May 27, 2016
Here we are again.
Utah is joining ten other repressive, small-minded, time-wasting states in a suit to not accept the President’s nonbinding guidance that all schools should have places for all kids to find a safe place to pee.
This is really a hang-up for mostly men, not women. We don’t desire to spend time in your smelly place where you expose yourself to each other at communal troughs to eliminate. It is such a strange public ritual. In your home, no one says, "hey, let’s all go to the bathroom and then lineup to hit the bowl together." You go in, close the door, do your business, come back out. If a woman goes into the same bathroom after, we drop seats back down, as we have our entire collective lives. In homes, at gas stations and bars and campgrounds and barns and anyplace else on the planet where there is just — as we say in the West — a one-holer. Hell, even at Grandma’s house, the single space has been shared forever.
The guidance from the Justice and Education departments came about because transgendered people — especially children in schools — should feel safe to pee where they feel most comfortable. I wish there was a line in Vegas to bet on this and I’d bet, 2-1 or better, that no women are dying to get into the men’s room. Unless — and this IS the real tipping point — there is a line for the women’s room. Then it all seems silly. We want to use the stalls not in use, so sometimes we stand watch and a "steady stream," as it were, of women flow into and out of a men’s room until we secede as sentry and allow the men back in.
The truth is, we who were born women have entered women’s rooms, from airports to hotel lobbies, and seen the seat left up in our stall. We have put it back down to do what we came there to do and then we walk out to the sink. We have watched beautiful humans adjust a bra or a wig or apply lipstick and we have seen those strong hands apply lotion along with the rest of us. The "don’t ask don’t tell" has existed for generations in the ladies room and while someone will, no doubt, research to find an answer they like better, I have never heard of anyone feeling threatened by sharing the soap.
The kids will be alright …in time. But no matter which way the tree is bent , bathrooms in schools should be safe places. Being able to take care of your needs is as basic a right as we have. A couple of years ago, Park City High was the first school in the state to create such a thoughtful space. They just took a family-style bathroom and put a sign on the door for anyone to use it. Girls and boys, regardless of their plumbing, are able to go in, lock the door and do what they need to do — alone. Bathroom business, and all the issues surrounding it, isn’t limited to transgendered kids or adults. Sometimes you just want a little privacy.
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And it should have been as simple as all that. Making a bathroom available to whoever needs it. Letting (mostly) men who identify as women the grace to use a space where they feel comfortable.
But as the last of silly social conventions circle the drain and millions of people all over the world don’t have clean water to drink and we are flushing away millions of gallons a day, we are more concerned with whose hand is on the handle in which room.
Will there be a bathroom monitor for all public restrooms? I mean it seems there would need to be someone to check genitals to make certain no men were entering women’s rooms. Patrols would be needed. Don’t skirt the issue. That’s how silly all this really is.
And if the reasonableness of all this isn’t working for you, just think about the money Utah is about to lose by signing up to be part of this silly suit. The list of corporations and businesses who banned and canceled travel to North Carolina is extensive. Ditto cancellations from the entertainment industry — the Bruce Springsteen concert, Pearl Jam, Ringo Starr, Cirque du Soleil composer Stephen Swartz (whose work includes "Wicked") will no longer allow any of his shows to be performed there. And movie studio Lionsgate just moved production of their latest film to Canada from North Carolina. In all, more than 29 groups — and a long list of authors — have cancelled scheduled appearances due to this repressive legislation.
In business, PayPal canceled expansion plans there and so did Deutsche Bank. The NBA is considering taking formal action.
The federal dollars that will be lost are apparently adding up pretty fast. According to the Williams study, North Carolina will lose $5 billion a year in federal funding for schools, colleges and universities.
And if Utah stays in this fight you can bet groups will organize to book their ski vacations and corporate events in states where the world really is welcome. So far five states have barred all taxpayer funded government travel to North Carolina — they are Connecticut, New York, Washington, Minnesota and Vermont and additionally, the District of Columbia. International warnings have been issued, too. When we start seeing performers cancel shows here we can’t act surprised.
Reach out to state officials and let them know you are against the small-minded, wide-legged stance they are taking and ask them to consider the far-reaching implications of their lawsuit.
Keeping children safe means helping them feel safe, too. Especially in school where being different is difficult on any day. And then write the letter or make the call. I plan to write mine, this very Sunday in the Park
Teri Orr is a former editor of The Park Record. She is the director of the Park City Institute, which provides programming for the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Center for the Performing Arts.
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