Schubart: Bathroom Politics
If you’re wondering why our bridges collapse, our trains collide, security lines stretch on, and our courtrooms have no judges … it’s because “potty politics” has become a more important legislative issue.
Within families, we all share bathrooms and school kids have largely worked this out for themselves. Anyone who’s ever attended a Broadway show in one of the older theaters is used to the sight of women lining up outside the women’s and men’s rooms during the short intermission. But the latest diversion for some groin-obsessed elder statesmen has become a debate over who gets to use which bathroom.
Obsessing about sexual identity often masks personal gender insecurities, as the former Senator Larry Craig “foot-tapping” incident famously exposed. You may remember Senator Craig of Idaho was a Republican conservative “family values” candidate who was arrested for lewd behavior in an airport men’s room. There have been many such embarrassments on the right (and, yes, on the left as well.) and I confess to a frisson of schadenfreude at each reported incident.
All of which reminds me of when I was first herded into the gym showers at prep school. I was overweight, looked young for my age, and somewhat effeminate. I was terrified but had no option except to stand there among other boys at varying stages of puberty. For some it was a rite of passage; but for many of us, it was mortifying and humiliating. Simple stalls would have allowed the modest among us to shower in private.
The unfortunate bathroom discussion should not be about gender but rather about the essential human attribute of modesty, a virtue deserving of privacy. Bathroom design should offer privacy to those who seek it, regardless of their birth certificate or chosen gender.
Gender policing has no business in nature’s personal functions. Privacy does. But I doubt Congress would fund public bathroom patrols anyway since they refuse to fund Homeland Security agents for airports, where sexual predators and terrorists are a known threat.
And, speaking of terror, try sitting next to a dyspeptic uncle in an old-time “two-holer” outhouse in the woods, with only a coffee can of wood ash and a pile of neatly torn newspaper strips between you.
Bathroom patrols are as stupid an idea as walling ourselves in at the border. But, alas, stupid ideas abound.