TS/TG People and the Politics of Public Places to Pee

Geez…  The last few days my news feeds have been filled with various stories about TS/TG people and the problems with finding a place to pee.

This comes at a time when I have also observed more and more public places having gender neutral single occupancy restrooms which say “Occupied” when the door is locked rather than having the international symbols for male/female on the doors.  The other accommodation is the third restroom with the door wide enough to permit the motorized wheelchair or scooter to pass through it.  This restroom often includes the diaper changing station.

Indeed many of the articles are about colleges and the like making accommodations and designating restroom as gender neutral.

I don’t have a stake in this fight.  I can feel empathy though as I can remember the concerns I had prior to coming out.  I was terrified of using public men’s rooms, especially in San Francisco.  I don’t know if it is still a common practice but in the pre-Stonewall days plain clothes cops used to patrol the rest rooms and arrest obviously gay men.  Of course the cops always said the gay men groped them or solicited them, but cops like like rugs.

When I worked at the office in the early 1970s I heard that sisters using certain store’s rest rooms were subject to arrest, but never actually met anyone or took a complaint from anyone who had actually been subjected to arrest.

Perhaps it goes with what some call passing privilege but this isn’t something I thought much about.  When I transitioned we had cards issued by the SF Center for Special Problems and those were supposed to keep us from being arrested for using the public restrooms.

Some of my T to M friends mentioned their restroom issues when I was hanging out with them back in the 1990s. Their issues were needing a stall and not really being able to stand and pee at a urinal.

I’ve worked in some big box stores and have had customers complain about the difficulties regarding motorized wheel chairs.  Other customers have children with them of the other sex and are concerned about leaving them alone while using the restroom.

This is all about equal access to public restrooms for all, including not just trans folks but thoose who are mobility challenged, those needing changing stations for infants and for parents with children of the other sex.

It sounds like a stupid issue, but it isn’t for people who simply need a safe place where they can use the restroom without having their dignity shredded or being forced to face danger.

This isn’t just an American issue and people are working to make it better.

WPIX Orange County Fla:  UCF adds gender-neutral restrooms


Students at the University of Central Florida will see a different kind of restroom around campus.

The new facilities aren’t just only for men or only for women; they’re marked as gender neutral.

“I wouldn’t want to go to a bathroom that I don’t feel comfortable in,” one student told WFTV.

Nine of the gender-neutral restrooms have been added around campus.

The gender-neutral restrooms are essentially family bathrooms that have new signs. Some of the new restrooms feature a man and woman on the placard outside the door.

The Argus UK:  New Rottingdean toilets go ‘gender neutral’

By Tim Ridgway
Feb. 14, 2013

Unisex toilets are to be rebranded as gender neutral by “politically correct” council chiefs.

A £140,000 refurbishment of the facilities in Rottingdean seafront started this week.

But emails seen by The Argus indicate bosses “wish to promote the term gender neutral” when discussing the block that will be open to everyone regardless of their sex.

Supporters claim it will make it more accessible for those who do not identify with the male-female binary.

Boston Herald:  Mass. Ed Dept issues rules on transgender pupils

February 15, 2013

BOSTON — The Massachusetts Department of Education on Friday issued directives for handling transgender students, including allowing them to use the bathrooms or play on the sports teams that correspond to the gender with which they identify.

The guidance was issued at the request of state board of education to help schools follow the state’s 2011 anti-discrimination law protecting transgender people.

During the same time frame the above articles were published there were also articles about sisters getting hassled for using public rest rooms.

Pink News UK: Trans woman student abused and shoved out of toilets at Leeds University

The Advocate:  ‘It’s The Women’s Room!’ and Other Bathroom Complications

The Lariat:  Former Saddleback student returns as transgender, is told not to go into female restroom

Even with accommodation non-discrimination laws that protect TS/TG people, gender queer or gender ambiguous people can be subjected to harassment on the part of both the public and the police. If someone is in that position: Personal safety comes first.

Don’t endanger yourself to make a point, that list of people we memorialize in November always has too many names. Don’t do something that will get you arrested.  If it is at a school or place of work take it up with management.

It isn’t my issue, but I learned from many years of not having an automobile to plan my trips using the safest routes and well lighted bus stops.  Better to plan things out and avoid danger while fighting for your rights in situations where you aren’t facing physical harm.

If it is any consolation TS/TG people aren’t the only folks facing this.

Gay Star News: Lesbian bride who Fox News mistook for a man speaks out

Stephanie Figarelle, the handsome bride and half of the Alaska-based couple, won a contest to become the first same-sex couple to marry at the iconic Empire State Building last year.

Currently on her honeymoon with her wife Lela, she took to her Facebook to say how she feels about the internet laughing at Fox News’ mistake.

Figarelle writes: ‘Yes, I’m aware that I look like a dude. I have known this my entire life- I’ll prove it by sharing baby photos sometime. I’ve gotten bullied, hit on by gay dudes and hot “straight” girls, seen the inside of both male and female bathrooms.

‘Gotten yelled at for going into the women’s restroom- but never the men’s. I’ve had to tell my parents, grandparents and the rest of my family that I am gay, ultimately facing their rejection. Luckily, since I’ve looked like a dude since birth, they all accepted me with open arms since they really weren’t surprised…

Be assertive about your right to live with dignity but stay safe.

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Trans amendments to the Marriage (Same-sex Couples) Bill

From Complicity UK:  http://www.complicity.co.uk/blog/2013/02/equal-marriage-bill-amendments/

A number of amendments for trans people have been submitted formally in parliament, but unless you’re a legal whiz with some spare time to hand it’s not immediately obvious what they are. So, here’s a quick guide to what the relevant ones do…

Amendment 4 – Prevent voiding of marriages with a trans person

At the moment, a spouse can have a marriage voided (As if it had never happened) by claiming they did not know that their partner had a gender recognition certificate at the time they married, and this amendment removes this. There is no similar provision covering, for example, religion or similar and creates a situation whereby a spouse who does know about their partner’s history later claims ignorance if their partner is not very publicly “out”.

Amendment 5 – Remove spousal veto of legal recognition of gender

Because a marriage would, under the existing system, need to be converted to or from a civil partnership on one partner transitioning, there is a requirement for an interim Gender Recognition Certificate to be issued and the existing partnership be annulled prior to full recognition of legal rights. This was done to prevent a spouse being forcibly re-entered into a new relationship (Civil partnership or Marriage) they didn’t want and could not get out of due to the one-year minimum term before divorce can be applied for in a new relationship.

This is no longer the case, but the bill did not reflect that fully. Instead, it allowed a partner to delay or potentially block someone getting full legal rights in their acquired gender by refusing to give consent, a situation that would also incur additional costs for the trans person by forcing them to use the interim GRC process.

The amendment levels the playing field by only issuing an interim GRC if both parties request it, rather than simply if the spouse refuses consent. (As it stands, it also causes an Interim GRC to be issued in the case of a civil partnership, because the current bill does not allow for mixed-sex civil partnerships)

It takes 2 years post-transition to get a GRC, so an unhappy spouse still has plenty of time to apply for divorce.

Amendment 6 is tidy-up related to amendment 5, removing clauses that are no longer relevant.

Continue reading at:  http://www.complicity.co.uk/blog/2013/02/equal-marriage-bill-amendments/

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Gender-neutral marriage laws needed to prevent further tragedies

From Gay News Network Australia:  http://www.gaynewsnetwork.com.au/viewpoint/viewpoint/10552-gender-neutral-marriage-laws-needed-to-help-prevent-further-tragedies.html

Ben Cooper
Feb 15, 2013

Any future changes to the Marriage Act must ensure it is gender-neutral so the law can reflect the fact that our biological sex doesn’t determine our personality, our relationship roles nor who we are attracted to, writes Ben Cooper.

There are many arguments that have been articulated in favour of marriage equality, such as equal rights for LGBTI people and marriage strengthens relationships to name a few; but there’s one argument that for too long has been ignored in this debate, with that argument being that we need marriage equality because our society and its citizens need a gender-neutral Marriage Act. There are many reasons why we need a gender-neutral Marriage Act. Trans and Intersex communities in particular benefit from this reform, and women benefit from a Marriage Act free of sexism. But the main reason being is because our society needs a culture shift and the law to celebrate sexual, gender and social equality.

A perfect example of why this change is necessary is the story of a guy named Shaun (not his real name). Shaun was someone who I met in a youth choir and he was one of the most talented tenors in the choir. He was fairly butch in his appearance, enjoyed playing cricket and was a fairly gentle natured person with a bright future. Shaun like every man fitted some male stereotypes but like every person there were many aspects of his personality and gender expression that simply didn’t fit gender stereotypes. Shaun was someone who was bullied because of his gender and personality expression and on a daily basis he endured homophobic slurs and was consistently de-gendered by many of his peers. In essence he was denied social acknowledgement of his gender identity by the way others treated him. Shaun, who to the best of knowledge was and is heterosexual, was even once accused of being gay and bashed by a group of guys after they saw a poster advertising an upcoming musical that featured a picture of him in costume.

At age 15, after enduring such disturbing discrimination for several years, Shaun started to hang out with an extremely hyper-gendered group of guys and within weeks he quit the choir and began to drift away from many of his friends. Shaun began to go to house parties and raves with his mates and the morning after one of these parties I ran into him and I saw he had a black eye. I asked him how he got it and he told me that he and his mates were causing a ruckus and when the host of the party asked them to leave, they laid into him and a brawl erupted. I then briefly continued the conversation by asking him about a mutual friend of ours from choir and if he had caught up with her recently. This girl was for years one of his closest friends and he responded by saying, “Nah I don’t have time for skanks that don’t put out.” I was stunned and finished the conversation and kept walking. I remember being quite shocked at how much he had changed as a person. The relatively gentle country boy who loved singing and cricket, and who had plenty of healthy friendships with men and women had become a deeply insecure, drug addicted bully, who had lost all respect for not only himself but for women and any male who in his eyes wasn’t a real man. The only thing that Shaun really cared about nowadays was fitting in with the boys, having as much sex as possible and getting off his face whenever he could. The guy who endured so much oppression was now running around causing trouble and oppressing others.

Continue reading at:  http://www.gaynewsnetwork.com.au/viewpoint/viewpoint/10552-gender-neutral-marriage-laws-needed-to-help-prevent-further-tragedies.html

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A Woman Saved By the Vagina Monologues Considers 1 BN Rising

From Vitamin W:  http://vitaminw.co/society/woman-saved-vagina-monologues-considers-1-bn-rising

By Megan Reback
Tue February 12, 2013

Like many women, discovering The Vagina Monologues, Eve Ensler, and V-Day changed my life. A close friend told me about the Monologues, which I read cover to cover on Valentines Day of 2007. I was sixteen years old, a disempowered witness in a household plagued by violence. Privy to the pressures that young women face from the media, from men, from billboards, from magazines, and from a patriarchal society, combined with watching the physical and emotional abuse against women in my family, I had never considered the power of my femininity or of my vagina. After reading The Vagina Monologues, my reality was different: my role in the world had changed, my position as a young woman changed, and my perception of myself as an activist — an empowered, smart, capable, woman. It saved me.

Two friends and I were shaken to life by the Monologues on rape as a tactic of war, a male savior called Bob, and especially a monologue called “My Short Skirt,” which asserts, “I declare these streets, any streets, my vagina’s country.” We decided to perform the monologue at an open-mic night at our high school, but were told to omit the stanza that said the word “vagina.” As a 16 year old, I had yet to develop my feminist consciousness or truly understand the systemic roots of gender inequity; I had realized, however, that this was some kind of injustice — that it was right to perform the monologue in its entirety against the wishes of our school’s administration.

For that insubordinate act, as the administration called it, I was suspended from school.

In the ensuing months and years, I met Eve Ensler, discussed the whole ordeal on The Today Show, and attended the tenth anniversary of V-Day in New Orleans. I went on to study at Connecticut College, where I applied a gendered lens to my liberal arts education, exploring the question “Where are the women?” in everything I studied. I acted — as an actor and activist — in four years of The Vagina Monologues, and produced the show my senior year with a cast of 90 intelligent, complex, passionate, and compassionate women. The show and all of its implications has been the guiding light in what could have been a very dark world for me.  Finding V-day and developing a feminist consciousness brought purpose to my life, and framed my existence in a way that was meaningful for the first time.


Now I can add Ensler’s new project, One Billion Rising, to my list of major life influences.

Continue reading at:  http://vitaminw.co/society/woman-saved-vagina-monologues-considers-1-bn-rising

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Of Rape and Roe

From In These Times:  http://www.inthesetimes.com/article/14547/of_rape_and_roe/

What the war on women means for pregnant teenagers.

BY Ann Russo
February 10, 2013

Forty years after Roe v. Wade, even as polls show a majority of Americans supporting women’s reproductive rights, the possibilities for women’s reproductive justice feel surprisingly dim. Each day, it seems, brings another effort to undermine and attack women’s life choices, one of the most recent being a bill introduced in New Mexico to jail rape survivors who choose abortions. The bill follows months of Republican legislators’ trotting out recycled rape myths, undermining rape survivors to bolster anti-abortion policies. These disembodied debates over rape and abortion dangerously overlook the complex contexts in which young women struggle to make choices that will impact the rest of their lives. I know this, because I once was one.

When Rep. Phil Gingrey conjured up what he thought to be a common sense “non-legitimate rape” scenario—involving “a scared-to-death 15-year-old” who  “becomes impregnated by her boyfriend and then has to tell her parents … ‘Hey, I was raped’”—he merely added fuel to the cultural fire that dismisses and marginalizes young women who fight for sexual agency and who are in dire need of knowledge, resources and support to help them negotiate dating relationships.

Gingrey’s “story” took me back 37 years, to when I was a first-year college student in an abusive relationship, pregnant and terrified. Like many young women my age, I had no framework to label my relationship as abusive. I had had no sex ed, and I grew up in a conservative, Roman Catholic, sex-negative community. I had been taught that premarital sex was shameful and wrong, that pregnancy was cause for further family shame, embarrassment and dishonor, and that abortion was murder. I had no idea where to turn. I only knew for sure that my father would “kill me” no matter what I did. At the time, I felt abortion was my only option, a choice requiring deep silence, shame and isolation from friends and family—and ultimately from myself.

It’s not so different today. Adolescent girls and young women experience the highest rates of unplanned pregnancy, as well as the highest rates of sexual abuse and violence in dating relationships. A Harvard School of Public Health study found that girls experiencing dating violence are four to six times more likely than non-abused girls to become pregnant. Having worked with young women over the past 30-plus years, both in college and in youth organizations, I’ve witnessed the devastating impact of this culture of shame and blame. Informed by the same rape culture that creates a classification of “legitimate rape,” many young women find it hard to address dating violence and sexual assaults that do not fit the brutal-stranger-rape model. When these young women find themselves pregnant, the dynamics of these relationships make their decision-making that much more complicated and painful.

Continue reading at:  http://www.inthesetimes.com/article/14547/of_rape_and_roe/

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Bring Back Postal Banking

From The Pacific Standard:  http://www.psmag.com/business-economics/us-postal-service-saturday-delivery-postal-banking-52778/

Signed, Sealed, Deposited

How to save the Postal Service—and protect ordinary Americans from financial predators—in one easy step: bring back postal banking!

February 15, 2013

How bad have things gotten for America’s national mail delivery system? The US Postal Service lost $1.3 billion last quarter, and this was regarded as good news. The venerable agency has been saddled with significant financial problems since a 2006 law forced it to pre-fund 75 years of employee retirement benefits, something no other public agency or private company has to do. This cash crunch (the Postal Service gets no money from the federal government and must survive on the revenues it generates) has led to austerity measures for the nation’s second-largest employer (right behind Wal-Mart). Mass layoffs last year were followed, earlier this month, by the announcement that Saturday deliveries of first-class mail will cease come August.

As many have noted, this is a largely manufactured crisis. Simply relaxing the pre-funding requirement—as the postmaster general beseeched Congress to do this week—would wipe out virtually all of the Postal Service’s deficit. (Absent this heavy payment, the agency would have made $100 million in the last quarter.) But given the reduced use of letters in an age of digital communication, it’s nonetheless true that the Postal Service is due for some changes to its business model. Democrats from Sen. Tom Carper to Rep. Elijah Cummings have laid out various ideas. But there’s one idea they haven’t suggested that would kill two birds with one stone: make money for the Postal Service and level the financial playing field for some of the most vulnerable Americans. Namely: We should allow the Postal Service to return to the practice of offering simple banking services.

According to the FDIC’s 2011 National Survey, over 10 million US households are “unbanked,” with no access to the financial system. Another 24 million households are “underbanked,” meaning they have a bank account but they also rely on providers of “alternative financial services”: remittance or money order shops, payday lenders, check-cashing operations, pawn shops, or associated services. Many of these services are among the most unscrupulous in American society, preying on people with few other options and charging usurious interest rates or carving out large fees. These roughly 68 million unbanked or underbanked Americans represent a huge market for non-bank financial predators.

Continue reading at:  http://www.psmag.com/business-economics/us-postal-service-saturday-delivery-postal-banking-52778/

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The .03% Solution

Actually I would put a 1% sales tax on all trades in stocks, bonds and derivatives. Plus a 50% tax on all annual income over 1 million with exemptions for one time windfalls such as lottery winnings.

A little bit of austerity shouldn’t hurt the rich who are the ones clamoring for a balanced budget.  Oh and social security tax on all income with not cap.

From Pro Publica:  http://www.propublica.org/thetrade/item/the-03-solution

by Jesse Eisinger
ProPublica, Feb. 6, 2013

The unwritten rule of Washington debates about taxing and spending is to never consider anything new. But wouldn’t it be wonderful if the pressure of the next few months’ debate changed that?

Last month, 11 European countries, including France and Germany, moved forward on introducing a minuscule tax on trades in stocks, bonds and derivatives. The tax goes by many names. It’s often called a Tobin tax, after the economist James Tobin. In Europe it goes by the more pedestrian financial transaction tax. In Britain, it goes by the wonderful Robin Hood tax, and is supported in an often clever campaign.

Continue reading at:  http://www.propublica.org/thetrade/item/the-03-solution

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