid at 1:55 PM on March 1, 2013


They kicked her out because she has broad shoulders.

A lot of cisgendered women have broad shoulders. A lot of cisgendered men are small/skinny (for men). It's a good thing that that spa is working so hard to protect its patrons from having to see people who look different.

I mean what in the actual fucking fuck. Fuck you, spa, and fuck you Fairfax County, and fuck you Virginia.
posted by rtha at 2:30 PM on March 1, 2013 [4 favorites]



fuck you Fairfax County, and fuck you Virginia

well all four of the comments I saw on the Fairfax Times site were supportive of Riya Suising's right to use the spa. So there's that.

Like I don't love how they are sometimes but I'm from there and so...
posted by sweetkid at 2:36 PM on March 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


But you know, he has an uncle who is a well-meaning sort of person but just thinks it's just wrong wrong wrong for a boy to kiss anybody except for his mother. When my son tries to kiss this uncle --who he utterly adores and looks up to-- he's pushed away, every time. You should see the look of discomfort on his uncle's face: like it's just so weird and bad for your little nephew to want to kiss you. Seriously, bro.

I have to say that it is a major major squick for me to have a child kiss any adult on the lips. Hell, it's weird for me for adults to kiss adults on the lips that they are not sleeping with. Lip-kisses, in my world, are for sex and romance - cheek-kisses are for friendship. Your mileage may vary, but for me the reaction would be to get the fuck out of dodge too. I am a lady, this has nothing to do with the genders of people involved, it's a child-adult-sort of thing.

Not saying you're wrong to do what you're doing, but just that maybe it's also not wrong for this uncle to set his own squick boundaries too.
posted by corb at 3:33 PM on March 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Everyone in Texas kisses family members on the lips, and I cannot control my squick. (I am willing to put up with it, different strokes and all that, but still... squick.) That's definitely a cultural thing. In my family, even cheek kisses were rare.
posted by restless_nomad at 3:36 PM on March 1, 2013


Fair enough, but the squick-factor is probably learned too, no? Unless you're saying you were bugged by that even when you were little kids...and if that's the case, then I'm wrong and need to come up with a better example.
posted by Doleful Creature at 4:04 PM on March 1, 2013


No, I am saying it is totally learned and not a moral judgment thing at all, and this is a golden opportunity to teach the kid about how everyone likes to be touched differently and everyone gets to say no to touches they don't like.
posted by restless_nomad at 4:05 PM on March 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


Ah, yes I see. Thanks for clarifying.
posted by Doleful Creature at 4:15 PM on March 1, 2013


I just wanted to point out that my old university's Student's Union has had a policy which is "everyone is welcome to use whatever bathrooms they're most comfortable with" and absolutely no other restrictions at all for a good few years now, and there have been exactly zero incidents reported in relation to that. There have been a few sexual assaults on the campus in the same period, sadly, and many instances of violence and harassment, but not one of them has been related to who was in what bathroom.
posted by Dysk at 4:43 AM on March 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


wolfie:If I am incorrect, please cite references - I didn't see any evidence of therapy anywhere in the links
A psychologist confirmed then that Coy was indeed transgender,

If it was a birth certificate, then I will totally eat my words and acknowledge that she was treated unfairly.
Colorado: Gender Changes Due to Surgical Procedures. Since it's already been established that surgery is an unnecessarily difficult procedure ....

I guess the only question is BBQ sauce or mustard.


There are a lot of people ignorantly accusing me of hatred against transexuals here, but as I stated MULTIPLE times, my only concern here is with the law and legal ramifications. I'm completely ambivalent about transexual rights (or lack thereof) - I simply care about whether the correct process is being followed to ensure that people can't use the precedent set here to abuse the law for malicious purposes. None of the FPP links mentioned anything about therapy (or birth certificates) at all, so it seemed to me like Coy's parents were trying to bypass the proper legal channels.

Since you adequately addressed the concerns I stated - instead of going on irrelevant tangents accusing me of hatred, like 90% of the people here - I now feel completely comfortable changing my position on this. Based on this new information, I feel perfectly OK about recognizing Coy as a girl, and I hope that she gets the right to use the bathroom that she is entitled to.

(Also, I'm more of a mustard kind of guy.)
posted by wolfdreams01 at 7:51 AM on March 2, 2013


Thanks for clearing that up. When you said "legally allowing people to use the opposite bathroom based on a claim that they're "mentally" the other gender seems ridiculous to me," it seemed implied that you did not buy that people who are mentally the other gender should be allowed to use the proper restroom due to your use of scare quotes around mentally. Also because you decided to call her "he" and defended that position. If you do not care about these matters in any way as long as the transgender folks are not invading your bathroom willy-nilly, we don't need to hear your opinions on anything else.

I think the reason some of the articles have not mentioned the therapy is because it's absolute common sense that it was happening.
posted by Drinky Die at 8:06 AM on March 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


"Ambivalent" doesn't mean "this thing doesn't matter to me." It means "I cannot decide if this thing is good or bad."
posted by rtha at 8:25 AM on March 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think the part where he said his only concern is keeping people out of the wrong bathroom made it clear what he feels does and does not matter to him.
posted by Drinky Die at 8:53 AM on March 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Since rights for trans* people include bathroom access, the use of "ambivalent" made this unclear to me.

None of the FPP links mentioned anything about therapy (or birth certificates) at all,

Links in any given fpp rarely encompass every fact or issue about the fpp's subject. It's unhelpful to assume that it does and to make statements (rather than ask questions), like only people who have had gender reassignment surgery can be legally considered the other gender, as if they are fact when they may very much not be.
posted by rtha at 9:52 AM on March 2, 2013 [7 favorites]


wolfdreams91: I now feel completely comfortable changing my position on this. Based on this new information, I feel perfectly OK about recognizing Coy as a girl, and I hope that she gets the right to use the bathroom that she is entitled to.

Do you have an address to which I can address my application to be recognized by you as a woman?
posted by Corinth at 10:37 AM on March 2, 2013 [15 favorites]


I wonder why the LA Times and NY Times haven't covered the Coy Mathis story yet. Seems like they would've weighed in on it by this point. Maybe they're doing a deeper dive into the backstory?
posted by foot at 12:02 PM on March 2, 2013


I would be careful about inferring too much from an absence of evidence.
posted by en forme de poire at 12:20 PM on March 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


So, since I linked to this in the other thread, I thought I'd add it here too, as I think it does a decent job of explaining the law, best practices and some of the very real risks trans people face: Peeing in Peace, from the Transgender Law Center.

Having that background will help explain some of why obliviousness, ambivalence, retreats to privilege, ignorant standard-setting and discounting the actual evidence of both public policy and others' lives is frustrating and comes across as dumbassery and gets a strong, negative reaction. Note that a large part of the pamphlet is a guide for trans people to not get assaulted or killed just for using the bathroom.

Another point of reference is that San Francisco United School District instituted a trans-friendly policy around 1990 of allowing people to use a bathroom based on their self-proclaimed gender identity. I haven't been able to find a single instance of that being used by cis dudes — or anyone — to harass other students. Even if there were one or two incidents, that's over 20 years, meaning that kids who are seniors now have had this policy their entire school lives.
posted by klangklangston at 12:36 PM on March 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


I wonder why the LA Times and NY Times haven't covered the Coy Mathis story yet. Seems like they would've weighed in on it by this point.

Why?
posted by rtha at 1:55 PM on March 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Because right now we're all relying on the CNN article as a primary source for this story. And in my opinion, the CNN article and accompanying photos strikes me as a well-packaged, media-friendly press release. I'm just curious why a fascinating story like this, which has generated plenty of interest on the web, has yet to be covered by a significant news outlet like the NYT or LAT. My only guess is that it takes time to do proper investigative reporting, which I believe this story deserves. Either that or they haven't deemed the story worthy of coverage at this point.
posted by foot at 2:35 PM on March 2, 2013


The coverage I've read seems to cover most of what you would expect at this point. It gives a biography of the family and the child, the position of the school, some background on the medical and legal issues involved. I'm not sure what else you might dig for aside from a deeper biography, but it would be up to the family to decide who to go to with that if they wanted to.

I would not discount that the papers you named just don't have anything to add, WaPo just ran the AP piece.
posted by Drinky Die at 2:49 PM on March 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


My only guess is that it takes time to do proper investigative reporting, which I believe this story deserves.

Precisely what are they going to investigate, though?
posted by hoyland at 3:27 PM on March 2, 2013


There's a few interesting angles to the story that would benefit from a deeper investigation. Just off the top of my head: is there any more information on the psychologist that diagnosed Coy as being transgendered? How did he or she arrive at that conclusion? Does Coy comprehend what it means to be diagnosed as transgendered at such a young age? If the family wants to push transgendered rights forward, it would be enlightening for us to know how they arrived at that diagnosis.

Beyond that: how did the family get a state ID and passport that recognizes Coy as a female? What exactly did that process entail? Do those documents state Coy's gender as female, or sex as female?

What is the background on the Mathis family? Kathryn Mathis apparently has an extensive online history, and was a significant contributor to the Triplet Connection community. What information can be gleaned from those resources? I'd personally like to know what motivates a family to thrust a young child into the national spotlight.
posted by foot at 4:18 PM on March 2, 2013


I dunno, most of that sounds a bit personal to me. There are plenty of more general resources for most of those questions.
posted by Drinky Die at 4:23 PM on March 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'd personally like to know what motivates a family to thrust a young child into the national spotlight.

I hope you are asking that question about every single family that's got kids in the national spotlight as: TV stars, models, athletes, winners of the Spelling Bee, participants in documentaries about schools, patients with rare diseases, chess prodigies, plaintiffs in lawsuits to make public schools stop forcing kids to participate in religious activities, etc.

There are resources linked in this thread about the process in Colorado for being recognized as trans* and getting ID to reflect that. There are also links to articles and books written by people about being trans. Hell, there are people right here in this thread who have written about the process. There are resources at the Transgender Law Center that can help you navigate what the diagnostic process is generally like and what is required for getting ID, depending on jurisdiction.
posted by rtha at 4:29 PM on March 2, 2013 [13 favorites]


foot, why in the world do you think those questions are any of your business?

I'd personally like to know what motivates a family to thrust a young child into the national spotlight.

As for that, it seems like their motivation is to ensure that their daughter's legal rights are being respected. I doubt we'd even know about this story (as we do not know about all of the other families dealing with similar dynamics) if the school hadn't denied her a basic right.
posted by gingerbeer at 4:30 PM on March 2, 2013 [10 favorites]


The questions may seem personal, but this is just a sample of what the Mathis family will run up against in a court setting.
posted by foot at 4:37 PM on March 2, 2013


Sure, but I bet they are hoping to avoid going to court.
posted by Drinky Die at 4:38 PM on March 2, 2013


There are a lot of people ignorantly accusing me of hatred against transexuals here, but as I stated MULTIPLE times, my only concern here is with the law and legal ramifications. I'm completely ambivalent about transexual rights (or lack thereof)

Sorry, but being completely ambivalent* about the rights (or lack thereof) of a whole group of people... specifically targeting a group of marginalized people who are currently being denied a suite of rights in the modern United States. That's going to be seen (non-ignorantly) as pretty hateful.

Also, the "law, and legal ramifications" are directly, and specifically concerned with the rights of citizens and people... Iago; "only caring about the law and legal ramifications" directly connects with and/or conflicts with "rights (or lack thereof)" of groups of people.

*maybe you are not clear because you are using a different meaning for ambivalent: Ambivalence is a state of having simultaneous, conflicting feelings toward a person or thing, not "neutral" as was claimed earlier.
posted by infinite intimation at 4:41 PM on March 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


The questions may seem personal, but this is just a sample of what the Mathis family will run up against in a court setting.

Sure, but you're not their lawyer, the school system's lawyer, or the judge, so your puzzlement that the NYT hasn't sicced an investigative reporter on this seems kind of odd. Also, a lot of that information (about Coy's medical records) may be protected by HIPAA - the court may be granted access, but we regular people will have to live without.
posted by rtha at 4:46 PM on March 2, 2013 [9 favorites]


If one really cared to learn more, there's always the Jazz interviews. They are very informative and enlightening. Also very humanizing, which is maybe a little threatening to one's preconceptions and biases.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:22 PM on March 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


[There is an open Metatalk thread htat is very long. If you have issues with someone's behavior, please take it there. foot, please try not to make this thread about you, thanks.]
posted by jessamyn at 5:30 PM on March 2, 2013


Duly noted, but asking tough questions about the topic at hand doesn't make the thread about me. Over and out.
posted by foot at 5:36 PM on March 2, 2013


There's a few interesting angles to the story that would benefit from a deeper investigation. Just off the top of my head: is there any more information on the psychologist that diagnosed Coy as being transgendered? How did he or she arrive at that conclusion?

Are you actually encouraging journalists or other people to attempt to access and/or make public the confidential medical and psychological records of a six-year-old child? Because you think it would be "interesting" and that we would "benefit" from having access to confidential medical information about a six-year-old child?

Why on earth would we have the right to know the answers to those questions any more than we have the right to know what conversations go on between you and your doctors?
posted by decathecting at 5:39 PM on March 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


ust off the top of my head: is there any more information on the psychologist that diagnosed Coy as being transgendered? How did he or she arrive at that conclusion? Does Coy comprehend what it means to be diagnosed as transgendered at such a young age? If the family wants to push transgendered rights forward, it would be enlightening for us to know how they arrived at that diagnosis.

Yeah, I'm not sure that the family necessarily ARE pushing transgender rights, nor indeed do they have any obligation to at all. To an extent, they are, but that seems to be a consequence of pushing for Coy to have her rights - as recognised by law - respected by an institution that has failed to uphold its duty in that regard. Pushing for that does not and should not make them fair game for any and all investigative journalism in the name of trans rights.

Beyond that: how did the family get a state ID and passport that recognizes Coy as a female? What exactly did that process entail? Do those documents state Coy's gender as female, or sex as female?

Presumably by whichever legal process exists for this in Colorado generally, and those documents will state what they always state as a result. None of these questions are really about Coy (or certainly don't need to be) - they're about how the process for getting state ID and passports changed in Colorado in general. If you're interested in how getting the gender markers on your ID changed in Colorado works, I'm sure there are resources on the internet about just that (here's some to get you started from just a quick google.)
posted by Dysk at 5:48 PM on March 2, 2013


Are you actually encouraging journalists or other people to attempt to access and/or make public the confidential medical and psychological records of a six-year-old child?

I assumed the implication was that the parents would be agreeing to release this info to the Times for some reason, because yeah there is no way they would dig for it otherwise.

This isn't the OJ trial or something. The New York Times isn't staying up all night trying to nail down a scoop here. Stories about transgender kids come and go all the time, this one might get some more attention as the legal process goes on but it's mostly going to fade away outside of the circles of people who really care about this stuff.
posted by Drinky Die at 5:49 PM on March 2, 2013


Okay, so I'm late to all this drama because I've been sick and work has been nuts, but I do want to be on record as saying hey, sorry for all the shit trans* & allies have had to deal with lately here, and mad props to all those revisiting their previously held preconceptions. As someone who has been privileged to be witness to someone on this very special journey, it's absolutely amazing and wonderful, even when things get stupid and ugly. Seriously, it will change your life and perception of reality, even as a bystander, in the best possible way if you let it.

Love to all those doing their best to help folks live the lives they want to live in this context.

The thought that someone would crush a child's sense of self sickens me. I know that bad things happen in public school bathrooms: I have no illusions. However, in my experience, NONE of it happened in conjunction w. genderqueer kids. It was ALWAYS regarding previously ID'd creepy folks lacking enough legal evidence to move on. Seriously, sexual predators do NOT equal trans* folk.
posted by smirkette at 8:02 PM on March 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


The questions may seem personal, but this is just a sample of what the Mathis family will run up against in a court setting.

In case it needs saying, most or all of foot's concerns would be inadmissable in any court setting in which this case might be heard. The purpose of a court hearing would not be to investigate the character of the parents or of medical professionals, or to satisfy the prurient curiosities of the gallery in other ways. It would limit itself to the specific issue under discussion - that is, whether the district has acted correctly by taking the action it did under Colorado law.

The district could attempt to argue in their defence that Coy's parents had conspired with medical professionals against their child's interests. Heck, they could claim a conspiracy going all the way to the top of the APA, causing gender dysphoria to appear in DSM-V. Such a gambit would be met by initial bemusement, then an overrule, and if continued in their representation being found in contempt of court.

Likewise, if the NYT or LAT suspected that there was a possible exposé here, they would be bound by their own codes of ethics and the advice of their legal department. Unsurprisingly, probing the medical records of vulnerable children is quite a ticklish subject, legally, and a public interest angle would be hard to justify.
posted by running order squabble fest at 8:10 PM on March 2, 2013 [9 favorites]


Beyond that: how did the family get a state ID and passport that recognizes Coy as a female? What exactly did that process entail? Do those documents state Coy's gender as female, or sex as female?

So, if you were remotely interested in actually learning about trans issues, you could find these things out pretty readily. In fact, I'm pretty sure a number of the answers have been linked already in the thread. Certainly, I've alluded to the answer to 'how do you change a passport'? It's readily available on the State Department's website. I bet Googling a picture of a Colorado state ID would tell you if it says 'gender' or 'sex'. (I have a US passport. It says 'sex'.) I bet the website of the Colorado DMV would tell you how one goes about changing a state ID (or, more likely in this case, getting one that's right the first time around). But, as you seem to want these answers to tell us how Coy can't possibly be trans and how any doctor treating a trans person is a dangerous quack, maybe I'm only offering you more weapons.
posted by hoyland at 9:17 PM on March 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


The district could attempt to argue in their defence that Coy's parents had conspired with medical professionals against their child's interests. Heck, they could claim a conspiracy going all the way to the top of the APA, causing gender dysphoria to appear in DSM-V. Such a gambit would be met by initial bemusement, then an overrule, and if continued in their representation being found in contempt of court.

I'm honestly worried that this is what they'll argue, were it to make it to court. Because I'm not sure how they have a leg to stand on otherwise. Arguing that non-discrimination laws don't apply to schools is bound to be a non-starter. So they can either attack the existence of the entire law in the first place or attack Coy's gender.
posted by hoyland at 9:20 PM on March 2, 2013


There's a few interesting angles to the story that would benefit from a deeper investigation. Just off the top of my head: is there any more information on the psychologist that diagnosed Coy as being transgendered? How did he or she arrive at that conclusion?

Just off the top of my head, any investigative publication of that information without the permission of Coy's parents would be a very blatant HIPAA violation. If you're not a medical professional involved in the medical care of this child, I'm sorry, you don't get to know all the juicy details of her private medical info. Just like I don't get to know yours unless I am your doctor.

Isn't privacy great?
posted by palomar at 9:37 PM on March 2, 2013 [15 favorites]


If only perfect parents with impeccable Internet histories are allowed to have children who are legitimately trans or otherwise legitimately have complex medical issues, then we have no choice but to all stop having kids until we can pre-emptively figure out the unborn's future medical history and assign parenthood accordingly.

But Coy's parents sure do seem to love her a lot and want her to be happy, and they've gotten assistance from a lot of medical professionals to try to do right by her, so I'm willing to let their imperfections slide if Coy is.
posted by nicebookrack at 5:35 AM on March 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm honestly worried that this is what they'll argue, were it to make it to court. Because I'm not sure how they have a leg to stand on otherwise.

They've pretty much laid out their case, I think - that in their (or at least their lawyer's) view the "full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, advantages or accommodations" of a public school can be provided while also restricting access to shared bathroom spaces, as long as an equally accessible alternative is provided. If that is understood to be the case, and Coy's gender identity is not being challenged, the argument becomes one of whether the nurse's station and the staff room count as equally accessible.

The second, rather concern-trolly, angle is that, whereas currently the other children (and some teachers) have not really thought very much about Coy's genitals, as she gets older it is more likely that her gender identity may be challenged when she uses the restroom, and that it would be better to section her off now, rather than "when students deal with lots of social issues". The school, the argument goes, is therefore upholding a duty of care by not letting Coy get too comfortable with using a girls' restroom.

(This seems to me a deeply unwise gambit, but IANAColoradoEducationL.)

The letter from Wm. Kelly Dude confuses the line of argument somewhat by using an eccentric gendering system - referring to Coy as a boy, and using the pronoun usage "he" and "his":
not to be disrespectful, but because I am referring to male genitals.
A bright respondent, which I imagine Michael Silverman is, would probably take the opportunity to point out that describing Coy as "a boy, with male genitals" is itself contrary to the spirit of Colorado's Civil Rights Division's guidelines, since it is not respecting her gender identity. And, indeed, that Dude is not "referring to male genitals", but to a student, and that an inability to distinguish between these two things does not speak well of the district's ability to make judgements regarding the welfare of its students, if it is regular danger of mistaking them for genitals.

I guess one is in something of a cleft stick, there - if you refer to Coy as a girl it may make the case for excluding her from the girls' restroom seem less convincing, if you refer to her as a boy (and later "a male" who "may appear to be female") you get picked up pretty much immediately for not respecting her sexual orientation (which the State of Colorado extends to transgender status).

So... based on the response so far, it is mathematically possible that the district's counsel could try to argue that Coy is a boy, and "permitting" her to wear girls' clothes to school and be called "she" is a matter of respecting the parents' wishes rather than acknowledging a change in gender identity by Coy herself (or rather himself). However, this would seem very unwise, probably on several levels - for example, it would involve proving medical misdiagnosis and/or parental misconduct, and would raise the question of why the school had up to that point colluded in the sort of fevered anti-penis conspiracy foot has been imagining. This - what one might call the Sleepaway Camp defense - would be risky and expensive, and would open the district to an exciting range of counterlitigation.

It would be wiser, probably, to argue that schools are required only to provide accessible bathroom facilities to all students, and can assign these facilities according to their own best judgment, thus making it a case about distances between Coy's classroom and the girls' restroom, the nurse's station and the staff room. Dude's response letter has already made that trickier, I suspect, due to its focus on genitals.
posted by running order squabble fest at 6:34 AM on March 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


They've pretty much laid out their case, I think - that in their (or at least their lawyer's) view the "full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, advantages or accommodations" of a public school can be provided while also restricting access to shared bathroom spaces, as long as an equally accessible alternative is provided. If that is understood to be the case, and Coy's gender identity is not being challenged, the argument becomes one of whether the nurse's station and the staff room count as equally accessible.

It's this line from the Civil Rights Commission's rules that I'm hung up on:
All covered entities shall allow individuals the use of gender-segregated facilities that are consistent with their gender identity.
I don't see a way of arguing that rule considers forcing a trans student to use the nurse's bathroom acceptable. I may be misunderstanding the relationship between the rules implementing the law and the law itself, though.
posted by hoyland at 6:55 AM on March 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Legally, the counterargument seems to be contained in:
Coy has easy access to single-user restrooms (marked "Men" or "Women") used by employees or the gender-neutral single-user bathroom located in the school's health room.
That is, Coy has the use of gender-segregated facilities (the teachers' rest rooms, which are marked "men" and "women", either of which she can use) - just not all gender-segregated facilities.

One could hypothesize that by making both of these restrooms (the men's and women's single-user employee restrooms, that is) available to Coy, the district is refusing to take a firm line on whether Coy is actually male or female, for their purposes. Instead, they are treating her as someone with a medical condition (GID, or GD as of DSM-V) - and, as one might make special bathroom or lunchtime provisions for a child with mobility issues or a compromised immune system, are making special provisions to reflect that.

This then invites this legal challenge, which sets a precedent regarding the correct way to handle Coy and other transgendered kids in future.

If the ruling is that they must be permitted to use any and all restroom facilities appropriate to their stated gender identity rather than their assigned-at-birth gender, that means that, when probably more numerous complaints from the parents of other, cisgendered children (who are unhappy with exactly the situation described in Dude's letter, which has of course likely become inevitable now) arrive, they can be referred upwards, as the district is bound by this precedent.

Curiously, it might actually be better for the district to lose this case (rather than settling it by negotiation) in order to get that precedent set, since there are likely to be more transphobic parents in any given school district than transgendered kids.
posted by running order squabble fest at 7:30 AM on March 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


A new article from the Denver Post from today that talks about Coy and other "cross-gender" kids.
posted by anya32 at 10:02 AM on March 3, 2013


If the child has an ID that states female then, IMO, she is entitled to use the girls room ON the assumption that this ID holds some legal weight.

That's not what the law says.
posted by hoyland


Of course not as this is a Status law and to change almost anything the law must be addressed in due course.

I may be misunderstanding the relationship between the rules implementing the law and the law itself, though.

yes, I think you do. Having an I.D that states "female" is a great first step, it establishes that an institutuion regards Coys status as female. This will add weight to any lawsuit or petition to change the law.
posted by clavdivs at 10:14 AM on March 3, 2013


yes, I think you do. Having an I.D that states "female" is a great first step, it establishes that an institutuion regards Coys status as female. This will add weight to any lawsuit or petition to change the law.

For the last time, Colorado law and the rule implementing it are not interested in ID. The law is not precluding Coy from using the girls' bathroom. The law (or, to be precisely, the rule implementing it) understand the determining factor of what restroom one should have access to to be gender identity. It is decidedly advantageous on a practical level to have ID that reflects one's gender identity, but the letter of the law is not interested, as hard as that may be for you to believe.

The part I may be misunderstanding is whether it's possible to argue against the rule implementing the law without arguing the law itself is unconstitutional (or whatever). But, as running order squabble fest has pointed out, the school has an option to argue they are meeting their obligations by providing acces to an appropriately gendered bathroom, which is not something I was thinking about.
posted by hoyland at 11:30 AM on March 3, 2013


"It is decidedly advantageous on a practical level to have ID that reflects one's gender identity, but the letter of the law is not interested, as hard as that may be for you to believe."

Civil suits are generally settled on the basis of preponderance of evidence. An ID, while not necessary, adds to that preponderance. Legally, self-identification is necessary and sufficient, but having more evidence never hurts a case.
posted by klangklangston at 11:34 AM on March 3, 2013


clavdivs, I've just realised you totally misunderstood my "This is not what the law says" comment. You apparently want ID to be the determining factor in restroom access. There are seventeen thousand reasons, all of which have been discussed in this thread, why this is a craptastic idea. Fortunately, the state of Colorado disagrees with you.
posted by hoyland at 11:39 AM on March 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


A new article from the Denver Post from today that talks about Coy and other "cross-gender" kids.

Do not read the comments, unless you feel that there has been an insufficient amount of ignorance, snark, dismissiveness, and disrespect expressed in this thread and the meTa and you need some for your RDA.
posted by rtha at 12:11 PM on March 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


Also please do not copy the comments over here.
posted by jessamyn at 3:00 PM on March 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


An interview with Coy's mother.

I hope that everyone learns to live with shared-gender washrooms, moderately-private urinals (multi-tool compatible, if there's such a thing), and - let's modernize here - self-cleaning, automated, safety-oriented private toilet stalls.

In other words, less about Coy as an individual, and more about what will be if we can collectively come to our senses. Let's design washing, peeing, pooping, and eating areas intelligently. We'll have lower disease and lower harassment rates.

When a social tradition is stupid, sucky, and arbitrary, we could, y'know, change it.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:37 PM on March 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


That interview leaves me with way more questions than answers.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:01 AM on March 4, 2013


It appears to be an interview from several years ago, if you are wondering why it didn't answer any questions about the recent legal dispute.
posted by Drinky Die at 5:59 AM on March 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


[Make a basic effort.]
posted by cortex at 2:07 PM on March 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


[There is a giant MeTa about this thread, please do not wander in here idly wondering about gender identity and "brain anomalies" It's offensive. You can go to MeTa, that is the appropriate place.]
posted by jessamyn at 5:55 PM on March 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


[There is a giant MeTa about this thread ... You can go to MeTa, that is the appropriate place.]

No longer. The Meta has been closed.
posted by zarq at 7:18 PM on March 4, 2013 [3 favorites]




posted by cortex at 3:07 PM
posted by jessamyn at 6:55 PM
No longer. The Meta has been closed. posted by zarq at 8:18 PM

Seems like 7PM was a tumultuous hour.
posted by boo_radley at 7:59 AM on March 5, 2013


California Assemblyman Tom Ammiano introduces transgender bathroom rights legislation:
"Discriminating against transgender people already is illegal in California, but the bill's supporters say AB1266 is necessary to ensure that school districts do not deny students opportunities to participate in activities or to feel welcome on campus."
posted by ericb at 1:08 PM on March 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


NYT has a nice introductory column on basic trans etiquette for well-intentioned people, covers pronouns, what kinds of questions are too intrusive, etc.
posted by LobsterMitten at 2:07 PM on March 5, 2013 [8 favorites]


I'm not sure I agree with you on the statement that "Coy has a penis, but that doesn't make her a boy." But as I said, I am going to try to educate myself on the subject of gender, sex, and sexual/gender identity, to understand this whole thing better.
posted by KillaSeal at 5:38 PM on February 27


There are probably quite a few people like KillaSeal who despite would-be courteous intentions have trouble wrapping their heads around the idea that a penis is not necessarily male. I'd like to make this (counterhegemonic and hence often counterintuitive) concept more graspable at a crude gut level, by talking about the folks who find themselves sexually attracted to a lady with a penis or a gentleman with a vulva. I don't mean folks who happened to fall in love with the person first and learned to love the whole package, but rather folks who habitually seek out ladies with a penis or gentlemen with a vulva, who are specifically attracted to this particular combination of person and genitalia.

Apologies for discussing how transmen and transwomen are considered as sexually fetishized objects. Cismen and ciswomen should remember that of course there are even larger groups of people currently fetishizing penis-having men and vulva-having women. For transmen and transwomen who are tired of reading about their own sexual objectification, I apologize for potential ickiness in the next two paragraphs, which you should of course feel free to skip.

OK, back to the cispeople having trouble imagining a female penis or a male vulva, who might welcome a bit of crudeness for the sake of clarity. Here's the thing that may blow your mind: the men who want to hook up with penis-having women are generally STRAIGHT rather than gay. The cisgendered people they would sleep with are female, not male. Similarly, the men who wish to have sex with Buck Angel (NSFW), a top-surgery-only transman, are GAY: as a rule they like to fuck men, cis- or otherwise.

I can't say how ironclad such rules are, but I'm going to cite as my authority well-known advice columnist Dan Savage, who gets enough mail that we can assume he's on top of the statistical trends. If you are curious, you may wish to read the letter from The Impossible Fantasy, as well as subsequent advice to TIF from various transmen. (Note: these links each contain at least one snidely invalidating Dan Savage passive-aggressive dig at the expense of transmen in this situation. As Savage's fellow cisperson I apologize for him; as your fellow vulva-proprietor, be assured that you have my sympathy and solidarity against Dan's immature assholery.)

So what can we conclude from this? That gender identity trumps genitalia, not just for sophisticated theorists, not just for transfolk themselves, but for plenty of politically incorrect people at their most crude, intimate, sexually-driven moments.

(Apologies for wordiness. This is a tough combination of audiences to address.)
posted by feral_goldfish at 2:46 PM on March 5, 2013 [2 favorites]




You apparently want ID to be the determining factor in restroom access.

It may be apparent to you but i qualified my statement with an opinion and if you think not having the I.D. in any future legal case is not relevent then you thinking is "craptastic".

But yes, we were at cross-purposes in argument for which I should have made clear.
posted by clavdivs at 6:33 AM on March 7, 2013


A transgender coming out letter, where the author tries to explain herself to people who may be unfamiliar with transgender issues.
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:25 PM on March 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


Emerson Student Gets Sex-Change Coverage After-All
The Emerson College student turned down for sex change surgery will get coverage after all, ABC News reported today.

In a reversal, the insurance carrier has agreed to cover the so-called "top surgery," or best removal for Donnie Collins, the 19 year old student who was born female but has been male identified since prep school.

"After the rejection of his initial request, the college contacted Aetna for clarification -- knowing that transgender benefits have been part of its insurance policy with Aetna since 2006," the college said in a statement.
posted by ericb at 3:15 PM on March 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


if you think not having the I.D. in any future legal case is not relevent then you thinking is "craptastic".

I have no idea what this means. As I am apparently hopelessly unclear, I refer you to klangklangston's comment. I also refer you to my last-but-one comment (which klangklangston quoted) where I said having ID reflecting one's gender was decidedly advantageous. You can understand 'on a practical level' to mean both in terms of extricating oneself when harassed and in court if that helps. My point, as I have said repeatedly and you have seemingly repeatedly disagreed with, is that it is not required by law. But perhaps I have misunderstood you repeatedly.
posted by hoyland at 6:55 PM on March 8, 2013


Here's the thing that may blow your mind: the men who want to hook up with penis-having women are generally STRAIGHT rather than gay. The cisgendered people they would sleep with are female, not male. Similarly, the men who wish to have sex with Buck Angel (NSFW), a top-surgery-only transman, are GAY: as a rule they like to fuck men, cis- or otherwise.

I think this is not a thing which is universally accepted, and that many people would refer to those individuals as bisexual - or at least having a slightly different place on the Kinsey scale than those who are exclusively heterosexual.
posted by corb at 6:10 AM on March 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think this is not a thing which is universally accepted, and that many people would refer to those individuals as bisexual - or at least having a slightly different place on the Kinsey scale than those who are exclusively heterosexual.

While there's a bunch of stuff in feral_goldfish's comment that I feel conflicted about, I'm pretty sure the "many people" who would insist chasers are bisexual are trying to erase the genders of trans people. It's the same logic that says any person in a relationship with a trans person (or a trans person who hasn't had genital surgery, take your pick) must be bi, which the experiences of innumerable people would suggest isn't the case.
posted by hoyland at 11:49 AM on March 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


corb: [quoting another commenter]"Here's the thing that may blow your mind: the men who want to hook up with penis-having women are generally STRAIGHT rather than gay. The cisgendered people they would sleep with are female, not male. Similarly, the men who wish to have sex with Buck Angel (NSFW), a top-surgery-only transman, are GAY: as a rule they like to fuck men, cis- or otherwise. [end quote of other commenter]

corb: I think this is not a thing which is universally accepted, and that many people would refer to those individuals as bisexual - or at least having a slightly different place on the Kinsey scale than those who are exclusively heterosexual."

By referring to men who are attracted to trans women as "not exclusively heterosexual" you are continuing to represent trans women as somehow not being "real" women (or "not exclusively women", which is also problematic). Similarly, by referring to men who are attracted to trans men as "bisexual" you are continuing to represent trans men as not being "real" men.

The reasons that the "biology/anatomy at birth is destiny" argument is invalid have been explained repeatedly by many people. When you assert that a trans woman isn't "really" or "exclusively" a woman, you're continuing to misgender trans people.
posted by Lexica at 11:54 AM on March 10, 2013 [6 favorites]


What would be a good link to the latest science on this topic? Showbiz_liz's post made me cry-and is helping me understand.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 11:59 AM on March 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Imposing identities on people you don't even know is generally not a great idea. I get that it's handy and it's a shortcut and we all do it to some extent, but it's really of quite limited use and should be acknowledged and treated as such.
posted by rtha at 12:03 PM on March 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


St. Alia of the Bunnies, assuming you're referring to the mooted biological causes of transness, the references on Wikipedia are as probably as good as any, starting with reference 18 or so. There is an International Journal of Transgenderism, but there's only one issue accessible without subscription, but perhaps you have access to a university library.
posted by hoyland at 12:24 PM on March 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Endorsing Hoyland's link, and pointing out that pretty much everything in the "sexuality" heading on the wikipedia page doesn't really stand up when applied to trans people out in the world.

Corb, are you disputing the word of those men who are attracted to all women, cis and trans, who say they are straight? And is it really worth highlighting that a particular concept is not "university accepted" if it's the case that the people who argue with it are not either involved or educated on the subject?
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 1:06 PM on March 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


"Imposing identities on people you don't even know is generally not a great idea. I get that it's handy and it's a shortcut and we all do it to some extent, but it's really of quite limited use and should be acknowledged and treated as such."

Yeah, honestly this is something where my gut feeling — that because trans* folks are part of the larger LGBT/Queer community, anyone who's dating or sexing a trans* person would be part of the larger LGBT/Queer community — is more about political affinity than identity, and frankly exclusive in some way that trans* folks and the folks that date 'em might be uncomfortable with. Since I'm neither, I gotta let them define themselves, but Christ I hope they're at least voting the right way, you know?
posted by klangklangston at 2:04 PM on March 10, 2013


Wait, why are we talking about sexuality? I admit, I haven't been combing this thread, but ostensibly, it's about a six year old kid who wants to use the bathroom. While I know many cultures have this issue, sex ≠ gender, and while no doubt Cody has crushes, at six, the plumbing just shouldn't matter at all for the process of elimination.
posted by smirkette at 7:50 PM on March 10, 2013


Yeah, the problem is basically that only some of us consider "sex ≠ gender" axiomatic. So we have had to discuss that and its implications before we could ever actually manage the post topic.
posted by gingerest at 8:15 PM on March 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


This post has been everywhere. Several times over. Coy got left behind almost entirely in the first couple hours.
posted by hoyland at 8:31 PM on March 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Every trans thread that survives long enough goes through an iteration or two of "Here are my political and emotional problems with your life."
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 9:30 PM on March 10, 2013 [18 favorites]


Corb, are you disputing the word of those men who are attracted to all women, cis and trans, who say they are straight?

Not at all - I would never presume to declare for someone else what their sexuality is. But I think that there are individuals - indeed, I've met some of them - who sleep with trans folk and would view it as part of their bisexuality rather than their heterosexuality, specifically because of the body parts involved. I'm sure there are people who also view it as part of their heterosexuality. I've also met straight and homosexual individuals who choose to have sex only with those body parts which align with their preferred sex - women and men wanting to have sex only with women with vaginas, women and men only wanting to have sex with men with penises. I don't think those people are necessarily "Transphobic" - I think it's entirely reasonable for some individuals to prefer sex only with individuals who possess the body part (or pheromones) that they're attracted to.

What I'm trying to say is: people are different, yo, and I think how people class their attraction to individuals is something those individuals get to decide.

Wait, why are we talking about sexuality? I admit, I haven't been combing this thread, but ostensibly, it's about a six year old kid who wants to use the bathroom.

I'm honestly not sure, I just saw it come up earlier in-thread.
posted by corb at 11:06 AM on March 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's okay, you can take the word transphobic out of the scare quotes now; it's a real thing.

Anyway, just commenting to let you know I'm not ignoring your comment, but I'm in precisely the wrong mood to deal with you right now. I might pop up later in the week.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 11:45 AM on March 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


But I think that there are individuals - indeed, I've met some of them - who sleep with trans folk and would view it as part of their bisexuality rather than their heterosexuality, specifically because of the body parts involved.

This is not what you said. You tried to suggest people who fetishise trans people (and people in relationships with trans people) are necessarily bi and not straight or gay. (Yes, you said "many people". I'm reading this as a rhetorical dodge.) And while I don't doubt there are people out there who are all "Whoops, slept with a trans person, must be bi!" and where the trans people they sleep with are okay with this, as a general rule, such people are transphobic. I don't disagree that there are bi people who happily sleep with trans people. I, too, know some. It's not 'part of their bisexuality', though, at least not in any sense other than sleeping with any person, cis or trans, is 'part of their bisexuality'. I would look seriously askance at them if they tried to tell me that they wouldn't sleep with trans people were they not bi.

"I only sleep with women with vaginas" or "I only sleep with people with vaginas" are problematic too, but I'll believe quite readily that some of these people are not dyed in the wool transphobic assholes and think they are being respectful of trans people (particularly the latter group tend to think they're being respectful). These attitudes are the product of a culture of transphobia, doubly so for the former if they've never been in a relationship with a trans person. (You'd be assuming your sexual and relationship fulfillment hinges on a specific sex act (or acts) requiring people with a specific set of genitals. Maybe it does. I'm not the most sexual of people, so what do I know, but that seems like an awfully weird assumption.)

(Is it possible you're being confused by people talking about pansexuality as 'being attracted to people of all genders' in a way that specifically includes non-binary-identified people?)
posted by hoyland at 5:01 PM on March 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Within LGBTQ spaces, I define my own sexuality as "queer" - by which I mean "not straight, not lesbian, the genital configuration of my partner is of no importance to me." In the world at large, I find "bisexual" to be an easy shorthand for people to grok that I'm neither straight nor a lesbian, but I do truly hate the term for presuming two genders.

A man who sleeps with women, cis and trans, but not cis or trans men, is straight NOT bisexual or gay. The identity of the partner is far more important than the equipment in their pants. If such a person self-identified as bisexual, that's an example of internalized transphobia which sadly happens way too often in the LGBQ community.
posted by sonika at 5:14 PM on March 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


The labels for sexual orientation developed when there was not a clear distinction between sex and gender. They are imprecise because they assume gender is binary and permanent. We need labels (for now, anyway), but the ones we currently use haven't caught up with reality.
posted by gingerest at 5:17 PM on March 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yup, and some people will use labels in ways that may differ from the way you (general you) use them. In public health, for instance, it's more useful in some contexts to talk about MSM - men who have sex with men, but who may not identify as gay or bi. It's hard to educate if your materials don't take your actual audience into account. I suppose that's true of pretty much all communication.

And I've lost count of how many people I've known over the years who identify as lesbian or gay even when they have a past - or present! - sprinkling of opposite-sex partners. For some, it might've been the legitimate fear of the stigmatization that can (still!) come with coming out as bi. For others, it was sort of a defiant claim to a political and social identity. And I'm pretty sure that a few we're just too lazy to give a shit about changing what they and other people called them!
posted by rtha at 5:42 PM on March 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


For some, it might've been the legitimate fear of the stigmatization that can (still!) come with coming out as bi.

I lost a ton of lesbian friends coming out as queer/bi after having a LTR with a woman and then HORRORS dated a cis man. The G & L are definitely still privileged above the Bs, and all three are privileged over Ts. It's like the ladder of queer repression.

(Now I'm married to a cis man and have a baby and it's like an invisibility shroud. I'm STEALTH QUEER.)
posted by sonika at 8:58 PM on March 11, 2013 [7 favorites]


These attitudes are the product of a culture of transphobia, doubly so for the former if they've never been in a relationship with a trans person. (You'd be assuming your sexual and relationship fulfillment hinges on a specific sex act (or acts) requiring people with a specific set of genitals. Maybe it does. I'm not the most sexual of people, so what do I know, but that seems like an awfully weird assumption.)

I think it is highly problematic to assume that you know the motivations behind someone's sexual attraction. People are attacted to a lot of different things - strange and weird and wonderful. There are people who are attracted to women with small breasts and those who are attracted to women with large breasts. There are people who are attracted to very short women and those who are attracted to very tall women. Is it really so hard to imagine that, without needing any darker reasoning, there are people who are attracted to women with vaginas and those who are attracted to women without vaginas as well?

A man who sleeps with women, cis and trans, but not cis or trans men, is straight NOT bisexual or gay. The identity of the partner is far more important than the equipment in their pants. If such a person self-identified as bisexual, that's an example of internalized transphobia which sadly happens way too often in the LGBQ community.

Do you feel comfortable defining other people's sexual identities for them?

You mention below that you identified as a lesbian, and then came out as queer after having dated a cis man. Both of those were your choices to make - no one got to say you were one or the other. But I would bet that there are also people who identify as lesbians, date a cis man, and then continue to identify as lesbians. Would you force your identification of queer on them as well, simply because your identification shifted?
posted by corb at 5:40 AM on March 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


I think it is highly problematic to assume that you know the motivations behind someone's sexual attraction.

1) Saying something is a product of a 'culture of transphobia' isn't commenting on motivations.
2) Sexual attraction has motivations?

Enough with the snark. I actually was writing a comment about this last night. The point is that when someone insists they aren't attracted to trans people, they have no way of knowing this. When they say 'I only like these pheromones' (which are hormonal, by the way) or 'I only like these genitals' it's bullshit because they almost certainly don't know that. (There are probably people who can only get off in a specific context requiring a specific set of genitals. If they've experimented extensively, okay fine. They're presumably rejecting cis people who aren't so interested on that one activity, too. These people are a minority.) The following is part of what I was writing last night.

So... I'm attracted to guys (almost exclusively, anyway--assume I'm a Kinsey 6 for the rest of this comment). It's entirely possible my lizard brain or whatever only perks up at the smell of testosterone-dominant people. But I'm not conscious of that happening, so it would be really weird for me to say "I'm attracted to cis men, trans women not on hormones and trans men on hormones," even though that pretty much approximates the category of 'people with more testosterone than estrogen'. If I'm attracted to a woman (okay, I'm no longer a Kinsey 6, go with it), I'm not going to assume she's trans because of pheromones or something.

And it works exactly the same way for genitals, at least if we're talking about relationships. If we're intending to have casual sex, I imagine we'll get to discussing genitals pretty quickly. But if I'm dating you, by the time I have knowledge of your genitals (either first hand or you've told me about them), I've already decided I'm attracted to you. Whatever possessed me to want knowledge of your genitals is independent of your actual genitals. And, yeah, maybe one or the other of us has to adjust our, uh, default sexual activities as a result of the other person's genitals, but if we've gotten this far, how am I not an asshole for saying 'I liked you enough to know what's in your pants, but I can't be bothered to see if we're sexually compatible'?

(Screw it, have the find-and-replace racism. If someone tells me they're 'not attracted to black men' (and it's usually men specifically), I don't assume they're honest to god hard-wired not to be attracted to black men. I assume this is a product of racism whether the person recognises it or not. Which was my point.)
posted by hoyland at 6:33 AM on March 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


[Folks, have a conversation with the entire group. Take one-on-one questioning direct to MeMail.]
posted by jessamyn at 6:56 AM on March 12, 2013


So... I'm attracted to guys (almost exclusively, anyway--assume I'm a Kinsey 6 for the rest of this comment). It's entirely possible my lizard brain or whatever only perks up at the smell of testosterone-dominant people. But I'm not conscious of that happening, so it would be really weird for me to say "I'm attracted to cis men, trans women not on hormones and trans men on hormones," even though that pretty much approximates the category of 'people with more testosterone than estrogen'.

I think that because you are not conscious of it, does not mean other people aren't, or that it's not active. And I think that's my real problem with what you - and some others - are saying. You don't know why people are attracted (or not attracted) to each other, but you (and they) seem to be assuming the worst of people.

I'm strongly sexually attracted to cismen who are both taller and broader than myself, and have heavy musculature - but who also, for lack of a better word, "smell" right - primarily in their sweat. It's not that I can't have sex with other people or think other people are pretty - I can and have. But I don't have that jolt of lust for other types, and sex with them just isn't the same. I also, somewhere in attraction-brain, have a squick against extremely short-haired guys. I think it might be a military thing, but I'm not quite sure.

So those combination of attractions probably mean that I personally am highly unlikely to be attracted to a transman already even before I get to the genitalia question - transmen, even ones on hormones, tend not to be as broadly built as tends to get me going. It also means, per your latter question, that the only black men I am attracted to are ones with dreads. But I don't think either of those preferences are either transphobic or racist, even though they functionally rule out most of the trans and black men (at least in this current day and age, where most black men tend to shave their heads to some degree)

And I think there are probably some people who are like that about penises and vaginas. It's not me, necessarily - but I know people who practically worship at the cult of both. People who love and lust for every aspect of them - the smell and feel and taste. Those people aren't wrong or bad, even if their preferences happen to wind up also functionally excluding a majority of transfolk.

It's the difference between discrimination in intent - which does often have roots in phobias and biases - and discrimination by impact, which often does not. For example: jobs requiring clean criminal background checks have a disparate impact on men of color, but that doesn't mean they are racist.

At the same time, that doesn't lessen the hurtfulness of those impacts. It doesn't affect how hurt transfolk are to have a (often in practice) reduced dating pool, or how hurt men of color are to have a (often in practice) reduced employment pool. Those hurts are real. And those hurts often make people angry.

But I think that those very real and raw hurts can often cause unintentionally harmful behaviors - in demanding that others either change their attraction parameters, or be labeled with a word that brands someone as an Other, lacking in morality, whom all good people should shun.

We rise to the call of transphobia as we rise to the call of homophobia - because the concept of fear and hate on the basis of someone's being is rightfully repugnant to us.

But just as it is not homophobic to not want to have sex with someone who is gay when someone's personal sexuality and attraction decrees otherwise, it is also not transphobic to not want to have sex with someone who is trans, when someone's personal sexuality and attraction decrees otherwise.
posted by corb at 7:29 AM on March 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm still strongly unsure why we need to be able to arrive upon a universally agreeable systemization of the elementally malleable range of adult sexuality, or be concerned with "the smell and feel and taste" of "penises and vaginas" to discuss a six year old girls right to use the bathroom without triggering a federal case.

Furthermore, I don't think any of the back and forth is going to go anywhere because people are applying fundamentally incompatible cultural schema and then there seems to be some expectation that they can be somehow fused or reconciled. I'm not sure that's so. My view of it all is closer to Hoyland's, but there are further thought-experiments that could be taken w/r/t self-impression of lovers at various points of transition (for those who transition). But that says more about the prevailing culture (or established subcultures) schematization of gender and sexuality, and concomitant assumptions and expectations, than it says about any trans individual's gender and sexuality.

And it shouldn't matter for Coy's purposes.

Clearly, the overall culture has a long way to go before trans rights don't provoke reactions similar to a live hand grenade. To our discredit.
posted by snuffleupagus at 7:40 AM on March 12, 2013


there's a bunch of stuff in feral_goldfish's comment that I feel conflicted about

Right there with you. It's embarrassingly crude, at a number of different rhetorical and analytic levels. If I were to rewrite it, I would just say that if you are someone who finds it difficult to perceive a penis as feminine or a vulva as masculine but DOES ACTUALLY WANT TO be able to perceive some people's genitals that way, then it may be helpful to bring to mind the gay men who enjoy Buck Angel porn. It was for me anyhow -- it just makes the whole thing click in my imagination, like a jigsaw puzzle piece fitting into the right place. (In situations where that's too problematic/creepy, maybe Adam's apples would be easier -- I have one, despite being cis-female, and I certainly don't think of my neck or my voice as belonging to a man.)

I'm guessing the people for whom such an imaginative device would be helpful would include:

(a) Allies seeking to cultivate proper sensibilities. For KillaSeal and others, genitalia seemed to be a particular stumbling block. It doesn't matter for Coy's rights, but it can be helpful, in the same way that it can be helpful to work on retooling one's own racist reflexes. When after a nasty incident I found myself getting racist-twitchy on the street, I launched myself into a deliberate anti-racist program that included reading Slim's Table and hanging out in the cafeteria where it was researched, as a kind of cognitive re-orientation and desensitization -- and I later scored NOT RACIST on ProjectImplicit, so hey, these tricks really can work. Similarly, if we've been socialized to think about gender a certain way from a very young age, it can take some deliberate inculcation in order to nudge our perceptions into line with our social convictions. E.g. I used to feel kind of guilty and uncomfortable around a trans acquaintance, because my brain kept reading her as female and making silent dumb judgments like "Sheesh, N. really isn't making much of an effort with this trans thing -- just changing to a man's name and putting your long hair under a hat doesn't do much, although I suppose the security guard uniform helps with the butchness. No wonder no one can remember to use the right pronouns." (Then a friend mentioned N. was actually MTF and just hadn't chosen a new name yet, so I felt stupid again, but in a good way.)

(b) Possibly kids like Jazz, because it sucks to find your own genitalia problematic, as symbolized by the widespread mermaid obsession. Not that I'm suggesting pre-teens should be surfing Buck Angel's website.

The people for whom this device ISN'T relevant would include:

(c) People who are already thoroughly immersed in trans culture, at a much more sophisticated and nuanced level than what I was aiming for. (To whom I say again: apologies for tactical use of crudeness.)

(d) People deliberately choosing to argue against the legitimacy of trans gender identity.
posted by feral_goldfish at 10:12 AM on March 12, 2013


I'm still strongly unsure why we need to be able to arrive upon a universally agreeable systemization of the elementally malleable range of adult sexuality, or be concerned with "the smell and feel and taste" of "penises and vaginas" to discuss a six year old girls right to use the bathroom without triggering a federal case.


I don't know - I'm interested in the way the discussion keeps getting lurched towards sex. We started out with a sideroad about whether or not it was legally child abuse to let your child see the genitals of an opposite-sex child. Then there was a sideroad about teenaged boys claiming to be girls in order to get into the girls' restroom for the purpose of sexual harassment. Now here's a sideroad about sexual qualities of smell among adults.

I think we're going through the seven ages of humanity, sex edition. Which is odd, given that this is not actually about sex (as in, people having sex) at all, really, but interesting.
posted by running order squabble fest at 10:23 AM on March 12, 2013


This comment gets way into TMI-land. You have been warned.

I find the idea that Person A gets to decide Person B's identity, be that gender, sexuality, etc, repugnant. The only person who gets to decide who or what I am is me. Attempting to force someone into a box to make it easier for you to understand them is, at best, quite unhelpful for the other person. I think we've seen plenty of that kind of behaviour in this thread.

Generally, I identify as gay, for the sake of the vast majority, people who think that labels are relevant. I'm a male-presenting person with a penis. I like to have sex with other individuals who have penises (and other physical characteristics that I find relevant). It's quite possible that I've had sexual relations with individuals who have transitioned, which is completely OK. It's also possible that I've had sexual relations with individuals who haven't yet transitioned, even though they wish to. This is also completely OK. Whether an individual identifies as "man" or "woman" doesn't make any difference to me - what matters is that I find them attractive and that they have the relevant plumbing.

When they say [...] 'I only like these genitals' it's bullshit because they almost certainly don't know that.

I could be reading you wrongly but it sounds like you're saying that unless I have engaged in sexual acts with a vagina, I can't know whether or not I'm going to like it. If that is what you're saying, that's pretty hurtful. I heard a lot of "you just haven't met the right girl yet!" and other such offensive drivel when I was growing up from various people. I have never had slightest inclination to be sexually involved with a vagina. I've had plenty of inclination to be involved with penises. When people tell me that I can't know my own mind and body, and what they like, it's really quite dismissive of my life experiences, not to mention incredibly arrogant. [A]ssuming [my] sexual and relationship fulfillment hinges on a specific sex act (or acts) requiring people with a specific set of genitals has been working out very well for me so far in my existence.

If I'm reading you wrongly, or misunderstanding you, I apologise. It's not my intent to do that. But this is one of the problems with identifying other people for them.
posted by Solomon at 12:04 PM on March 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


These attitudes are the product of a culture of transphobia, doubly so for the former if they've never been in a relationship with a trans person. (You'd be assuming your sexual and relationship fulfillment hinges on a specific sex act (or acts) requiring people with a specific set of genitals. Maybe it does.

The idea that a mate does need a specific set of genitals in order for a relationship to be sexually fulfilling is a majority viewpoint that is probably shared by 99% of the people in the world outside of Metafilter, so for you to blithely dismiss so many people's opinions as "weird" and "unusual" seems somewhat arrogant on your part. What level of expertise do you possess that allows you to dismiss so many other people's interpretation of their own sexuality as less knowledgable or self-aware than your own?

I'm not the most sexual of people, so what do I know,

Oh, I see. Well, that's much better. You're still dismissing the opinions of the overwhelming majority of the world as transphobic and bigoted, but at least you offered the disclaimer that you have very little expertise in this area.

It seems to me that from a purely pragmatic perspective, telling men "You are transphobic and bigoted for not wanting to sleep with women who have penises!" is not going to go far in terms of winning you many allies outside of the isolated Metafilter bubble (and will certainly go a long way in winning you enemies)... but hey, (DISCLAIMER) I'm not transgender, so what do I know?
posted by wolfdreams01 at 12:11 PM on March 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Would you like an answer to that question on the available evidence?
posted by running order squabble fest at 12:27 PM on March 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Solomon - what i'm seeing, and i could be wrong, is that it's very different than telling a gay man that he just needs to try dating a girl. that's not about genitals. that's about people and gender and sex and all sorts of other stuff.

what i'm hearing is, if you were to fall for a man, maybe spy him across the coffee shop when you pick up your drink every morning, then bump into each other elsewhere, strike up a conversation, have a week or two of text flirting, go one a date, maybe make out a little bit, and then he says, "btw, i'm trans and still have a vagina, even though i got my top surgery 5 years ago and have been transitioning openly for 8 years now" - if you call it off just because of that, that's a product of our transphobic culture and one of the many ways we see trans people as other, as not really belonging to their gender (and also not belonging to the gender assumed at birth). and it's not a personal attack. a lot of people would call things off at that point - but that's just because the world is still very transphobic.
posted by nadawi at 12:36 PM on March 12, 2013 [8 favorites]


I could be reading you wrongly but it sounds like you're saying that unless I have engaged in sexual acts with a vagina, I can't know whether or not I'm going to like it. If that is what you're saying, that's pretty hurtful. I heard a lot of "you just haven't met the right girl yet!" and other such offensive drivel when I was growing up from various people. I have never had slightest inclination to be sexually involved with a vagina. I've had plenty of inclination to be involved with penises.

My point is that it's not actually about penises. If I offered to set you up on a date with a woman, you'd (presumably) decline. You're not going to change your mind if I say "Well, she's got a penis." (Just ignore how inappropriate that would be.) You're going to say "I don't date women." On the flip side, you presumably don't have the information to know that you will never be attracted to a guy without a penis. Unless you've got x-ray vision, you don't know whether it's already happened.
posted by hoyland at 12:41 PM on March 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


And, yet again, nadawi comes along while I'm typing and says what I mean more successfully that I will have done.
posted by hoyland at 12:43 PM on March 12, 2013


Thank you for clarifying, hoyland. I appreciate it.

Regarding nadawi's example, I would indeed not enter into sexual relations with that guy. That's quite different to not finding him attractive, though.

Assuming that this guy actually had bottom surgery (apologies if that's not the correct phrase) at some point in the future, then it's quite possible that I'd seek out a sexual relationship with him. At the present moment, I wouldn't be capable of sexual relations with him, because some of the relevant bits aren't there. I wouldn't immediately find him unattractive because he had a vagina. The state of not having a penis does mean that I wouldn't enter into a sexual relationship with him, though. For me personally, the other person having a penis, while not related to how attractive I find someone, is an essential part of a sexual relationship, along with the other relevant characteristics. Whether that person was born with a penis or at some point had surgery is irrelevant.

I wonder if we're talking at cross purposes re: sexual relations and attraction?
posted by Solomon at 1:08 PM on March 12, 2013


nadawi: " what i'm hearing is, if you were to fall for a man, maybe spy him across the coffee shop when you pick up your drink every morning, then bump into each other elsewhere, strike up a conversation, have a week or two of text flirting, go one a date, maybe make out a little bit, and then he says, "btw, i'm trans and still have a vagina, even though i got my top surgery 5 years ago and have been transitioning openly for 8 years now" - if you call it off just because of that, that's a product of our transphobic culture and one of the many ways we see trans people as other, as not really belonging to their gender (and also not belonging to the gender assumed at birth). and it's not a personal attack. a lot of people would call things off at that point - but that's just because the world is still very transphobic."

I have difficulty understanding this argument. I think you're applying an emotion to the situation (fear) that isn't in evidence. I mean, I've been propositioned for sex by gay men before and turned them down. By your reasoning, that would make me homophobic, no? Which isn't the case. I'm not othering them. I'm simply not attracted.

If he is not interested in vaginal sex, does not find the prospect of vaginal sex appealing (sexually) and is only sexually aroused by a particular type of genitals, that really doesn't make him transphobic. It doesn't mean he's acting out of fear but because he simply isn't interested in having sex with someone who has a penis.
posted by zarq at 1:12 PM on March 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


no - by my reasoning you aren't homophobic for turning down gay men - i assume you wouldn't court a man and then be surprised he's a man and decide to break things off. you identify as straight and date women. if you don't date trans women because they're trans, then you don't view them as women. if you date trans men and identify as straight, you similarly don't view trans men as men.

some years ago i only wanted to date women. i learned that one of the women i was dating had ambiguous genitalia. i was still only dating women no matter what was inside her panties.

and, again, this isn't really single person making single choice about single trans person - this is our entire culture telling people who are trans that they can only date bisexuals and anyone who dates them is automatically bisexual because otherwise how do you explain a woman dating a woman with a penis? well - you identify it as a lesbian relationship, one cis, one trans.
posted by nadawi at 1:31 PM on March 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


if you don't date trans women because they're trans, then you don't view them as women.

This is where I get confused in relation to my own sexuality. I don't not date men because I'm a lesbian, I'm a lesbian because I'm not attracted to men. If I were getting involved with someone and discovered that she had a penis, I have no idea whether or not that would affect my willingness to have sex with her. I mean, I'd be willing to try, but I've never encountered a penis in a sexual context and mostly I find them sort of silly. The possibility certainly exists that it'd be enough of a turn-off that I wouldn't want to sleep with that person. I don't think it's particularly useful to assume that that makes me transphobic - I'm just, well, monosexual, and I'm not totally sure how that would play out in practice.

(I get really baffled looks when I try to explain the limitedness of my sexuality to my bi friends - I'm a little jealous that I'm not at all flexible in that area, it certainly constrains my sex life to a ridiculous degree, but it's not a matter of personal preference any more than my attraction to women is.)
posted by restless_nomad at 2:10 PM on March 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


nadawi: "no - by my reasoning you aren't homophobic for turning down gay men - i assume you wouldn't court a man and then be surprised he's a man and decide to break things off.

Ah. No. You're right.

But even if I thought he were a woman and turned out to be mistaken I wouldn't have then wanted to have sex with him. Intellectual attraction is definitely a big part of any relationship, but for a physical one he wouldn't be right for me.

you identify as straight and date women.

Yep. Well, I used to date. My wife might not appreciate it if I started dating again. ;)

if you don't date trans women because they're trans, then you don't view them as women. if you date trans men and identify as straight, you similarly don't view trans men as men."

I swear I know what you're saying, but I hope you don't mind if I clarify a little?

I view people (and refer to them) as whatever they self-identify as. So if they say they're a man, then they're a man. Or vice versa. In transition or not. Gay, Straight, Trans, etc. But I don't think of them as potential sexual partners if they don't have the type of genitalia I find attractive.

I do know that's what you meant.

nadawi: " and, again, this isn't really single person making single choice about single trans person - this is our entire culture telling people who are trans that they can only date bisexuals and anyone who dates them is automatically bisexual because otherwise how do you explain a woman dating a woman with a penis? well - you identify it as a lesbian relationship, one cis, one trans."

I see what you're saying. I feel like that's a limit of people's narrow, inaccurate understanding of gender (meaning a lack of understanding of the gender fluidity that was referenced up thread) more than anything else. But I could be wrong about that.
posted by zarq at 2:23 PM on March 12, 2013


that makes sense to me, restless_nomad - and i think we've gotten pretty far afield - because presumably you'd have no problem dating a (assigned male at birth) woman who is trans and has a vagina, yeah? just like Solomon says he'd probably date a trans man with a penis. that's so much more inclusive than the general population - most of who wouldn't consider trans people for partners at all. i also wonder if the strength of your feelings helped determine the next step if all surgeries hadn't been undergone for whatever reason. like - if you were already doodling names on notebooks you might be more inclined to say "hey, this is different to me and i'm not sure how i'm going to react and it might be a deal breaker, but, i'd still like to try." on the other hand, if it's one of 10 okcupid dates you're going on that month, you might be less inclined to figure out if that's a thing that could work for you.

it's a big complicated issue, and my pansexuality (and genderqueerness) probably has me seeing things differently than cis monosexual leaning people see them. and to repeat - i don't think this is a micro issue, but more of a macro issue - about how the majority view people who are trans as some sort of third gender and how that is reflected in who we consider for partners (and how we judge people who date trans people).
posted by nadawi at 2:24 PM on March 12, 2013


presumably you'd have no problem dating a (assigned male at birth) woman who is trans and has a vagina, yeah?

Fuck, I don't know, maybe? I've known trans women that I've found attractive and trans women that I did not find attractive in the specifically "this person is not a candidate" sort of way that is usually reserved for men. It makes me feel kind of shitty about myself to think that my sexuality is too tied to purely physical traits to be fully respectful of people's gender identity, but that appears to be how it works for me. (This mismatch doesn't seem to happen with trans men on hormones - testosterone is a hell of a drug.)

I totally agree with you about the problems with societal transphobia, because that's what makes the whole thing shitty - I mean, if there weren't a huge problematic pattern of people not handling non-binary gender presentation well, it wouldn't be a thing for me to have to shrug at anyone in particular and say "sorry, you're not my type." It's a bummer, but hell, it's a bummer that 50% of the population is on my no-can-date list for no better reason than I appear to be wired a particular way.

But it makes me really twitchy that when we have these conversations (and yeah, it's sort of annoying that we have these conversations at all but it's been a long and wandering thread) that we start accusing people of transphobia for expressing a personal sexual preference. It's probably fairer to accuse people of transphobia for feeling like they need to jump out in public and say "well *I* wouldn't sleep with one of Those People" without any provocation (although it's probably not all that productive to do so) but sexuality and gender have lots of complicated intersections and residents living at all of them.
posted by restless_nomad at 2:38 PM on March 12, 2013 [5 favorites]


zarq: " But even if I thought he were a woman and turned out to be mistaken I wouldn't have then wanted to have sex with him. Intellectual attraction is definitely a big part of any relationship, but for a physical one he wouldn't be right for me."

Sorry. I should clarify this. If I thought he were a woman and he turned out not to have a vagina but a penis then he wouldn't be right for me in a physical relationship. If he were genetically XY but had a vagina and self-identified as a woman I don't know for sure if I'd care, but I doubt I'd have a problem with that.

I feel like this whole conversation is filled with weird landmines. It's so easy to accidentally say the wrong thing or misinterpret someone's intent.
posted by zarq at 2:44 PM on March 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


zarq raises a good point. If I've said anything that has offended someone, I apologise. It was not my intent.
posted by Solomon at 2:51 PM on March 12, 2013


Same here.

Honestly, I've tried to keep out of this thread as much as possible for the last week because I was afraid I'd say something stupid or offensive. I know the MeTa thread was upsetting to a lot of people and would hate to add to that.
posted by zarq at 3:06 PM on March 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Just dropping in a comment to say I won't be back to this thread, despite saying I would be. This has got into an area of "are trans people as real as cis people?" that I find deeply uncomfortable and upsetting. I feel rather pinned to the butterfly board.

Thanks, allies, for keeping up with this.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 3:15 PM on March 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


[We are done with the "no this child's gender is x" discussion, period. If you have questions, read this very long MetaTalk thread first. ]
posted by restless_nomad at 4:27 PM on March 12, 2013


Yeah, I've been following avidly but not only does the current discussion have no bearing on whether a little girl should be allowed to use the girl's restroom, but it's getting uncomfortable for me too - there is no burden of proof of whether someone is a woman or man - that's their call. We should all be free to define ourselves. I know that's what others are saying as well, and I'm not saying anything controversial in this thread, but it's amazing how controversial that is in the offline world.
posted by agregoli at 6:12 PM on March 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


. I don't not date men because I'm a lesbian, I'm a lesbian because I'm not attracted to men. If I were getting involved with someone and discovered that she had a penis, I have no idea whether or not that would affect my willingness to have sex with her.

Hold up. Isn't it that you're a lesbian because you're attracted to women? Yes, and not men, but still, you're attracted to women. Not to say this about you in particular, I'm just caught by that bit of text because it's clarifying something for me. I think the cotton ceiling thing comes from cis people (lesbians in particular) being perceived as grudgingly saying "Fine, trans* women can be women, but you're not real enough women for me to sleep with." I think most people find they're more complex than that when faced with the situation - one might find penises in general faintly ridiculous but Jen's penis or Sherri's penis just another piece of Jen or Sherri's body.

Without being accusatory, we do seem to have come back to cis people talking about how trans-ness affects them, though, when much of what's been said here is that trans* people deserve agency regardless of whether cis people find it confronting.
posted by gingerest at 7:09 PM on March 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


If I thought he were a woman and he turned out not to have a vagina but a penis then he wouldn't be right for me in a physical relationship. If he were genetically XY but had a vagina and self-identified as a woman I don't know for sure if I'd care, but I doubt I'd have a problem with that.

In either case, the pronoun should be 'she'.

I view people (and refer to them) as whatever they self-identify as. So if they say they're a man, then they're a man. Or vice versa. In transition or not. Gay, Straight, Trans, etc. But I don't think of them as potential sexual partners if they don't have the type of genitalia I find attractive.

The problem is that if you then say "I won't date you because you have a penis, but I would if you had a vagina", it's really hard to understand that as something other than "You cannot be in my dating pool [and, since I am straight, are therefore not a woman] unless you have a vagina." Which is I think why I'm pushing the 'you don't know' thing so hard. Saying "I don't know if I could be in a relationship/have sex with a woman with a penis" is saying "This is outside my comfort zone, but I'm attracted to women, so it could work [whereas I'm totally not interested in a man with a penis because I'm into women]."

(To be totally honest, I've just come back from watching a fairly intense documentary that featured lots of "trans men are betraying feminism!!!111!!!!" which when coupled with however many hundred comments in this thread is making the "I don't know..." statement sound pretty awful, too.)
posted by hoyland at 7:27 PM on March 12, 2013


Isn't it that you're a lesbian because you're attracted to women?

Not necessarily, although we're getting into slightly hair-splitting territory. I'm not attracted to *all* women. I'm not particularly attracted to very many women in the grand scheme of things - I'm picky as hell and have been single for many years as a result. But so far I have *never* been attracted to someone who identified or presented as male. So, definitionally, it's closer to accurate to say my sexuality is defined by who I won't sleep with than by who I will. That might change for me someday. If it does, it will mean I have met someone I'm into, yay! But right now, it's simpler to just identify as a lesbian.

The problem is that if you then say "I won't date you because you have a penis, but I would if you had a vagina", it's really hard to understand that as something other than "You cannot be in my dating pool [and, since I am straight, are therefore not a woman] unless you have a vagina."

This is what I am trying to wrap my head around and failing. I am not attracted to people for all sorts of reasons. Gender identification can be one of them. Height can be another. The whole pheromone match thing - I tried to date a woman who just smelled wrong. Didn't last. Personality mismatches, there are reams of those. Having genitalia I'm not into (or a delicate jawline, or a prominent Adam's apple) seems like just one more thing on the list.

I will note that I am not sure that any of those are actually things on *my* list. I don't have the least clue what makes someone attractive to me. Case in point: I met a woman recently who knocked my fucking socks off at first look. Lust at first sight - which has happened maybe half a dozen times in my adult life. Now, normally I'd say I'm not attracted to tall people, but she's around six feet tall. My hindbrain is weird and arbitrary and bad at theory.

Without being accusatory, we do seem to have come back to cis people talking about how trans-ness affects them, though, when much of what's been said here is that trans* people deserve agency regardless of whether cis people find it confronting.

I came back to this conversation when the question of transphobia came up, which is very much about how people - cis and trans - deal with each other. I don't know that that's a question of agency.

To be totally honest, I've just come back from watching a fairly intense documentary that featured lots of "trans men are betraying feminism!!!111!!!!" which when coupled with however many hundred comments in this thread is making the "I don't know..." statement sound pretty awful, too.)

Ugh, that sentiment. The only way I stay not-angry when I come across it is by making the charitable assumption that the speaker has never actually met a trans man - or a trans person - at all. I don't actually believe it, most of the time, but it's a happy fantasy.
posted by restless_nomad at 8:04 PM on March 12, 2013


("Without being accusatory" was supposed to mean "I don't mean anyone in particular here especially not restless_nomad")

I was trying to say mostly that I think there are cis people who deliberately other trans* people by rejecting them sexually and thus denying their gender identity, and there are also cis people whose sexual tastes (not orientation) innocuously exclude trans* people who have various trappings of their birth sex. I don't know what proportion of people fall into which category (and of course there are plenty of other categories, ways for cis and trans* people to relate to each other attractionally).

Also there's a-priori and post-hoc hypotheses of one's own sexual tastes: I have seen a lot of people, including myself, surprised at what and who turned them on.
posted by gingerest at 9:02 PM on March 12, 2013


I was trying to say mostly that I think there are cis people who deliberately other trans* people by rejecting them sexually and thus denying their gender identity, and there are also cis people whose sexual tastes (not orientation) innocuously exclude trans* people who have various trappings of their birth sex.

Personally, I feel that people have a right to reject anybody sexually whenever they want for whatever reason they want. I sincerely hope that most Mefites share that same belief.

When you insinuate that any cis people are "othering" (ie, persecuting) trans folk by refusing to sleep with them "thus denying their gender identity," it feels very much like you have adopted the mentality of "Nice Guys" who feel like sex is something that they are entitled to. Do you see how what you are saying might convey that impression? You have no inherent right to sex with anybody (no matter who you are or what your sexuality is), and attempting to stigmatize people who exclude you as a potential sexual partner by suggesting that they might be doing so out of bigotry or close-mindedness feels distasteful to me.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 9:22 PM on March 12, 2013


You have no inherent right to sex with anybody (no matter who you are or what your sexuality is)

Nobody is claiming anything to the contrary. We are discussing how we classify people according to different schema, and how we interact with people based on those classifications, and whether the schema we are using are accurate or based on misapprehensions, inaccuracies, or prejudices. No one is asserting a right to sleep with anyone, only a right to be seen accurately and treated fairly.
posted by restless_nomad at 9:38 PM on March 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


"Personally, I feel that people have a right to reject anybody sexually whenever they want for whatever reason they want. I sincerely hope that most Mefites share that same belief."

Personally, I feel that everyone should have a right to not be stabbed to death. I hope that you will publicly agree with me.

"When you insinuate that any cis people are "othering" (ie, persecuting) trans folk by refusing to sleep with them "thus denying their gender identity," it feels very much like you have adopted the mentality of "Nice Guys" who feel like sex is something that they are entitled to."

Nah, you can reject anyone you want. There are no rape farms in this Brave New World. However, if you reject, say, black people for being black, it's fair to say, "Hey, that sounds racist." Mutatis mutandis.

"Do you see how what you are saying might convey that impression?"

Not from any reasonable reading, which assumes that everyone here is against forcing people to have sex. If you don't assume that, and you apparently did not, then yeah, it might read weirdly.

"You have no inherent right to sex with anybody (no matter who you are or what your sexuality is), and attempting to stigmatize people who exclude you as a potential sexual partner by suggesting that they might be doing so out of bigotry or close-mindedness feels distasteful to me."

Your distaste does not follow from positing the right of consent to sex. It's trivial to come up with reasons to reject sex with someone that by saying would make you come across as a total asshole. The right to consent does not necessarily imply the right to not be seen by others as an asshole.

Your distaste may be the twinklings of some emotion deep within you, but it's not a necessary product of the statements as made, nor have you supported your implied contention that it's wrong to make people feel like assholes for rejecting people for bigoted reasons.

(Like many things, it can be wrong or right, depending on the circumstances.)
posted by klangklangston at 10:22 PM on March 12, 2013


I support sexual autonomy for everyone. In any endeavor, consent isn't meaningful unless a participant can safely refuse or withdraw.

The denying gender identity thing is real. (Trigger warning: transphobia) A recent cotton ceiling discussion - note that the blogger calls herself "lesbian" and her correspondent "trans", conflating sexual orientation and gender identity.
posted by gingerest at 10:30 PM on March 12, 2013


woofdreams01: "Personally, I feel that people have a right to reject anybody sexually whenever they want for whatever reason they want. I sincerely hope that most Mefites share that same belief."

I agree, but maybe it would help clarify the point here to say that there are right and wrong ways to reject people sexually, and one of the wrong ways involves hatred and disgust and sometimes outright violence thrown in the direction of the person being rejected. That wrong way of rejecting people by intentionally othering and belittling them and sometimes even hurting them is a common enough trope in popular culture in the context of trans* people that I can think of several films and books that depict it, so perhaps you will recognize what I'm talking about.

Part of "equal rights" is a right to interact with others, even if it means making mistakes, and meet with a proportionate and equal response. A situation in which trans* people are required to face significantly higher stakes just to live a normal life and interact with other people is unjust. Rejection isn't fun, and there's no way to make it fun, but there are certain things rejection absolutely should not include - like deliberate othering, ostracism, exclusion, and societal pariahdom.
posted by koeselitz at 10:54 PM on March 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


I agree, but maybe it would help clarify the point here to say that there are right and wrong ways to reject people sexually, and one of the wrong ways involves hatred and disgust and sometimes outright violence thrown in the direction of the person being rejected. That wrong way of rejecting people by intentionally othering and belittling them and sometimes even hurting them is a common enough trope in popular culture in the context of trans* people that I can think of several films and books that depict it, so perhaps you will recognize what I'm talking about.

There's a useful thing to look at on this waaaaaay back near the start of the thread, which I missed originally, when The Confessor mentioned the Gwen Araujo case.

Remarkably, this was being used not as an example of the danger of violence and murder that many trans people have to live with, but as an example of how a trans person, in The Confessor's opinion, is committing an offence comparable to assault if they have sex (or romance) with a cisgendered person without warning them up front. Because apparently this is "subverting their sexual identity by deception".

This seems to me to be a great example of the different stakes here. The Confessor, it seems, is concerned that people might be tricked into what he thinks of as stealth gay sex (or, I guess, stealth straight sex) by trans people. However, probably a good rule of thumb if you are trying to argue that it is OK to use "reasonable force1 to end a sexual encounter with a trans person is to find an example in which a teenaged girl is not beaten to death.

So... if you want to say with confidence that you would never, ever be attracted to or have sex with with a trans person, then, you know, go wild. But it's probably a good idea to be aware of how you are expressing that belief. And of course also of the very real possibility that at some point you have done one or both of those things.

1 No, seriously. Actual phrase. Reasonable force.
posted by running order squabble fest at 4:21 AM on March 13, 2013


note that the blogger calls herself "lesbian" and her correspondent "trans", conflating sexual orientation and gender identity.

The blogger also refers further down the page to "trans lesbians", and about choices to be "political lesbians", so I think she's using that labeling to describe the "political" affiliation of both. By the way redacted_lesbian was trying to get redacted_trans to "publicly admit" stuff, my guess is that both are bloggers.
posted by corb at 4:42 AM on March 13, 2013


hoyland: In either case, the pronoun should be 'she'.

Ah, damn. Yes. Thanks very much for the correction. I'll try my best to be more careful about which pronouns I use in the future.

The problem is that if you then say "I won't date you because you have a penis, but I would if you had a vagina", it's really hard to understand that as something other than "You cannot be in my dating pool [and, since I am straight, are therefore not a woman] unless you have a vagina." Which is I think why I'm pushing the 'you don't know' thing so hard. Saying "I don't know if I could be in a relationship/have sex with a woman with a penis" is saying "This is outside my comfort zone, but I'm attracted to women, so it could work [whereas I'm totally not interested in a man with a penis because I'm into women]."

OK, let's break this down.

"You cannot be in my dating pool [and, since I am straight, are therefore not a woman] unless you have a vagina."

I boldfaced the part that I agree with. As I said earlier, if someone self-identifies as a particular gender then that's how I will recognize them. I'm not going to say, 'they don't have a vagina so they're not a woman.' That wouldn't be right.

But yes, I really do know if I'd want to have sex with them or not. It's not a gray zone.

I don't want to have sex with people who don't have vaginas. Male or female. It's not "outside my comfort zone." Penile sex is not sexually desirable to me. I have no doubts about my feelings with regard to penile sex, either. I don't want it. I have no desire for it. I know I don't want it. It turns me off. End of story.

Do I not have a right to my sexual preference(s)?

(To be totally honest, I've just come back from watching a fairly intense documentary that featured lots of "trans men are betraying feminism!!!111!!!!" which when coupled with however many hundred comments in this thread is making the "I don't know..." statement sound pretty awful, too.)

OK.

I'm not really seeing how that applies to my comments here. It's completely possible that I'm missing an important point. Can you please explain?
posted by zarq at 5:23 AM on March 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Do I not have a right to my sexual preference(s)?

A note: I think the corollary to "right" is often "duty", and I think a complementary question here is "does everyone who is not me have a duty to my sexual preferences?" Which is at the heart of the whole "cotton ceiling" issue, and like so many questions is probably best answered "well....".

Hypothetical: if somebody (sc. in 21st century America) broadcasts the statement that they could never, ever, ever find a woman with brown hair, or with breasts above or below a particular size sexually attractive, that might read as a slightly odd thing to broadcast.

However, it reads as different from somebody broadcasting that they could never, ever find a woman with very dark skin sexually attractive. Because we understand that these characteristics exist in a complex social and cultural web of associations in modern America, and that publicly ruling out the possibility of ever finding somebody with, say, dark skin attractive sends vibrations along that web in various ways.

So... there are ways in which penis-having people of all gender identities and sexual orientations interact sexually, which may or may not significantly involve those penises. If "penile sex" is being used here to mean "sex with another party who has a penis, regardless of that person's gender identity or the role that person's penis may play in sex", then it's worth being clear about that. Because that's not entirely about the penis, but also about the person it's attached to. And that vibrates the social and cultural web in a different way from "I could never have any desire to have sex with a woman with brown hair/small breasts/large breasts".

(And, of course, it's worth keeping in mind that it's entirely possible that at some point any straight-identifying man involved in this conversation has had some form of sexual encounter with somebody who has identified as female and also had a penis, without being aware of that fact.)
posted by running order squabble fest at 6:12 AM on March 13, 2013


I think there are some really useful things included in the comments of the abovelinked article as well. Most particularly:
Frankly, I’m surprised that you’re surprised by the response to your “cotton ceiling” idea. Did it really not occur to you that ciswomen (like most folks really) don’t like it when others try to tell us who we should and should not be attracted to? Ciswomen are STILL fighting a very public battle for the right to control our own bodies. And queers and allies are still fighting for recognition of three basic tenets of human rights that I had thought were at least understood and recognized within the queer community:

1. People don’t choose their sexuality or choose who they are attracted to. (remember? It’s not a “lifestyle” or a “preference” it’s an orientation)
2. Everyone should have the right to choose who they fuck.
3. Everyone should have the right to say no to sex for any reason and have that choice respected.

With this in mind, how could it possibly be surprising that your “cotton ceiling” hit a nerve? Rapey? YES! Of course this idea is rapey. That doesn’t mean I think you want to rape women, it means I think you are using the logic of rape culture (ie entitlement to cispussy) to present a flawed argument for transwomen inclusion. Of course transwomen should be included in the queer community. But access to cis-sex doesn’t equal inclusion and you don’t have a RIGHT to sleep with queer ciswomen any more than transmen or butch women do.
posted by corb at 6:17 AM on March 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hello running order squabble fest.

Please do not reinterpret my comments with meanings that do not accurately represent what I am trying to say. If you do not understand what I am trying to say, please ask me, rather than creating hypothetical scenarios from thin air.

You have done this to me before and I would appreciate it if you would cut it the hell out.

This has nothing to do with "duty." I am imposing my sexual preferences on no one. It has nothing to do with the color of anyone's skin. This is not a racist issue.
posted by zarq at 6:32 AM on March 13, 2013


I'm not really seeing how that applies to my comments here. It's completely possible that I'm missing an important point. Can you please explain?

It's just the coming back from an hour plus of many people talking about how a decision to transition can't be authentic back into this discussion where everyone's super sure how they feel about the genitals of every person in the world is not a great combination. It's actually fairly irrelevant. The relevant bit was a partner of a trans man talking about how she a) had grown up in a lesbian community that saw trans men as 'opting out' of their struggles and b) when she found herself in love with someone who was trans, she had to re-evaluate that idea because it obviously wasn't true of her partner. She also talked about c) how that was difficult.

corb, the whole linked post and its comments is so offensive that I don't even know what to say. The point isn't that you or zarq or the author of that post or anyone else is obliged to sleep with any trans woman you come across. Or even a single trans woman you come across. The point is that by categorically refusing to entertain the thought of sleeping with a trans woman, you are refusing to acknowledge her as a woman. There are loads of men I don't want to sleep with and I'm sure that category includes many trans men. It may well include all trans men I meet in my lifetime. This doesn't mean I'm going to run round saying I will never sleep with a trans man or that trans men think they have a right to sleep with me or that trans men are in a vast conspiracy to make me have sexual relations with a vagina (you'll note that that post is all about penises).

Anyway, I may or may not be back. I was going to finish the first paragraph of this comment and leave the post, but I obviously didn't do that.
posted by hoyland at 6:32 AM on March 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


[Folks doing that "bring comments over from other forums" doesn't even work well when the topic is non-difficult, please don't do that and please debate comments from other forums on those forums. Act like you understand this is a charged difficult topic.]
posted by jessamyn at 6:49 AM on March 13, 2013


This has nothing to do with "duty." I am imposing my sexual preferences on no one. It has nothing to do with the color of anyone's skin. This is not a racist issue.

Well, I was sort of assuming you knew what an analogy was, and would recognize one in use. That seemed to me a decent good-faith assumption. Obviously this is not a racist issue - it's a trans issue. Race and gender are to some considerable degree cultural and social constructs, however. As I said:
Because we understand that these characteristics exist in a complex social and cultural web of associations in modern America, and that publicly ruling out the possibility of ever finding somebody with, say, dark skin attractive sends vibrations along that web in various ways.
And then, speaking of your enthusiasm for teling us all that you are totally not into "penile sex" (which I take to mean sex with a person with a penis, which again seemed a decent, good-faith assumption, although it is an odd phrase, and you could of course clarify it.):
that vibrates the social and cultural web in a different way from "I could never have any desire to have sex with a woman with brown hair/small breasts/large breasts".
So, that's... an analogy.

I like to assume good faith, so I will seek to be productive here by explaining the aim of this analogy.

An analogy is generally constructed when two non-identical but usefully comparable situations are juxtaposed with the intention of illuminating particular elements. That is happening here.

In this case, people with dark skin and trans people often find themselves on the wrong side of culturally and socially constructed prejudice (sc. in modern America). As such, if somebody not subject to those prejudices - and this can absolutely be someone without a prejudiced bone in their body - decides to get out their Internet loudhailer and broadcast the fact that the idea of people with a characteristic associated with such a group is totally not a turn-on for them, eg:
Penile sex is not sexually desirable to me. I have no doubts about my feelings with regard to penile sex, either. I don't want it. I have no desire for it. I know I don't want it. It turns me off. End of story."
Then, apart from thinking "wow, that's a lot of restatement", it's not unreasonable to note that the decision - not to feel that, but to crank the amp up and share that with the world - exists within a web of social and cultural contexts, and social and cultural contexts in which trans people are often confronted with their undesirability or the inauthenticity of their sexual selves.

(Speaking personally, it's also kind of orthogonal to the discussion being had. "I do not get aroused when I think about X", or "I do not find the idea of X erotic" is different from "I will never find myself in a situation where I want to have sex with somebody sex with whom would involve X". But that's another question.)

As an aside, if you are holding onto personal issues with me from some past discussion which prevent you from being able to read things I write with a clear analytical head - if, for example, they make you miss obvious analogic structures - then that is a shame, and I hope it will cease to be the case over time. If you genuinely didn't understand the analogy, I hope this helps. Either way, my post was made without anomie.
posted by running order squabble fest at 7:15 AM on March 13, 2013


As such, if somebody not subject to those prejudices - and this can absolutely be someone without a prejudiced bone in their body - decides to get out their Internet loudhailer and broadcast the fact that the idea of people with a characteristic associated with such a group is totally not a turn-on for them

I think the difficulty with what you're saying, running order squabble fest, is that nobody here is trying to "get out their Internet loudhailer." Sure, folks are talking on the internet - here, in this forum - but I don't think that's the same as broadcasting. Metafilter is - or is at least supposed to be - a community. So it's less like grabbing a bullhorn and announcing "Penises don't turn me on!" and more like sitting around a coffee table with a /lot/ of friends and talking casually about why you're not attracted to them.

it's not unreasonable to note that the decision - not to feel that, but to crank the amp up and share that with the world - exists within a web of social and cultural contexts,

And that's completely reasonable. But I think that it seems some other people - obviously not you, but some others - feel that the decision to feel those things in itself is biased. And the ability to be honest about sexual decisions - particularly for women - also does exist in a web of social and cultural context. Because women have, for a long time, been pressured not to talk about wanting sex. Or if they talk about wanting sex, they're not supposed to have preferences - just be grateful for whatever attention they receive. (Which is one reason the Nice Guys get all rageface). So in many ways, the suggestion that they shouldn't be able to talk about their preferences, even with friends, feels stifling.

A question for you: is it possible to navigate while being sensitive to both of those pressures? If so, how?
posted by corb at 7:42 AM on March 13, 2013


rosf, I'm done here. I don't like your attitude or mischaracterization of my comments.

I don't like your habit of trying to reinterpret what I say in the worst possible light or creating inane, inappropriate analogies that make me sound like I am saying things that I am absolutely not. Your descriptions of my intent are frankly asinine and offensive ("enthusiasm"? Really? Wtf.)

When you're capable of addressing what I say without attempting to reframe it in deliberate misinterpretations let me know. When you're ready, feel free to ask me questions without trying to put words in my mouth, as I have repeatedly requested. Until then, no thanks.
posted by zarq at 7:51 AM on March 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


[Not okay to have a "when is it ok to hate trans people?" Derail here. your good faith, at this point, pretty much needs to show in your comments. If you need to open a new MeTa thread you can do that, but that's not a conversation you're going to have here, period. ]
posted by jessamyn at 9:01 AM on March 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


And that's completely reasonable. But I think that it seems some other people - obviously not you, but some others - feel that the decision to feel those things in itself is biased. And the ability to be honest about sexual decisions - particularly for women - also does exist in a web of social and cultural context. Because women have, for a long time, been pressured not to talk about wanting sex. Or if they talk about wanting sex, they're not supposed to have preferences - just be grateful for whatever attention they receive. (Which is one reason the Nice Guys get all rageface). So in many ways, the suggestion that they shouldn't be able to talk about their preferences, even with friends, feels stifling.

A question for you: is it possible to navigate while being sensitive to both of those pressures? If so, how?


It's a good question - but I think the lead-up excludes a couple of middles, IYSWIM.

One of those is that I don't think everyone here is a woman. Not in a gender essentialist sense, but in a gender identity sense. I'm not. So, I don't think I'm in a position to tell women how they should feel about sex. And it's worth noting that I wasn't doing so in the section you quoted.

The second is that you're talking about MetaFilter as a "community" - which I would agree with. But you've slipped from there to talking about limits on conversation "even with friends". Certainly, in one sense MetaFilter is a community, or perhaps more correctly a group of people with certain commonalities. Everyone here has some sort of access to the Internet and some ability to read, and (almost) everyone has in common that they paid five dollars to be here.

However, it is also openly viewable by anyone with an Internet connection. And, even within the set of members, it is not unproblematically reducible to a group of friends. You and I, for example, are not friends. Nothing personal - I just don't know you.

So, this conversation simply isn't a meeting between friends - nor are many other conversations like it - and metaphors or direct comparisons which suggest that it is are going to founder on that. If people want to get together with a group of friends and talk about their erotic relationships with particular gender/genitalia/hair color/height/body shape combinations, that is totally a thing that can be done - but it isn't a thing that is happening here.

Friendship groups are different because smaller, and different because more private, and also generally different because more sensitive to "the room". I think if a group of people were sitting around a table, as in your metaphor, it would be much easier to judge the room, make calculations of risk and reward and so on, and the objectives of the event would be different.

Whereas, for example, you are seeing trans people and trans allies being ground out of this thread, because the atmosphere being generated by more or less well-intentioned comments is unpleasant for them to engage with. In a meeting of friends around a table, people walking away from the table because they could not deal with the emotional impact of what other people were saying would be a significant social issue. How often have you actually stood up and walked away from a group of friends at a lunch meeting, for example? It happens, but it's pretty uncommon, and quite a big statement. Whereas here, on the Internet, it's a thing that happens - people with skin in a game are asymmetrically affected by discussions of that game.

So, I think there are problems with the model which created your question which make the question itself very hard to resolve. As soon as the argument "do not discuss your sexual desires with your friends" is made1, then I think it would be very profitable to examine that, because it would seem like an unwise and limiting injunction. But I don't think that's an argument that is being made.

With that in mind, to go back to:
A question for you: is it possible to navigate while being sensitive to both of those pressures? If so, how?
I think - speaking solely for myself - that a really good starting point is the statement:

I think that everyone has the right to decide who they want to have sex with, how they want to have that sex, and when they want to have that sex, or to not have sex at all. Consent is incredibly important, and no one should ever feel pressured to have sex of any kind with anybody.

Which is made in this previously linked post in an email reproduced, possibly without her consent, from a trans woman. I feel weird about requoting it given the consent question, but, like I said, the Internet is inescapably public.

That feels like a good place to start - assuming that nobody is demanding that others find a particular characteristic attractive, or making any plans (by some arcane and unknowable means) forcibly to make people respond sexually to any particular characteristic, but rather acknowledging the weight of culture behind what may often be represented as natural feelings.

1 Rather than, say "be mindful that making a public statement about the suitability or unsuitability of others to fit into the set of 'people I could imagine as sexually desirable' is an act with some moment to it, especially if your sexuality is generally defined as the norm". The norm here being, as I think you are suggesting, generally that of a cisgendered, heterosexual man.
posted by running order squabble fest at 9:29 AM on March 13, 2013


In the current issue of The New Yorker: ABOUT A BOY -- "transgender surgery at sixteen." (subscription required).
posted by ericb at 12:12 PM on March 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


In the current issue of The New Yorker: ABOUT A BOY -- "transgender surgery at sixteen." (subscription required).

Because that's totally the headline this thread needs. Though I want to point out that, despite the fact they couldn't resist the headline, he stood firm about not telling the reporter his birth name, which is kind of a big deal, given how clearly she wants to mention it.

Okay, now at the end of page two and it's a train wreck. It's like this reporter missed sex ed in the fifth grade and doesn't know that the thing that makes men's voices lower is testosterone.
posted by hoyland at 6:36 PM on March 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


So, I took one for the team and read the New Yorker article with their crappy web interface (I don't actually think subscribers have this issue on paper yet--I found last week's issue on top of my unread mail). It's really bad. If you didn't already think doctors had great capacity to be condescending and paternalistic towards trans people, you will. The author fucks up pronouns and fucks up people's genders more generally. She manages to erase the experience of trans people who didn't transition as children, which is pretty impressive given how few people transition as children. And we've got the aforementioned compulsion to mention people's birth names to round it off. (She even says the only reason she consistently pronouns Skylar correctly is that he refused to tell her his birth name! Had she known his old name it apparently wouldn't have occurred to her to maybe ask how he felt about pronouns when referring to him as a child?)
posted by hoyland at 7:11 PM on March 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


Well this thread certainly took a turn for the deeply upsetting when it kicked back up...
posted by Dysk at 3:44 PM on March 16, 2013


The NYT is now covering Coy's case. It doesn't look like the coverage is substantially different from what we've previously seen.
posted by en forme de poire at 11:42 AM on March 18, 2013




Both hilarious and awful.

“It’s Ken! But Ken has boobs!”

gonna chuckle about that for a while.
posted by rtha at 6:50 PM on March 19, 2013


The open letter may in fact not be trans-related - a comment further down refers to the son asking "Mom, should I have showed him my penis?"
posted by corb at 6:52 PM on March 19, 2013


It's trans-related because the guy thought the kid was a girl and chased "her" out, when the boy is...a boy and was just trying to pee.
posted by rtha at 7:06 PM on March 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


I honestly can't figure out the nuance there, I'm not quite clear on what the child looked like that was being reacted to or any specifics of the gender identity involved.

I'm just really weirded out by a screaming adult driving a child out of a bathroom and loudly preaching about gender.
posted by Drinky Die at 7:16 PM on March 19, 2013


It's trans*-related because gender-based bathroom panic is, at this point, the defining feature of discourse around trans* acceptance. An adult completely lost control of himself because he was so threatened by his own perception of a child's gender. That's trans*-related, all right, regardless of the trans* status of the child.
posted by gingerest at 7:39 PM on March 19, 2013 [5 favorites]


The open letter may in fact not be trans-related - a comment further down refers to the son asking "Mom, should I have showed him my penis?"

gingerest has already explained why this is relevant regardless of whether anyone in this story is trans.

But reading the comments with the scantest bit of attention makes it clear that 'the son' is a different kid, namely the commenter's son, not the child of the author. How do we know this? Not only is the comment from a different username, earlier on this person says "Because now I'm worried about this scenario!" making it pretty clear they're responding to the post and thus can't be the author.
posted by hoyland at 7:55 PM on March 19, 2013


Oh, and to make it even more clear, in the paragraph after corb quoted, the commenter says "Not that it excuses the absolutely despicable behavior of the man you and Ben met at all!" Ben is clearly not the commenter's kid.
posted by hoyland at 8:00 PM on March 19, 2013


Just for the sake of possibly clearing up any confusion, here's a NYT Motherlode post by the open letter blog author: My Son Looks Like a Girl. So What?
posted by taz at 1:50 AM on March 20, 2013


Ben is more likely to marry our cat, or the board game Settlers of Catan, than he is a man or woman.

You see where this road leads, America?
posted by running order squabble fest at 4:57 AM on March 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Ah, okay, thanks hoyland and taz.

Still, I think that grown men wanting what they thought was a little girl out of the bathroom in which they are openly exposing their penises at urinals is understandable, even if the manner they go about it is not.

And on a side note, why do we have urinals at all? Women don't have straddle trenches in their bathroom. What is it that men have to have open penis-display for all to see? Seems crazily weird to me, at least.
posted by corb at 7:25 AM on March 20, 2013


corb: "And on a side note, why do we have urinals at all?"

Space considerations. You can fit more urinals against a wall than you can fit stalls.

Many bathrooms have privacy partitions between urinals. In bathrooms without them (or even with,) there is often an unspoken etiquette in play.

What is it that men have to have open penis-display for all to see?

Generally speaking, we don't wave them around in public bathrooms. And again, there's an etiquette: you don't look. I've been using mens' bathrooms for decades and don't recall ever seeing another adult's genitals in one.
posted by zarq at 7:38 AM on March 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Still, I think that grown men wanting what they thought was a little girl out of the bathroom in which they are openly exposing their penises at urinals is understandable, even if the manner they go about it is not.

Well... Ben was 12 in May 2012, so it's probably fair to assume is 13 or rising 13 now. It's odd to me to describe a 13-year old as a "little" $genderterm at all. He is, I would suggest, old-enough-looking to appear able to communicate and be communicated with in a non-aggressive fashion - no need to storm out and confront his mother. Also no need to describe him as "it". The medium kind of is the message, here.

On a personal note, speaking as a dude with a decent experience of men's rooms, I can say with confidence that if the guy was in fact "naked in there" (his reported words), or was "openly exposing his penis" (yours) - rather than, say, using it to urinate - then his use of the bathroom in question is unorthodox - quite a lot more unorthodox than a boy with long hair, in fact.
posted by running order squabble fest at 8:12 AM on March 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


openly exposing their penises at urinals

That's really not the way it works.

Also, women's toilets should have urinals of some sort, and a dispenser for those female pee funnels. At least at those venues where there's a mile-long line for stalls.

Efficiency in peeing, that's what I'm saying.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:41 AM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


i don't think it's understandable or ok for a man, who isn't a parent or guardian, to police the bathroom habits of a kid (or, in this case, a teenager).
posted by nadawi at 9:48 AM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


"And on a side note, why do we have urinals at all? Women don't have straddle trenches in their bathroom."

Urinals in Men's bathrooms are often legally mandated in commercial settings because they are way way more environmentally friendly and easier on utilities using less water in addition to taking up less space per receptical, taking less time per bathroom use and being much cheaper. The savings don't really make sense in a residential setting where bathrooms are used far less often - but for communal bathrooms its really a no brainer.

"What is it that men have to have open penis-display for all to see? Seems crazily weird to me, at least."

This is a really bizarrely hostile non-sequitor. Open penis display in a Men's bathroom outside of like a medical emergency or something would be just as not ok within a bathroom as it would be outside of one.
posted by Blasdelb at 10:15 AM on March 20, 2013


I was in a stall in an airport bathroom a couple months ago when I heard a woman say loudly "Has someone lost a child? Hello? Anyone missing their kid?" and then another voice say "Oh, he's mine! Thank you! Adam, wait right there, okay?"

That seems to me to be an appropriate reaction when noticing a potentially unaccompanied kid (of any gender) in a public bathroom. And, too, the kid in my scenario seemed to be a lot younger than the kid in the link (I never saw him, so I don't know for sure, but I assumed from the first woman's phrasing that the child was pretty young.)
posted by rtha at 10:15 AM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


corb, I took my five year old daughter into a mens room at the mall this weekend. She urgently needed to go, and the only family bathroom in the area was two floors and half a mall away in Nordstroms. She'd never have made it without an accident. And she's way too young to go to the ladies room unescorted. So into the men's we go.

This is not a big deal in any way. It should not be. She's been in men's rooms with me plenty of times. She goes with me into a stall, does her thing, gets dressed, we wash our hands and she leaves. No one cares. No one makes a fuss. No one has ever complained about her presence. She's not being exposed to random nudity. I doubt she's ever seen anyone's penis in a public bathroom other than her twin brother's. The biggest problem we face is whether she can reach the soap dispenser herself. (I usually help her.) And my having to explain that urinals are not "toilets for babies" for the millionth time.

"Openly exposed penises at urinals" are not really something I think parents should be terribly concerned about.
posted by zarq at 10:24 AM on March 20, 2013


i don't think it's understandable or ok for a man, who isn't a parent or guardian, to police the bathroom habits of a kid (or, in this case, a teenager).

I'm not a kid, but I've walked into the wrong bathroom at least once recently. Confused by non-standard signage, I walked into the ladies' room and was immediately gently corrected by a woman on her way out. No drama.

If this guy sincerely, and possibly based on a glimpse in a mirror (because who looks around in mid-stream? Socially unacceptable and pants-endangering) was worried that a teen or pre-teen girl had wandered into the wrong bathroom and was going to be embarrassed or grossed out if they came any further in, it would perhaps make sense for him to have stated that this was the men's bathroom, and then accepted a response that, yes, this was correct and planned for.

The appropriate response would probably be mild embarrassment and then silent, eyes-forward completion of the task at hand and departure.

Zipping up (hopefully), storming out of the bathroom and confronting that teenager's mother, however, is not a rational thing to do. Especially since it seems unclear whether he made any attempt to engage with the person actually in the bathroom first.

Although it's pure speculation, I would suggest, if this is being reported accurately, that what was happening there was that the dude had had some sort of trans/gay panic reaction and was looking for someone he could appropriately start a fight with, whether verbal or physical. Which does tie this back into the original topic...
posted by running order squabble fest at 10:27 AM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


openly exposing their penises at urinals

Umm. Us guys don't take off our pants to use the urinal.(That's for pooping at home. Is there anything freer than pantsless pooping? Anyway....) Most of us don't even pull down the waistband of our pants or undies -- you just open your fly, fish around in your underwear and pull the end of your penis out far enough not to pee down the front of your pants. You're holding the tip in your fingertips, and from a few feet away it's going to look like you have an extra thumbtip that is leaking.

We are not all standing in a semicircle in with every centimeter we can unfurl dangling jauntily as we tilt our hips so as to garner compliments in passing.

Or I've been frequenting some really boring bathrooms my whole life.
posted by snuffleupagus at 4:59 PM on March 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


I could swear that a restroom in the long park south of the Golden Gate bridge, near the Haight-Ashbury end of town, had a circular trough urinal.

Recent threads about most emarassing work moments now have me wondering if I peed in a sink...
posted by five fresh fish at 5:22 PM on March 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


"you just open your fly, fish around in your underwear and pull the end of your penis out far enough not to pee down the front of your pants."

Who uses a fly? Especially if you wear briefs or boxer briefs — it's like a damn labyrinth navigating that. Just pull your waistband under your balls and be done with it.
posted by klangklangston at 5:30 PM on March 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Even at home, where my husband doesn't make any effort to conceal his penis and there are no visual obstacles, if I wanted for some reason to gaze upon his manhood as he urinated, I would need to stride boldly up and crane my neck around his body.

Statue fountains exaggerate the degree of nudity involved.
posted by gingerest at 5:50 PM on March 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


Who uses a fly? Especially if you wear briefs or boxer briefs — it's like a damn labyrinth navigating that. Just pull your waistband under your balls and be done with it.

Yeah, I do that sometimes. Although I am a little more concerned about privacy when I do, because hey, balls hanging over my waistband is perhaps a bit more visually obtrusive. And contrary to some of the assumptions aired in this thread, if anything we are taught as boys that it's bad bathroom etiquette to overly expose oneself, and extremely bad not to keep your eyes to yourself when someone slips up on that. But even so it would be hard for anyone to see anything much without the kind of neck-craning gingerest describes, at least without a really strange bathroom layout.
posted by snuffleupagus at 6:03 PM on March 20, 2013






From ericb's link: Under SB 1432, a person would be guilty of disorderly conduct, a Class One misdemeanor, if they used a bathroom or dressing room that didn’t correspond to the birth sex listed on his or her birth certificate.

Man, AZ, why the obsession with birth certificates with all the issues?
posted by jetlagaddict at 3:22 PM on March 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Social conservatives seem to make the most noise about that of which they are most guilty, so my guess is that the Arizona legislature is comprised of illegal alien transexuals.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:49 PM on March 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


along with a lot of other shitty harassment by students and faculty alike, a lesbian 8th grader was kept from using the girls bathroom according to a letter from the southern poverty law center.
posted by nadawi at 4:59 PM on March 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


The teacher had divided the class into 2 teams -- boys versus girls -- for a trivia game, Holmes said, but she called on the tomboy-looking teen to sit alone in the middle.

"She told me since she didn't know what I was, I should be on a team of my own," Holmes said during a press conference organized by the Southern Poverty Law Center on Thursday morning.

posted by rtha at 10:21 AM on March 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Holy shit. I hope none of the administrators or teachers who had a hand in that ever works in education again.
posted by gingerest at 4:53 PM on March 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


As a member of the non-penis cohort, I am learning so much about men's bathroom etiquette that is fascinating and useful! Thank you, male Mefites.
posted by corb at 6:18 AM on March 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


Hey, corb: lots of people who have penises use women's restrooms. Lots of people who don't have penises use men's restrooms. Remember?
posted by jiawen at 12:17 PM on March 26, 2013 [8 favorites]


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