Thursday, May 19, 2016
Grand Old Potty: Taking Bathroom Panic To Its Lunatic Conclusion
Virginia 1958, scene of an earlier bathroom panic. Photo by Eve Arnold/Magnum
Born of the fear-mongering, myth-proliferating, "beyond specious," "affront to democracy" North Carolina bill that seeks to target transgender people for something they've never done, bathroom hysteria is spreading across our unhinged land. This is not the first time: Many historical reckonings find that "bathroom panic is long the hill that racists and sexists are willing to die on," from the 19th century Ladies Sanitary Association's advocacy for women's restrooms to "help a class who naturally find it difficult to ask for public consideration in this matter, while experiencing grievous suffering," to the civil rights era's Jim Crow laws governing bathrooms and water fountains, to the longtime myth peddled by bigots that sexual predators will exploit non-discrimination laws to sneak into women's restrooms so to keep our blessed children safe we better just keep discriminating against the transgender community, not that they're icky or anything.
A bill that tells people where they can or can't piss - North Carolina's bars people from using public restrooms that don't align with the sex on their birth certificates - manages to be both offensive in substantive ways, and ridiculous. Transgender people have long said bathroom access represents a serious issue for them, and they've reported being regularly harassed, assaulted and humiliated. Today, unsurprisingly given what's been going on, a trans woman was confronted by a security guard at a D.C. grocery store bathroom, insulted and bodily thrown out of the store; the guard has been charged with assault, and may face hate crime charges.
That's the serious stuff. Then there's the demented stuff. Wingnuts are boycotting Target - which fares well on a Corporate Equality Index - for letting people use whatever damn bathroom they want to use; in a viral video last week, some madwoman trailed by her 12 kids marched through Target's housewares shrieking about the devil raping children. That Ablow moron also went on Fox News to ramble about how transgender bathrooms mark the unravelling of our society and the species, and if a trans person can decide his/her identity maybe a tattooed person will decide he's black...What the? Meanwhile one legislator has introduced his own bill to "protect" students from Obama's "social experiment," GOP-ese for "progress"; police - aka the thin blue line of "bathroom-enforcement cadets" - cheerfully admit they haven't a clue how they might enforce the law and they don't really think they need it and besides who brings a birth certificate to the john; and social media is ablaze with hashtags - #OccuPotty and #WeJustNeedToPee - and memes: "I use the men's room because I identify with a shorter line."
Finally, many commentators have noted that while virtually no transgender people have been found to have committed sex crimes in public bathrooms, at least three conservative GOP lawmakers - Former Senator Larry Craig, Former Florida Representative Bob Allen, and Former Senator Jon Hinson - and, depending on your source, possibly many more have been found guilty of the same offense. Entirely logically, then, one Jeremy Belanger has started a Change.org petition urging that we protect ourselves and our children by making GOP pols, invariably masquerading as "people who are morally just," use separate bathrooms. The new law would forbid them from joining the rest of us in our private business, set up "Grand Old Potty" spaces for them, and eliminate any stalls or dividers "so they can continue to monitor the bathroom activities they're so interested in." Toilet paper optional.