Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Bathroom Bans - Part of the New American Ethos

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Bathroom Bans - Part of the New American Ethos

Article excerpt

Our question for today: What is the proper etiquette when confronted with an unexpected penis? That's from Roz, a Baltimore- area reader who emailed me a few days ago. Roz describes herself as a left-wing progressive, a "long-time supporter of gay rights," a feminist and a Democrat who worked for President Obama's election.

But Roz is concerned about transsexuals in the bathroom - more accurately, the locker room. "I am all for trans people having equal rights," she writes, "but what about when they collide with non- trans people's privacy?"

Roz's question grows from an experience years ago at a spiritual retreat in California; she says she "freaked out" when a naked guy appeared in the group shower. "I was raised in the '50s to think I am not supposed to expose my naked body to strangers of the opposite sex," writes Roz, who says she swims three times a week for exercise and walks through the women's locker room in the buff.

"I have no problem with trans people of whatever biology or stage of transition in bathroom stalls" she says, "but what about locker rooms where nudity is normal? I would be very uncomfortable if I was unclothed and someone two feet away from me took off their clothes and a penis appeared."

Roz wants to know if she is prejudiced and needs to "get over this" or whether it is fair to ask trans people to make accommodations in common areas where it is normal for people to walk around starkers.

I think it's a good question. Wish I had a good answer, but I don't. I toss the question out in hopes someone more qualified than I will offer some insight. If anything of interest comes through, I'll share it in a future column.

Meantime, Roz's email offers a valuable primer in the way thoughtful people confront the inevitable quandaries and conundrums raised by social change. They question conscience, they search soul, they struggle to find the answer that best respects the needs and dignity of all involved. …

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