decisions, decisions ...

By Diogenes (articles ) | Sep 01, 2007

"... the modern and morbid habit of always sacrificing the normal to the abnormal." -- G.K. Chesterton

The Globe reports that Boston's Emerson College joins Tufts and the U of Vermont in providing "gender neutral" restrooms out of tenderness toward the sensibilities of transgendered students.

If you have to ask, you wouldn't understand the answer.

The school does not know how many students identify themselves as transgender, an umbrella term used for someone who does not identify with the traditional male or female gender. The term, which can apply to crossdressers and transsexuals, is focused on a person's gender identity or expression and does not involve sexual orientation.

Then again, do you really want to understand the answer ...?

Students said they wanted to make people feel more comfortable by not having to choose a gender at the bathroom door.

For most vertebrates, Momma told me, that choice was made sometime around 440 million years ago, during the Ordovician Period. Those unfortunate others, I admit, have had a long wait for the restroom in the interim. In the sermonettes that follow, however, notice whose comfort is considered important and whose discomfort is disregarded:

"A harassment experience doesn't have to be physical," said Rik Haber, a 2007 graduate of Emerson identified as gender-queer, a term for those who identify their gender outside of male or female. "It is about feeling comfortable going to the bathroom."

Haber was one of the students who campaigned for the facilities before graduating. Elizabeth Whitney, a scholar in residence at Emerson, identifies herself as femme, a term that describes gender identity outside the binary male or female. Whitney has helped students raise awareness on the gender-neutral bathrooms through advocacy and the material she taught.

"I have felt unsafe in Emerson's bathrooms because I have seen people subjected to gender-policing," Whitney said.

She and her partner, she recalled, entered a women's restroom, and her partner received odd looks from the women inside. The people in the restroom checked the sign on the door to make sure they were in a women's restroom. "We are so socialized about gender norms that some people do it without realizing they are doing it," she said of gender discrimination.

Ah yes, that inalienable Right to Flout Taboos through Flamboyant Exhibitionism without Being Subject to Odd Looks at Moments of Social Vulnerability -- overlooked in the Constitution but championed by academic élites in service of the common good. Think what gifts transgendered bachelors of arts have brought to the wider community!

Boston Globe graphic

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  • Posted by: - Sep. 05, 2007 10:06 AM ET USA

    Courtesy of Dale Ahlquist, the Chesterton-quote comes from chapter 3 of "The Superstition of Divorce": "I had intended this article to be the last of those outlining the element of this debate; but I shall have to add a short concluding section on the way in which all this is missed in the practical (or rather unpractical)proposals about divorce. Here I will only say that they suffer from the modern and morbid weaknesses of always sacrificing the normal to the abnormal."

  • Posted by: - Sep. 03, 2007 4:30 PM ET USA

    Adamah raises a good point. Not only are conventional bathrooms sexist, they're downright speciesist (sp). Why can't we bring our dogs, cats, gerbils, whatever, in so that they can feel "comfortable"? If I ever go to Emerson (God forbid), I expect to see a fire hydrant inside each rest room for the sake of Fido!

  • Posted by: - Sep. 01, 2007 10:33 PM ET USA

    Where is that Chesterton quote from?

  • Posted by: - Sep. 01, 2007 7:50 PM ET USA

    "Right to Flout Taboos through Flamboyant Exhibitionism without Being Subject to Odd Looks at Moments of Social Vulnerability" Uncle Di, I am sure that this right has not been "overlooked" in the Constitution but is merely dozing gently in a penumbra somewhere, waiting to be drawn out. Anyway, according to the example quoted, exactly who is subjecting whom to "gender-policing"?

  • Posted by: - Sep. 01, 2007 3:26 PM ET USA

    Well, if it's about "feeling comfortable going to the bathroom," what about MY right to feel comfortable, which I don't when people of a different sex - or questionably of a different sex - are sharing a public bathroom with me. And yes, I know in advance that I'm not going to understand the answer!

  • Posted by: - Sep. 01, 2007 1:04 PM ET USA

    Gender jingoism within the effete halls of academia is nothing new. This elite intelligentsia leads us ever forward in search of the predestined progression of humankind. Don't ask question; they know what's best for us.

  • Posted by: - Sep. 01, 2007 12:00 PM ET USA

    So, "femme" is outside the "male or female binary" but not the he or she binary?

  • Posted by: - Sep. 01, 2007 10:57 AM ET USA

    I can only read this stuff and shake my head. How sad and pathetic. Now, if I decide that I am no longer going to define myself using the rigidly narrow classification "human," does that entitle me to special treatment at the local university? Can I get my own bathroom? How 'bout grants due to my "minority" status?

  • Posted by: - Sep. 01, 2007 10:37 AM ET USA

    so it is not only Catholic Bishops who protect sexual perverts.