Friday, June 3, 2016
Rooms for Rest
The Teen's now the High School Graduate, and in a college preparatory effort to elevate our conversations from how My Little Pony is Communist Plot to more lofty topics of intellectual heft, I've found that he is steadfastly non-committal in many of the great issues of the day. Which is fine, I suppose, and probably keeps his mind at ease. Unfortunately, I haven't learned that trick of respite, and I'm well aware that sometimes one thought will generate a virtual cacophony of mental activity. And my need to share my opinions...repeatedly and in excruciating detail, especially during long drives with a captive teenage audience...often results in The Graduate burying his head deeper into his Nintendo DS.
So by now you're intrigued, right? You're sitting there, asking yourself, "How does Howard Rodenberg, MD MPH, a fine upstanding member of the Northeast Kansas Medical Community and The Only Guy Who Verified his Age as 53 on a Children's Storybook App, stand on the critical issues of that day?" Or at least, "Which bathroom should I use in the Charlotte Airport?"
I'm delighted that you asked.
I happen to be of the belief that anyone can use whatever bathroom they want. I do not say that because of any inherent beliefs, one way or the other, about the rights and privileges of the transgendered. My thoughts on transgendered rights mostly concern just which pronoun one uses when gender identification doesn't match the anatomy. I don't want to say "it," or use a made up word like "shim," but I truly have no clue. Given what I do for a living, where physiology beats identity every time, that's all I really want to know.
I believe that everyone should use the bathroom of choice because that's what's been happening for thousands of years, perhaps even millions, since the first band of Homo Erectus (and isn't that a great name for a species given the current discussion) decided to use a communal waste site and some were more dainty in their use of leaves than others. It’s never bothered anyone before. It’s not led to a rampant plague of bathroom oglers nor predators. It’s not eroded the fundamental values of our nation (that would be urban music and cable television). It's a non-issue, made into one by a conservative, rural-dominated state legislature duking it out with hand-wringing urban activists in a large liberal city, magnified by a knee-jerk overreach by the federal government when it should have been left alone, to weasel it's way through the court system for a dozen years or so before the issue goes away by itself...meaning that everyone will continue going to the bathroom as they’ve been doing since the prehistoric scat pile. The whole thing is a chest-beating, cheek-puffing fight for dominance between two bands of howler monkeys hoping someone will pay attention while the rest of the zoo patrons are focused on those oh-so-cute river otters and ring-tailed lemurs. It's the Transportation Security Administration of Excretory Politics.
(As an aside, I've always found it interesting how many conservative legislatures, while promoting the autonomy of states to defy the federal government, are perfectly willing to limit home rule if smaller units of government, such as cities or counties, want to do the same. Government should be putting down floors to establish a minimal level of service, not limiting local initiatives by putting up ceilings. I can live quite happily with conservatism as long as it's based on consistency and common sense. I'm still waiting.)
If, as mentioned above, physiology beats identify, function beats form as well. So here is a functional approach to what I think should happen with bathrooms. Coincidentally, I suspect, it's what's been happening for the last several thousand years, with no discernible effect on public morals.
If you are a guy, and you think you’re a guy, you go to the men's bathroom. You may opt to stand near a urinal or enter a stall and sit. In either case you excrete and leave. This is not a place for lasting friendships to be made. Socialization in is not permitted other than to say, "Hey, about those (insert team name here) and grunt in response.
(I say stand near the urinal because there are people who grasp the urinal during use, which is sad and suggests a real need for human contact. We do not encourage this behavior, and suggest those individuals subscribe to match.com immediately.)
If you are a girl, and you think you’re a girl, you go to the women's restroom. You enter a stall, sit, and excrete. It's my understanding that they must do something else in there, because they go in groups and it takes them forever. But as I quite comfortably fit in the previous category, I'll never know. Nor do I want anyone to tell me.
If you are a guy who think he's a girl or a girl who thinks she's a guy, it is true that you generally have to look the part. But given that constraint, if you're a guy who thinks he's a girl and you look like a girl, you go to the women's room, enter a stall, sit, and excrete. You may socialize if you choose. If you're a girl who thinks she's a guy and you look like a guy, you go into the men's room, enter a stall, sit, excrete, and hope Senator Larry Craig isn't in the booth next door because you're not that kind of girl. Or guy. It’s confusing.
If you've had gender reassignment surgery, you can absolutely use the restroom of your choice. Anyone who has the intestinal fortitude to get things taken off or added on using scissors and knives deserves at least that measure of respect. I will use the pronoun of your choice without hesitation. However, if you were a guy who is now a girl and has subsequently developed fibromyalgia, I will address you as a female but will also take that post-operative diagnosis as prima facia evidence that you're most likely crazy as well.
If you're a cross dresser, who just likes to wear clothing of the opposite gender but are also quite comfortable with your own gender, use the bathroom at home. Linebackers in heels won't fit in either gender-based rest areas.
Of course, if at all possible, individuals of any gender or gender identity should have access to a single-occupancy restroom. This not only obviates the issues of who else is nearby and their level of comfort, but makes it a lot easier to read, make cellphone calls or play Avengers Academy on the iPad at the same time. Except in the Charlotte Airport, where the restroom attendants will knock on the door of the stall if you take too long and they hear Black Widow talking to Tony Stark from behind the swinging metal door. Or so I've heard.