Why Not Restrooms Labeled: Women, Men, Transgender?

Has the time come to add another option for public restroom users: Men, Women and Transgender?

I have to admit that I know very little about the transgender world or issues related to transgender people. I am not certain that I know any people who are transgender. Perhaps, I do, but no one has shared with me their transgender sexuality. It is not that I am shying away from learning about issues that are important to persons who self identify as someone different from the person the obstetrician who delivered them identified them to be.

Sexuality or sexuality identity is not an important area of discussion when I encounter people on a daily basis. I am more interested in what that individual brings to the engagement and not whether that personage is male, female, homosexual or transgender.

When I came forth over six decades ago, Dr. F. H. Sam sent notice to the Georgia Vital Statics Bureau that I was a male. He got it right. I am male in all respect. I enjoy being a male human being.

As a child I was quickly assigned a particular skill set that my cousins who had been determined to be female were not assigned. For instance, I was expected to help with the farm chores outside of the house, while the girls were given chores related to the inside of the house.

Later when I began public school at age five, I was assigned to play with the boys during recess and told that the bathroom with the sign boys was where I had to go during restroom breaks. This all seemed simple enough to me. I was comfortable playing the games that the boys played, especially baseball. Other than an occasional fist fight in the boy’s restroom, it was an uneventful experience. If there were girls or boys in my elementary school who were uncomfortable in their assigned comfort facilities, I was unaware of it.

As we move into the 21st century, more children are coming forth, tugging at the coat tails of the men who run our government and institutions, trying to get the attention of men, trying to get them to realize that they are not on the inside, the person they appear to be on the outside.

I do not understand the psychology of the transgender reality, but what they feel must be true. People tend to know who they are individually better than anyone looking at them from the outside.

While this societal evolution is occurring, our society continues to operate under the restroom guidelines assigned before people with transgender feelings – whom I imagine have always been among us – decided to articulate their dilemma. Individuals identified as boys used the boy’s room and those identified as girls used the girl’s room. So, the government says that this is the way it is and the way it has to be.

The problem occurs when girls and women who self identify as boys or men want to use comfort facilities heretofore assigned to males and vice versa. Last year the federal government got involved in this controversy. Former President Barack Obama directed that schools permit students to use the comfort facility that they self identify with rather than using the designation placed on their birth certificate.

Declarations on birth certificates are placed there at a time when the new person entering our society is not consulted. Their opinion cannot be sought or communicated, other than by biology. Thus, the sex of the newly breathing human being is determined by doctors, trained in medical schools and charged with determining these kinds of things.

Several state legislatures got into the act. Some considered legislation to prohibit, for instance, a person determined to be a boy at birth from using the girl restroom facilities. North Carolina passed such a law and it was signed into law by its governor. So too did Georgia, however, Georgia’s Republican governor, Nathan Deal, vetoed the bill because he felt it would have harsh economic consequences for his state.

Deal’s fears were probably well founded as the NFL and the NCAA have indicated that a state’s support of transgender rights may be a consideration in determining where future Super Bowls and NCAA sanctioned playoff and championship games will be played.

President Donald Trump recently rescinded President Obama’s executive order which required public schools to permit students to use the restroom facility based upon their sexual identity preference.

Transgender rights have become the next big idea whose time has come. First there was the freeing of enslaved people, then the right to vote was given to white women and vicariously to all women, then Roe v. Wade, gave women the right to control their bodies, and President Obama essentially paved the way for gay and lesbian marriage.

Perhaps, this is the rub for conservatives. They fear the changing nature of society, things are not as they were in yesteryear and conservatives feel they have to push back on this latest evolution of human habitation in the earth.

If this is not what the real fight is about, there is a clear solution to the issue of privacy for transgender people when it comes to taking comfort breaks. This solution is so simple I am sure someone other than I has thought of it.

Why not create another category of comfort facility, therefore, female, male, transgender. The transgender community needs their own privacy.

As a male, I need my privacy when it is time to refresh myself whether I am at home or in a public place. I have never felt comfortable when a father brings his young daughter into the men’s room in a public facility. I cringe each time that has happened to me, especially when the father and daughter were white people.

What if by happenstance my private part were exposed? Who would believe me, an American of African descent that it was not done on purpose to excite the prurient interest of a 4 year old white girl, should her father make such a claim?

There is much that our society does not know about the feelings of transgender persons. There is much that transgender persons do not understand about their own reality in this society and they should have the freedom in private moments to be what it means to be transgender.

If I am naïve on the subject of transgender rights, please chalk it up to my head and not my heart. I am trying to find a simple solution to a simple problem that is made all the more complex by the politics of the day.

Harold Michael Harvey is an American novelist and essayist, the author of Paper puzzle and Justice in the Round, Easier to obtain Than to Maintain: The Globalization of Civil Rights by Charles Steele, Jr.; and the host of Beyond the Law with Harold Michael Harvey. He can be contacted at haroldmichaelharvey.com.


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Published by Michael

Harold Michael Harvey is a Past President of The Gate City Bar Association and is the recipient of the Association’s R. E. Thomas Civil Rights Award. He is the author of Paper Puzzle and Justice in the Round: Essays on the American Jury System, and a two-time winner of Allvoices’ Political Pundit Prize. His work has appeared in Facing South, The Atlanta Business Journal, The Southern Christian Leadership Conference Magazine, Southern Changes Magazine, Black Colleges Nines, and Medium.

4 replies on “Why Not Restrooms Labeled: Women, Men, Transgender?”

  1. Well said Michael. However, I would like to point something out that a lot of men never pay attention to. Public space is never designed for Fathers and their daughters. It is always designed for Mothers and their children of any gender; and fathers and their sons, but not their daughters. When I was a child and hanging out with my late Dad he would either walk me into the “men’s room” with his hands over my eyes and announce “Dad coming in with daughter” so he could take me to the bathroom. In other instances, we would often run into a woman who was a friend of the family, and she would take me to the bathroom. Now, I have seen female and male children in Women’s public bathrooms and I never thought anythiing about it. A boy with his mother who had to use the bathroom, just simply came in with his mother. I do know several transgender people and I appreciate your candor here because some of these folks are the best human beings on earth. I’m not sure what the solution is, but I do know that public space has never ever been designed to accommodate fathers and daughters; and I think we ought to give that some real thought as well.

  2. No Michael. I must thank you for this. I had not thought about any of this until you wrote this wonderful piece. And you are correct. We do need to discuss all of this. Public space should accommodate everyone regardless of gender. This was a totally engaging piece.

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