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Wednesday, December 4, 2013

It's a privilege to pee (and not get your ass kicked)

(c) Urinetown the Musical

So, here’s the thing, Darlings. I had to un-friend somebody on Facebook today. Not that that in and of itself was a tragedy, but the reason was so … stupid.

Stupidity and Facebook go together like Christian and Dior, like Bogie and McCall, like Lady and Gaga. But this came from an unexpected direction.

Unisex bathrooms.












Not even a real one. A hypothetical unisex bathroom.  This, Darlings, was enough to stir to a frenzy one of my ‘friends’, making her into a howling, salivating moron with a full-blown persecution complex, cursing at a thread full of bewildered, calmly-speaking folks who had committed no other offense than carrying on a civil, respectfully-toned conversation.

I say ‘friend’, rather than friend, because this person is one of those Facebook friends. You know the kind I mean. You knew them oh, ::mumble:: years ago, and hadn’t seen or heard from them in all of that time because your paths never crossed. Your worlds were different. Then you saw their name on the timeline of a friend of a friend, and went, “Oh, yeah, So-and-so! Wow, it’s been a long time. I’d better friend them!” As if the passage of ::mumble:: years had afforded some kind of magical sea-change, rendering people you didn’t have enough in common with to speak to once in all that time into people that you suddenly have to ‘catch up with’. Because you’re sure to be Besties now. Because of all those common intere – Oh, wait, yeah. You didn’t have those, remember? Which is why you weren’t friends already. Right?

But Unicorn, I hear you chirp. That was a long time ago! Time to let bygones be bygones. We’re both adults now, so now we have to become the awesome-est, best-est friends like we were always meant to be! We can act like grownups. Or something! And we share a common band – the past!

Good luck with that. Sure, people can and do change. Sometimes even for the better, although I’m not going to take bets on that. But chances are reasonably good that someone you weren’t good enough friends with to keep in touch with didn’t magically change into your new BFF while you weren’t looking. I mean, it could happen, so go ahead and friend them anyway if it makes you happy – but don’t be surprised if sometimes it bites you in the ass. Because that’s what Facebook does. It’s an ass-biter.

So, no shit, there we were, to coin a phrase. Someone had posted this drawing of an ambiguously-gendered young person facing two doors, one labeled, “Get yelled at”, and the other labeled, “Get beat up”. Which, pretty clearly, is a shit choice, no matter how you look at it. I shared this photo to my timeline, and expressed that opinion, in slightly politer terms. I also mentioned that unsuspectedly-loathsome crowd-frenzying phrase, unisex bathrooms.

Actually, some readers may be surprised at the context in which I brought up unisex bathrooms. I wasn’t really advocating them.

Quite a few liberal-minded folks like to trot out unisex bathrooms as some kind of Holy Grail for transgender people. Don’t feel safe in one room, and keep getting kicked out of the other one for suspected pervery? (Is that even a word?) Throw a unisex bathroom into the mix, and suddenly all the little ‘undeclared’ folks (or those who declare a brain that doesn’t match their body) have a safe place to go!

And those people mean well. I believe they really, really do. They keep coming back to safety. It’s safer for a transkid to use the ‘third bathroom option’, the unisex bathroom, rather than the ladies’ room or men’s room, because no one will pick on them. No one will hurt them. They can pee in peace!

Turns out, sadly, not so much.

Despite what I truly do believe are the very best intentions on the part of those people, a lot of the time that ‘third bathroom option’ can do way more harm than good, to the very people it’s supposed to protect.

How?

C’mon, have you ever met a teenager? Sure you have. You probably even were one at some point. Maybe you’re still a teenager now. If so, you know exactly what I’m going to say: Kids aren’t always nice. Kids in packs – in a school setting, for example - less nice yet. (The phrase ‘evil bastards’ comes to mind, but may in retrospect be a trifle harsh.) Kids are especially unkind to anyone they deem as different. And seeing someone walk into (or out of) the unisex bathroom at school is pretty much the same as hanging a freaking gigantic neon sign over their head, with an arrow on it, pointing and blinking in huge ginormous letters, “I’M DIFFERENT!!!!”

Using the ‘freak bathroom’ (which it’s pretty much guaranteed to be called within the first three seconds of its existence) will get you labeled a freak. 1+1 = prejudice, bullying, and a really damn unsafe environment. You may as well just out yourself in front of the kids smoking weed behind the autoshop building and get it over with. Or you could just, you know, pee.

This isn’t just my opinion, Darlings. Several transfolk friends of mine cringe when the subject of unisex bathrooms in schools comes up. And by ‘cringe’, I mean get very darn excited about how unsafe it is, because even if you have a monitor in the bathroom to make sure the bullies don’t follow you in and beat you up in the bathroom, you can only stay in there so long, and it’s not that much more fun to get beaten up in the hallway, or the shower, or the parking lot after school, although at least you probably won’t get a swirly in the parking lot. Probably.

Because the point is, while a unisex bathroom in a school is supposed to be this gigantic beacon of safety, what it really is is a freak flag with your name on it, hoisted by a dim-witted but kindly old guy that slaps a humongous MUTANT sign on your back when you’re not looking, and then posts pics of it on Facebook. And then tags you. And marks it ‘public’.

That really doesn’t have a whole lot to do with what happened today. I know, I know, and I’m sorry, but I had to tell you that story in order for the next part to make sense.

Because what happened next doesn’t make a lot of sense.
No shit, there we were (all the best stories start that way, just like some good ones probably end, and then we all went to prison). Talking about how, “Get yelled at” and “Get beat up” are crappy choices for a kid to have to pick from when all he or she wants is to pee.
(Going forward in this story, I’m going to use “she” for that hypothetical kid, because the risk seems to me to be worse for the transgirl than the transboy, at least in this particular hypothetical situation of a unisex ‘third bathroom choice’ in a school. Lord knows there is a ton of risk either way, but at least the transgirl will probably only get laughed at or called names in the girl’s room at school, while the transboy will almost definitely get the stuffing kicked out of him. In any case, whether you agree with that last theory or not, I’m going to use ‘she’ for now because it’s way less confusing than having to say ‘he or she’ every damn time. Just go with it.)
So, there we were (no ‘no shit’ this time … which is pretty amusing considering the subject matter). We were agreeing that the two options (‘Get yelled at’ or ‘Get beat up’, for those who got lost in the meandering between then and now) sucked, and commiserating that there really is no easy solution, since it seems kind of better somehow to offer transkids the option of a unisex bathroom if they want one, so they don’t have to be in a ladies’ or men’s room if they don’t feel safe there, but then we went through the whole thing about unisex bathrooms being a giant ‘freak flag’, yadda yadda yadda –
And then things veered off the road of rational discussion into the swampy morass of WTF just happened?!? In the middle of this calm, rational, and even compassionate conversation, a ‘friend’ of mine stampeded, raising a hue and cry over something no one was discussing – and apparently mortally offended that no one was discussing it: a penis in the girls bathroom.

I’ll skip over most of it and just give you the Reader’s Digest condensed version, even though in retrospect it probably was very entertaining reading if you weren’t caught in the headlights.

She’s all shouting, “Penises near my daughter!! My daughter is at risk!”, and we’re all assuring her that no one wants to show her daughter a penis. (For all I know, that’s even true. I mean, she’s just a kid, and no one better be showing her penises. Penii? Whatever. That’s just not right.)
But she just won’t stop, and it doesn’t even seem to matter to her that she’s not even having the same discussion that we’re having. She’s practically in another county, with the discussion she wants to be having with us – why we, perverts, deviants and pedophiles all, clearly – are OK with letting potential rapists (by which she apparently meant ALL YOUNG BOYS) come into the little girl’s bathroom and wave their penises at her daughter. If not worse.
Ok, firstly, none of us are pedophiles. Perverts maybe, and deviants almost for sure, but not in a bad way, and none of us were wearing those hats just then. Secondly, we were having a serious, real talk about a very real issue, which was, “Where can the transkids pee without dying?”, and suddenly it was all about rape. Apparently, that was one conversation she wanted to have so badly that it didn’t matter that no one else was having it.
When another of my friends (note the lack of air quotes, please) made the mistake of rationally pointing out that no one was raping anybody, and took into question the implication that all young boys are uncontrollable rape-werewolves who can’t stop themselves from throwing themselves on any young girl who is foolish enough to venture into their lines of sight without their fathers (or mothers, apparently) on hand with a shotgun and a taser – because you just can’t be too sure, the bizarre dialed up to an eleven. (On a side note, that may be the longest run-on sentence I’ve ever written. Or not.) It wasn’t enough that bio-guys might hide out in the unisex bathroom and pee in the stall next to her daughter. (We expressed some reservation whether this would happen very often, because they would get in SO much trouble when the girls turned them in, which would happen in less time than it took me to type this.) But that’s neither here nor there. FORGET for a moment about the bio-male kids entirely. Suddenly, transgirls are going to go into the unisex bathroom and lurk there, waiting for an unsuspecting bio-girl to come in, and wave their penises (penii???I still don’t know!) at her.
And a moment of disbelieving silence fell over the thread. Did we really just read that wrong? Why, in the name of all that anyone holds sacred, would a transgirl, who probably loathes nothing on earth so much as the fact that she was born with a penis, ever allow anyone to suspect she has one, let alone wave it around or show it to anybody?!? That, my Darlings, is just Not. Going. To happen. Period. She’d much rather lock herself in a stall and be very much alone, and try to ignore the penis entirely. End of story.
But nooooo. You knew it couldn’t be that easy, or I would have just said, “One of my friends was confused for a minute on FB, but we cleared it all up, and then posted more LOLcats.”

I didn’t say that. I said she went batshit crazy (or something). It was several paragraphs ago, and I don’t remember my exact wording, but the lady went off, and any attempt on our parts to soothe her or help her see that she was chasing a vapor trail was met with – not just disbelief – but what I can only describe as rancor.

I use ‘rancor’ not only in the sense of extreme anger and irritation, but also in the sense of Rancor, the hideous, murderous beast without sense or purpose other than to rend and tear and destroy, from Return of the Jedi.
Yeah, it was like that.

Several of us, treading now extremely carefully, since it was clear that this was beyond being a ‘hot button’ issue for this person, tried to clarify that the majority of transgirls are probably not very rapey in the ladies’ room. (I won’t say none ever, because watch, it’ll happen in Ohio tomorrow and be all over the news, and then I’ll have to eat my words, and honey, I’m never hungry enough for that.) We also mentioned that not all bio-guys are automatically assumed to be fiendish rape-filled demons without any evidence, since that’s kind of a horrible lesson to teach your daughters – and your sons.
This immediately resulted in profanity (directed at us, none of whom were upset or ‘shouting’), accusations of us attacking her, and numerous huffy declarations of how DONE!!!!! she was with the conversation, and that she was leaving, never to return. After the third time this happened, in between all the other intervals of which we had mistakenly thought it was safe to return to the topic we were actually discussing, we realized the error of our ways. This was not going to end. The conversation had devolved into one or two intelligent comments, several attempts to apologize for somehow offending the person, and then a volley of new vitriol declaiming us all as haters and people who would trounce anyone whose opinion differed in the slightest from ours. Mind you, we all had already expressed our differing opinions (differing to each other’s, not just to hers, mind!), but don’t let facts stand in your way. We’re being righteous, here, and if she says she doesn’t want her daughter victimized by any transpenises, then that means everyone else is for some godforsaken reason in favor of kiddy-rape in school bathrooms, because –
Well, apparently just because.
Yeah, so after things went from ludicrous to WTF?!? in roughly zero point zero zero zero nine seconds, I made an executive decision and blocked her. Which not only removed her from the thread, but also from my friends list.
So, what I can’t quite figure out is, should I be sorry about this?
I mean, I’m sorry it happened. I’m sorry she was so upset. I’m sorry that this is clearly such a Big Important Deal™ to her that she lives in constant fear that her daughter will be assaulted in the bathroom. I really am sorry about that, because maybe something happened once (or more) to make her think that this is not only a possibility but a damn-near certainty, because you just don’t react like that without a really good reason, unless you’re off your medication and you really shouldn’t be. Or maybe nothing happened, and she’s just such a good momma that she’s constantly on guard from penises (penii??? Come on, someone help a sister out here!) that she imagines them coming at her little girl even in the unlikeliest of places, and from the unlikeliest of perps.
Or maybe I did myself a favor, because someone who sees phantom penii (I’m just gonna go with it, Darlings!) lurking in the shadows probably shouldn’t read my Facebook on a daily basis, or they’re going to suffer rainbow-glittery nightmares, and that spells a lot of therapy, and now she’s better off.
I’m not really good with people with hair-triggers, I guess. Or people who are highly passionate, emotionally volatile, and prone to reacting with their guts and their hearts rather than thinking it all through and speaking carefully after giving all sides much thought, because they just can’t keep it in a moment longer, and just have to let it all out.

Hey. Shut up. ;)

I still don't know the magic solution to the 'peeing problem'. Probably there won't be a right answer until people learn to respect each other, no matter if we're different between the legs or between the ears. We need to change the way we think, instead of focusing on where we pee. But everybody's gotta feel safe, too. I just don't know.

Anyhow, Facebook drama. Shock and surprise. I’d better get some popcorn. Who knows what could happen tomorrow?!?

Thank you for reading, as always. I welcome your comments and questions, because I can’t talk to myself all the time. I mean, I could, but I’d probably run out of things to say sometime around 2089. So, if you like, throw caution (and glitter! Always glitter) to the winds and join in the babble!

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