Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Fuck you, I won't pee where you tell me*

Some are born activists. Some become activists. And some, it seems, have activism thrust upon them.

The other day I posted here about the case of Katrina Harte, a trans woman who was denied access to the ladies' loos in a Whitley Bay pub, even though she'd been using it for three years without a problem. I also posted the text of the letter I'd sent to the Sir John Fitzgerald Group booze empire,  informing them of my decision to boycott their premises. Well, I also cross-posted the text of that letter in the Facebook Group set up to support Katrina and, well, things have snowballed somewhat.

I'm now an admin on the group. I've contacted the Gender Trust for any information and advice they can provide, and I've been downloading their fact sheets and, well, building a case against SJF, arguing as to why Kat should be allowed to use the ladies' loos if she wants to (and the clue there, for the hard-of-understanding, is in the use of the pronoun in that sentence: Katrina is a she, i.e. she's a woman, ergo she gets to use the toilets for women. Simples, as that annoying cartoon meerkat puts it). We're talking about organising a demo, which will involve writing up press releases for the media and liaising with the police to...well, do whatever it is you have to liaise with the police about regarding demos. And, because I'm not really all that bright, it's just occurred to me that as we are boycotting the pubs we should have done a press release to Pink News, to let them know about the boycott, so we're discussing what to put in that.

So yes, I rather seem to have had activism thrust upon me. It's with no small irony that I notice that the last tweet I posted before all this stuff kicked off was 'Boooooooored.' Be careful what you wish for, Fishley...

Anyway, as part of   all this, I recently posted, over at the Facebook Page, some ideas I'd had for arguments against one of the most common tropes which gets trotted out in this ladies' room debate, specifically the ridiculous and wrong-headed notion that we have to keep trans women out of the little girls' room because some of them might have penises and oh my god the children, the children, will nobody think of the children? I've put my thoughts on this here, after the jump, both because I think they might be of use to others confronted with this specious argument and in the hope that you, readers, may be able to point out any arguments I've missed.

1) Cis men take their little girls into the toilet with them all the time. I saw it a lot when I worked in the shop, and it's a reasonable enough thing to do - understandably, people want to protect their kids so they go in the toilet with them. But which toilet? If we say it's alright for a dad to take his little girl into the ladies, then we've already allowed men - completely cis men at that - into that women's only space, with all the attendant risks. And if we say it's okay for a man to take his daughter into the gents', surely we're condoning a girl being SURROUNDED by the nasty scary mens? I mean, where is a girl more likely to be abused - in a toilet surrounded by men, or in a toilet with one trans woman in it?

And while we're at it, statistically, that girl is most likely to be abused BY her father. Most child abuse happens in families. In fact, there have been COUNTLESS cases of familial child abuse, while there has never been even one report of a trans woman abusing a girl or a woman in a ladies' toilet. So if we're going to start gender-policing toilets on the grounds that bad things could happen? I say we start by stopping dads taking their girls in with them. And come to think of it we should stop dads taking boys in there too, since boys can be abused as well. And IN FACT cis women also sexually abuse children, so to be extra super safety sure, we should stop mums taking their children of either gender into the loos with them as well.

This is a form of what's called a 'reductio ad absurdam' - you take your opponent's basic point - in this case, we should ban trans women from toilets to protect children from abuse - and then apply it to the point where it becomes absurd. Of course it's doubly absurd in this case because the original idea is so ridiculous. This terrifying fantasy scenario in which trans women gain access to toilets to molest the innocent has never happened, and one of the reasons it's never happened is...

2) Rape is an act of aggression. Aggression comes from testosterone: the more testosterone you have, the more aggressive you're likely to be. Cis women have less testosterone than men, and so tend to be less aggressive. Thing is - so do trans women. Trans women usually take oestrogen to become more feminine, and anti-androgen hormones to become less masculine. This lowers their testosterone levels. Inevitably this makes them less aggressive than men, and quite a few trans women report that it lowers their sex drive. Put bluntly, a trans woman is, hormonally as well as legally, not male. And she is not likely to suddenly decide to rape you in a public toilet because - aside from anything else - she won't feel any desire to do it. Mind you, another reason she isn't likely to is that...

3) This is an incredibly patronising position to take, not just towards trans women but to men as well. The basic idea is: pre-op trans women have penises, and anyone who has a penis is clearly bent on rape. It's no coincidence that you find the most virulent transphobia among second wave feminists of the 'all-men-are-rapists' school. It's a horrible, deeply patronising assumption, it's divisive, and it actually cheapens the issue of rape because it assumes that men have no control over whether they rape or not. It conflates the idea of rape and masculinity, and it is of course deeply insulting to the vast majority of decent men who don't go around raping women and children on a daily basis.

You get the idea.

*It's probably bad form to rate stuff you write on your own blog, but I have to say that in my opinion this is the best blog post title I have ever written. In fact, if I didn't love the current blog theme more, I would be tempted to junk the whole Emily Dickinson thing and rename this entire page in its honour.

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