Toronto Story About Transgender Locker Room Harasser is a Hoax, or “How a Toronto Star journalist fails at integrity (and journalism).”

Toronto newspaper pushes trans hoax, claims no duty to fact check | The Transadvocate.

So, over the weekend, the Toronto Star’s Ethics columnist published a response to a email from a “senior woman” claiming she was harassed by a “a “man” claiming to be transgender, who had not yet begun physical treatments” (their quotes not mine) while using the locker room at her local YMCA. This columnist then provided what was, by most accounts, a very trans-friendly and open-minded response, going so far as to point out that “transgender women, regardless of their status regarding surgical intervention, have the absolute right to use the women’s change room.”
I read this piece over the weekend in my usual perusal of the headlines for possible commentary, was shocked to hear about the initial claim, but generally pleased with how the writer handled with question.

However, the talented Cristan Williams over at TransAdvocate decided to investigate further and actually called all of the Toronto area YMCAs to see if such an incident had actually occurred. In news that comes a no shock to pretty much anyone…none of them had any idea what she was talking about! Upon contacting the columnist, he responded that it was not his responsibility to verify the accounts he’s given and essentially shirked all responsibility for fact-checking his piece.

Here’s the issue with that notion. While I understand that what he’s writing is functionally an advice column, the piece pretty specifically brings up a VERY sensitive issue, which is cis people’s fear of being harassed by trans or “trans-posing” people in locker rooms and bathrooms. It’s not as though the letter was asking for advice in how to deal with a boss who’s stealing, or a spouse who’s unfaithful…this is a story that the potential to do real harm to the trans community. One of the largest arguments made against allowing trans people to use public restrooms and locker rooms of their identified genders is precisely the fear that this hoax of a story hits on and propagates. It’s ammo for the right-wingers to curtail our basic human rights, and he had an absolute responsibility to do at least a basic fact check of the circumstances before letting such a tale go to press in a major newspaper. Failing the author’s responsibility to fact check, the editor also had a responsibility to ensure all i’s had been dotted before allowing such a potentially inflammatory yarn make it to print.

I also happened to notice that while the story’s headline at least manages to properly refer to the alleged harasser (and apparently non-existent) harasser proper as a “transgender woman”, the URL very definitely says “transgender man”. It’s a microaggression, but still definitely another black mark against the Star in this situation.

I’d like to be able to give the Toronto Star and this columnist the benefit of the doubt on this, but given the way all stories involving trans people are sensationalized for readership throughout the media, I’m finding that difficult. Toronto Star, you owe us a correction, and an apology.

CNN Writer Taken to Task for Transphobia, or “I like reblogging with alliteration. Also, Parker Molloy is awesome.”

CNN Features Massively Transphobic Article, I Write the Author | Park That Car.

So, unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last year, you’re probably aware that AB1266 is pretty much the biggest news story about trans people in 2013. But, just in case you ARE one of under-igneous dwellers, it’s the bill signed in California in July that grants wide-reaching protection to transgender K-12 students, including access to bathrooms, locker rooms, and sports teams of their identified gender. (Somehow, I managed to completely miss blogging about it…SHAME on me!)

Not shockingly, the bill has been extraordinarily controversial, and it’s brought out some of the most vile and disgusting transphobia in the media that I’ve seen in quite some time. And of course, it’s gotten it’s very own religious-right-driven appeal referendum petition. Since the law went into effect on January 1, there’s been a resurgence of hate-and-misinformation filled op-eds through out the mainstream media. Richard Lucas at CNN penned this doozy piece of garbage, and it caught the attention of the brilliant Parker Marie Molloy from Park That Car, who absolutely took him to task for every single lie and piece of misinformation he spouted. Her piece is one of the best counterpoints to the BS about the “dangers” of trans protections that I’ve seen yet, and it’s definitely worth a read (and a share, if you’re feeling share-y!). And of course, feel free to vent your irritations at CNN for publishing this kind hateful screed.

A Victory for a Young Lady in Colorado, or “Really, are we STILL talking about where people can pee?”

via Rights Unit Finds Bias Against Transgender Student –

So, I am poking fun at the whole situation of the trans bathroom complicated in the title. But at the same time, as much as other people want to get up in arms about how dangerous and scary it is to have trans people in our public bathroom, all we really want is to void out bladders in relative safety with minimal hassle. I’ve already given some significant effort to discussing the trans bathroom “problem” elsewhere in the blog, but that article was driven primarily towards adults.

What’s going on here is some poor child is being forced to endure some very adult complications because of her gender identity. She’s six years old and was assigned a male gender at birth, but currently identifies as a girl. She presents as a girl and is identified as such at school. And some parents freaked out at the notion of her using the girls room and the school forced her to use a separate bathroom in the nurses office. Today, the Colorado civil rights division found that the district had discriminated against her, and ordered the school to allow her to use the girls bathroom.

Now, the challenges of appropriately handling children and students (particularly very young ones) who do not identify as their birth sex are numerous and complicated, and too much to cover in this particular post. I’ve sketched out some writing on that topic in particular that will be making an appearance as one of my usual biweekly essays some time in the coming weeks. But the important thing to point out is that the general consensus is that children should be allowed to explore their cross-gender feelings and/or identities as want, and that those who do are generally much healthier.

So I’m very happy for Coy that she can return to school and be comfortable being who she is. That’s a wonderful victory for her. But there’s language in the ruling that I think is important beyond just what it means for this brave little girl. From the article:

But the state’s ruling went even further, saying that evolving research on transgender development showed that “compartmentalizing a child as a boy or a girl solely based on their visible anatomy, is a simplistic approach to a difficult and complex issue.”

Depriving Coy of the acceptance that students need to succeed in school, Mr. Chavez wrote, “creates a barrier where none should exist, and entirely disregards the charging party’s gender identity.

This speaks to a significant level of research and understanding of the issues surrounding gender identity by the Colorado civil rights commission. And that’s huge. It means that at least in some places, the people in power are taking notice of trans issues and learning about the. And not just the basics, but actually developing an understanding of the deeper complexities of gender and gender identity. While Colorado is a relatively left-leaning state, it still gives me hope that this kind of though will continue to spread and genuinely improve the lives of trans people everywhere.

So my hat is off to the Colorado civil rights commission, and a big congratulations to brave miss Coy on her victory.

Arizona’s Discriminatory Bathroom Bill Dies, or “A small victory, but for how long?”

Arizona Transgender Bathroom Bill Won’t Move.

So a while back, I wrote an essay on the issues surrounding the complications transgender people face when using public restrooms. The primary trigger for my decision to pen that assay was a proposal in the Arizona state legislature that would have made it a crime to use a bathroom that did not “match” with your assign-at-birth sex.

Well, I’m happy to say that enough stink was raised about this bill to force its author to abandon efforts to getting it passed. It’s not exactly a step forward, but at least it’s not a legally enshrined step back. Unfortunately, the representative who put forth the measure seems to have only abandoned it “for this session”, and we might end up seeing its return at some time in the future. Still, it’s at least a bit of a demonstration that we can prevent things like this from happening when we work together!

The Trans Bathroom Dilemma, or “Just leave me alone- I have to pee.”

 I’m honestly kind of depressed that I have to talk about this subject at all. But, sadly, trans people having a safe place to void their bladder is actually a real political issue. Don’t believe me? Check this out: (1). If this were to actually pass, if I had to use a public bathroom, I’d basically have the choice of risking assault in the men’s room or arrest in the ladies room. Every so often, someone on the Right seems to get a bug in their bum about where trans people use the toilet. As far as I know, we’re the only people in the US whose ability to utilize a public bathroom is the subject of a legislative debate.

Let’s take a look at some of the arguments being thrown around, shall we? Premise 1: Transwomen are really just male perverts trying to get access to women’s restroom. Yes, CLEARLY we spend thousands of dollars on therapy, hormones, surgery, laser/electrolysis, etc and risk complete rejection by our friends and family, face completely legal discrimination in housing and employment, and essentially risk our lives every day simply for the thrill of seeing genetic women in the bathroom. Wait, no we don’t. That’s effing crazy. No one with any kind of brain would take on the troubles of transition for that. And yes, I recognize that a large portion of society thinks that we’re all a bunch of degenerate perverts living out a fetish, and that’s what drives a lot of this fear bullshit. But if you take even half a second to realize what exactly you’re “signing up for” when you decide to transition, those arguments lose a lot of their steam.  Premise 2: Women are vulnerable in the bathroom, and transwomen will rape them if they are allowed to use the bathroom. Well, a significant search of the internet shows ZERO cases of a genetic female being raped by a transwoman in a bathroom. In fact, I can find no reports of a genetic female being raped by a transwoman at all. I’m not saying that it hasn’t happened and that it can’t ever happen (rape is highly underreported, after all)…but it appears a very unlikely and rather rare event. However, I did find MANY reports of genetic women being raped by cisgender men in women’s bathroom. So even though  there are almost certainly a lot more transwomen using the ladies restroom then there are cisgender men using the ladies room, the evidence seems to indicate that if you’re going to be sexually assaulted in the ladies room, it’s probably going to be by a cis-man. Now, before everyone starts writing me nasty letters, I’m NOT saying that cis-gendered men are all a bunch of rapists. I’m going to repeat that, just for the sake of not being eviscerated in comments: I am NOT saying that all cis-men just run around sexually assaulting people. But the statistics clearly indicate that the majority of sexual assaults are perpetrated by cis-men.

While we’re on that touchy subject, let’s get into another common statement heard when this subject comes up- “Why can’t [insert pejorative here] just use the bathrooms of their birth gender?” I’ll start with the idea of transwomen using the men’s room. My first inclination is just to yell “because they’re not men!” and be done with it. But that really doesn’t accomplish anything. So how about this…because it’s incredibly dangerous. Trans people deal with a much higher risk of harassment, as well as physical and sexual assault than the general population. Now, you put a transwoman alone in a space away from the eyes of the public, where her presence is going to be very obvious, where men are likely to feel like THEIR “private space” is being intruded upon, where she has to take down her pants and/or undergarments? This is a recipe for disaster, plain and simple. Now, a transwoman using a women’s restroom is not without dangers as this incident shows. (2) Any yes, I complete recognize that the ideal situation is people realize that it’s not ok to beat the shit out of transpeople just because they had to go pee (or, you know FOR ANY REASON). But we’re a long way for the end of transphobic violence, and dammit, I still sometimes have to meet biological demand outside a private residence on occasion.

For transmen, I think the situation is even direr in some ways. I’m fairly sure the same people who are totally panicked about the idea of transwomen in the ladies room would not be much more forgiving of the idea of transmen in there. The logical inconsistency here blows my mind, but I long ago learned that logic goes out the window when dealing with transphobia. So ideally, we’d let transmen use the men’s room. But there’s danger here, too. Transmen are not immune to hate crimes and transphobic rape, and the risks they take on using the guy’s bathroom, too. In a very real way, they’re damned and at significant risk no matter what they do. I think the take away is that a public restroom remains an extremely hazardous situations for ALL trans people to navigate.

Once we get into enforcement, this entire situation just takes on an entirely more ludicrous tone. How exactly do we go about making sure there are no trans people using the “wrong” bathroom. I’m sure a fair number of people would say “well, you can just tell by looking at them!”, but I’m not going to even dignify that with a response. So do we start putting cameras in the bathroom to make sure everyone on the toilet has the appropriate equipment? I don’t see that being terrible popular with…anyone. Plus, how on earth would you deal with people who have already had GCS? (The bill very specifically says BIRTH gender, so even someone who had undergone GCS would affected by this) I mean, really…will we have to hire experts in genital anatomy to identify bathroom “intruders”? Alright, so we skip the toilet cam route. So do we hire guards at the doors to check everyone’s IDs like some sort of Restroom Gestapo? While I appreciate the potential job-creating angle of this, it seems a wee bit impractical (pun totally intended). And it still is foiled by those dastardly folks who’ve had their bottom surgery and gotten their legal gender marker changed.  Hmm, so that’s probably too expensive to really work, either. Well, maybe we’ll just leave it to the other bathroom patrons to police the genitals of everyone in the loo that day. Just feel free to bust down any stall and check the equipment of whoever is sitting there. I’m sure THAT won’t create any conflict! Wait, I’ve got it! I’m a woman of science, why didn’t I think of this before? CLEARLY the answer is develop a rapid genetic test for biological sex and performing it on everyone trying to use the restroom! I’m a genius! I’ll make BILLIONS! Muahahaha! Oh wait…there’s still problems like genetic mosaicism, complete androgen insensitively syndrome, sex determining chromosome aberrations, and more. Rats, there goes my fortune. So tell us, oh wise Arizona legislatures, what IS the plan for enforcing this crazy law? What’s that?…oh right, it’s crickets.

So what on earth can we do to make this situation better for everyone? A number of solutions have been proposed for this issue. In more than a few people’s minds, I’m sure the simplest and best solution is for transgender folks to just stay the hell out of public places (I’ve personally been told I shouldn’t be out in public more than once). But let’s give no further credence to that nonesense. Transgender-specific bathrooms often come up as an idea, and while this idea has a good sentiment, it has a few major flaws. Primary among them is that it forces trans people to out themselves if they use them, which is atrociously unfair. We also run the very real risk of the same “separate but ‘equal’” problem that occurred during the racial segregation.  A better suggestion is the idea of “gender neutral” bathrooms that anyone can use. This has the advantages of providing a safe bathroom for genderqueer people of all types, as well as for anyone who just prefers a private restroom. I suppose that’s an important point; if gender neutral bathrooms are implemented, it’s imperative that they be private and lockable for safety reasons. It would also be nice I efforts were made to maintain at least some standard of cleanliness, and not just left neglected/ignored. In an ideal world, people are just accepting of trans people and the need for bathroom complications fades away, but I recognize that’s mostly pipe dream. Some institutions have already created gender-neutral restroom facilities, and the idea is continuing to traction in some of the more liberal portions of the country. [(3), (4), (5)] From a practical standpoint, I think the idea is an excellent one, and could very much make life easier and safer for trans people. But part of me will always be a little disappointed that we, as a society, have to make such a big deal about a relatively simple biological need.

In the end, the entire situation is just a glaring example of the overt obsession that people have with the genitals of transgender individuals.