October 21st, 2014
The American obsession with gender identity has again reared itself into the mainstream, this time in Texas. The start of this remarkable storm began with a rather ‘old’ issue of where people identifying as a gender different than that expected by mere, anatomical study ought to go to the bathroom. Public access to bathrooms is extremely important and the costs of altering them for wheelchair access tells the story of how seriously we do take this essential right to personal health needs. However, this case went further, with the result that every bathroom has the potential to become ‘unisex’, merely because an individual wants to enter it. Their motive is rather irrelevant when women prefer to undress and become vulnerable to prying eyes (and hands) while sitting on a toilet in a cubicle with a flimsy lock and large open area below the doorway. Men have the option to urinate publically, under the gaze of anyone entering the room, or within a cubicle similar to those in women’s restrooms.
The cases in point are important in that it brings up issues of safety and privacy. The right to privacy is easily attained by offering unisex bathrooms for a single person at a time. Those doors lock securely and no one will care about your gender orientation. Those intending harm (sexual predators) will lack the company of the opposite sex sought through wrongful entry into a group bathroom of the opposite sex. A toilet can be cheaply walled off from a larger rest room or a janitorial closet converted into a unisex toilet. This is not an insoluble problem if you delete the issue of ‘May I come into your toilet?’ question and go right to the main event, i.e. “Where may I ‘go’ in peace?”.
Fortunately for us all, this hue and cry led to a marvelous uproar regarding freedom of speech. Politicians unhappy with pastoral sermons advising their congregants to refuse to give up yet another needed privacy for themselves and their youngsters, were suddenly ordered to send copies of their pulpit talks to the government for review. Apparently the use of any lectern to speak about legislation the region where the audience has a vested interest was re-defined as political opposition, rather than education and discussion. Violations of free speech, now expected, were extended to houses of religious freedom. The phrase, religious freedom, was redefined as freedom from religion if you value group nudity. As a wedge into the minds of religious leaders planning their sermons, it certainly guaranteed that religious leaders would never be able to think again about any subject without having their minds on the government minders.