• Bathroom Panic And the Lies of Transphobes

    The religious right is obsessed with public restrooms. All the rest of us go into them, do our business, and leave, giving little thought to any of the strangers we may briefly share that physical space with. Look at this testimony (from a couple of years ago) by Concerned Women for America of Georgia member Tanya Ditty before a Georgia House of Representatives legislative committee:

    You’ll note Ms. Ditty doesn’t allege any harm came to her in the restroom incident she mentions; the mere fact that someone she found so strange was in the restroom at the same time she was is presented as prima facie evidence that the bill she’s arguing against would be a Bad Thing.

    Incidentally, that bill didn’t pass during that legislative session, and as an employee of the state government I have no public position on its merits.

    Ms. Ditty was presenting what’s called “bathroom panic.” When we’re in restrooms, taking care of essential but unpleasant business, we’re usually in our most private and vulnerable frame of mind. Transphobes have keyed on that fact, and playing it up is the sharpest arrow in their quiver in the fight against equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. In their view of the world, male sexual predators are lurking in the bushes near all public women’s restrooms, wig and lipstick in hand, just waiting for the laws to change, so that then—and only then!—they can dress up in drag, claim to be transwomen, and burst into the restrooms to begin raping with impunity. The very idea is ludicrous on its face.

    This year in California the law called AB 1266 was passed; when it goes into effect on January 1, 2014, it will allow transgender children to safely be themselves in the restrooms and locker rooms of public schools. In response, the religious right has welded bathroom panic to its more classic “think of the children!” handwringing, and is working hard to overturn it.

    In the vanguard of this effort are the National Organization for Marriage (NOM (not “om nom nom”)), perhaps choosing a new issue upon realizing that marriage inequality is a war it’s losing, and the Pacific Justice Institute (PJI). The two groups have teamed up to form Privacy for All Students, a single-issue lobbying group that seeks to overturn AB 1266.

    In the furtherance of this end, in October PJI released a story that a transgender “boy” (as they called her) at Florence High School in Colorado was harassing girls in the restrooms. The state of Colorado has policies in place similar to the ones that California’s AB 1266 will enforce next year.

    Many mainstream news outlets repeated this claim uncritically; apparently checking facts isn’t something journalists do anymore. Blogger Cristan Williams at Transadvocate picked up the baton, and quickly and rather easily debunked the story. It’s just a lie. There has been no “harassment” of cisgender girls at that school, and the school’s administration has stood by its policy despite PJI’s false reportage and urging to change its policies.

    You see this pattern whenever transgender students or teachers appear in a supportive, affirming school environment. After the initial sensation, it almost immediately becomes no big deal for the students or other faculty involved. Narrow-minded parents and community members are the only ones who lose it.

    The problem, for them, is that when transpeople are allowed to use restrooms just like everyone else, nothing bad ever happens to cisgender people. Harm is alleged, but never demonstrated.

    There is danger in restrooms, but it’s for transgender people, not cisgender people, as Chrissy L. Polis learned in Baltimore in 2011 (be warned: there’s shocking violence in this video):


    Apologies for the somewhat racist presentation of the video by that channel; it’s the only share of it I could find that was complete and didn’t have local TV news anchors wrapped around it.

    That incident didn’t take place in a school, and the victim wasn’t a child. Here’s what happens in schools. That’s the report of a 2011 survey by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network. I’ll quote some of the bullet points:

    • 63.9% of LGBT students reported being verbally harassed, 27.1% reported being physically harassed and 12.4% reported being physically assaulted at school in the past year because of their gender expression.
    • Transgender students experienced more hostile school climates than their non-transgender peers – 80% of transgender students reported feeling unsafe at school because of their gender expression.
    • Nearly one third of LGBT students (29.8%) reported skipping a class at least once and 31.8% missed at least one entire day of school in the past month because of safety concerns.

    But also:

    • Being out in school had positive and negative repercussions for LGBT students—outness was related to higher levels of victimization, but also higher levels of psychological well-being.

    I take from that last datum that the negative effects of being out are due mainly to the novelty of out students and official disapproval of it. These will disappear over time, the more nurturing school environments become and the more kids feel safe in coming out.

    The worst PJI and its fellow travelers have claimed has happened to cisgender children when they share restrooms with their transgender classmates is that they’ve felt “uncomfortable.” Even if this is true (and PJI’s “victims” are anonymous), in a world where gender nonconforming kids get murdered in the classroom, I have no sympathy for their discomfort. Transgender and other LGB students have a right to feel safe and respected.

    Category: lawsschoolstransgender

    Article by: Vandy Beth Glenn

    I'm a writer, editor, runner, and bon vivant in the Atlanta, Georgia, area.
    • It’s funny how some “skeptics” aren’t skeptical about politically correct ideas. Like the entire notion of gender being up for grabs. A few thoughts – and fyi, I’m an atheist and not uncomfortable with people doing whatever they want and don’t understand why we don’t already have co-ed bathrooms.

      Gender vs Sex – Essentially, this is the idea that gender is a socially constructed norm. If you go further, you find that gender studies purports that our male/female dyad is essentially an artifact of the patriarchal hetero-normative power system and is just a tool used by men for men. So, you can be male sexually – in terms of genitalia but that doesn’t mean anything about gender.

      The idea of the social construction of gender results in the worst kind of junk social science that is laughable. Witness a recent “debate” on Huffpo with a feminist claiming there are “no innate differences between men and women”. Do I have to provide evidence that this is nonsense? In fact from chromosomes on up we have many differences beyond genitalia, including significant neurological ones.

      Alternate theories – J. Michael Bailey of Northwestern – a serious academic and thinker who studies gender offered an alternate hypothesis which makes a lot of sense.In short form it goes like this. There are two kinds of transgender people, as follows:

      1. Trans gender tendencies show up in early childhood – His theory starts with the basic assumption that there is no actual phenomena as a “man stuck in a woman’s body” that is observable to scientists. What you hear often reported by trans advocates is one study that showed a minor difference in a small part of the brain but it is by no means evidence of “a man trapped in a woman’s body” (or vice versa) – by a mile. So he looks for other tendencies. Twin studies have helped here and it turns out that the same fetal hormonal exposure theory that seems determinative of sexual orientation is present in trans people, but only more extremely.

      Bailey describes the desire to be feminine for a male (or vice versa) essentially as an extreme homosexuality. Homosexual tendency towards effeminate behavior is all about being sexually attractive to men, and shows up young, just like “trans” behavior. It seems we never discuss this openly but it makes perfect sense and explains the behavior quite nicely. Trans men who show these behaviors at a young age are almost all gay, fyi.

      2. Transgender showing up in a person’s 20s or later – This is plain old autogynophylia – a fetish. Most men in this category are usually autoerotic and get off by looking at themselves in a mirror and by masturbation versus a partner.

      Now let me be clear. It’s all a bit more complicated than that and there is more variation, but that is common with all sexual behaviors. Here is an in depth article from 2007 in the NYTimes http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/21/health/psychology/21gender.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

      I found this a very convincing theory. The idea that “gender” is separate from sex never made sense to me. And the idea that there is a “man trapped in a woman’s body” seems absurd to me and there is very little agreement among actual scientists (not gender studies social justice warriors) that this is the case.

      What was very telling is that Bailey was attacked viciously and on a huge, inconceivable scale for suggesting this. His work is very careful and thoughtful, but he was nearly run out of town on a rail at Northwestern. If you Google him, you see gender activists calling him a “racist” (how absurd). This is how the social justice crowd deals with any dissent these days – just listen to feminists react to criticism of their theories.

      It also turns out that the “medicalization” of this is crucial to getting insurance and govts (often the same in western societies) to pay the tens of thousands of dollars it costs for gender reassignment surgery. In fact, older trans people are counseled to answer interview questions with medical professionals in a way that hides the fetishistic type from discovery so they can have the surgery too, even though when it presents in a sexually mature person its ludicrous to believe the “man stuck in a woman’s body” concept. You see, there is a lot of politics and power that goes along with all this that simply doesn’t get discussed – but it’s driving a lot more of how this issue is presented by gender studies people than most folks realize.

      Let me also offer that I will not respond to any insults hurled at me here. I am not even saying I’m “right”. I just feel that a “skeptical” blog should be very critical of all these ideas but instead I find the opposite to be true in many cases. And I’m very skeptical of scientific claims across the highly politicized social justice spectrum today, as many of them are based on the worst kind of junk science, and a rejection of science. I think the first place these claims should be questioned is the skeptical community but such discussion is very rare.

      I also think that people with traditional values and who haven’t been exposed to “gender studies” feel ambushed by all this and I think rightly so. They wake up one day to the presumption by certain people in society who just claim that gender and sex aren’t what they’ve found them to be and are then called bigots if they question or heaven forbid, don’t accept it. It’s even more aggressive and denigrating to then just reject them all as bigoted haters – but that’s what this article does with it’s sneering tone. I don’t like it a bit.

      • I have taught an 8 year old girl with gender dysphoria. Strangely enough, her grandfather is a transgender whom she was not, as far as I know, aware of. I wonder what the links are: how much genetic influence, and how much environmental.

        • The science is unsettled, see my commentary and links above for some good information – but I’m not in any way qualified to comment on the student you encountered.

          In a general sense, frome what I’ve read it seems an epigenetic hypothesis based on fetal hormonal exposure makes a lot of sense, and the tendency towards production of hormones in a particular way by the mother may be genetic, but even that isn’t clear. It may be environmental variables, like I said, the science is unsettled.

          • I don’t know much about the science involved, but that thesis seems coherent and sensible enough to me. After all, my gender identity and sexuality are a product of my genome’s response to the environment.

            • Careful, you have just committed an act of racism and hate according to gender egalitarian/social construction activists/academics…See my links above for a great video on all this.

      • xrk9854

        The “science” you cite (Bailey & Blanchard) has been dismissed as junk science. You really don’t have a clue when it comes to transsexualism. Besides the junk science your beliefs seem more based on myths and misconceptions.

        • Dismissed by whom? I am not disagreeing, just curious.

          • Don’t dare claim disagreement, perish the thought…

            • I just wanted to be clear. Tone is often mistaken over the internet and a question can feel unduly aggressive, especially for topics like this one. Since I am not familiar with the research, I can neither agree nor disagree.

            • Watch the video I linked above to see just how out of sync with science the gender egalitarians are. They are hostile to information and evidence that contravenes their views. To me, this is a subject skeptics should be shouting from the rooftops about. The ‘gender is a social construct’ view is as scientific as the anti-vax position. If you are objective, that is. Just watch the video and consider what I’ve said.

            • I wonder, do you even realize the stakes the gender egalitarian/social construction folks are playing for in this debate? I’ll point out just a few implications if their views are proved insufficient/wrong.

              1. Just in the transgender world, it would debunk the “woman trapped in a man’s body” concept utterly. This idea is the basis for insurance/govts paying for hugely expensive gender reassignment surgery. If it’s just a preference or psychological phenomena (not illness), then it would become elective and unavailable to many trans folks. It would also make lawsuits like Vandy won in federal court from being pursued successfully as her desire to present herself as a man would not be seen as the equivalent of her being a man. I’m not saying she should be discriminated against, I’m just saying she could never factually claim to be a man. And when tradcon parents object to women being allowed to use men’s bathrooms in public schools, OMIGOSH, they might not be able to be dismissed as racists as Vandy has done here. Fyi, I purposely used feminine pronouns here and hope to elicit a response from Vandy who, if she’s the gender warrior she has to be write a piece like this, will find that an at of “hate”. Lol…

              2. If femininity and masculinity are to a significant degree biologically determined and there are indeed innate differences between men and women, the notion of equal outcomes in society comes into question. It may be that without any prejudice at all that women find themselves in nursing and education and large numbers while men go into programming and construction – and that could be just fine. Fyi, this would eliminate the hundreds of depts in govt specializing in “women’s issues” and special funding/scholarships in STEM programs and many other govt policy impacts. There is a lot at stake.

              3. The Patriarchy – If masculinity and femininity are innate and not imposed upon us as heteronormative roles via men via men using the oppressive power of the Patriarchy, then entire epistemologies of belief fall apart. The entire rubric of gender studies as its commonly professed comes apart at the seams. Hundreds of thousands of academics and activists who make a living from this pedagogy might have their livelihoods swept away. It also would change the moral equation that sees men vs. women in a power dyad of oppressor/victim – a necessary ingredient to position the feminist campaign itself as a righteous cause of ‘social justice’.

              That’s why the gender ideologues/gender science denialists impose a complete ban on opposing thought. That’s why anyone who questions their views is demonized and shunned and pushed out of power and is shamed and attacked. The stakes are very high for them. Also, the entire edifice is buttressed by post-structuralist and post-modern ideas that give one license to reject any information that disrupts their ideas about power and oppression. When you get to the bottom of it all, it’s very anti-intellectual and much more about politics and ideology.

              So I arrive hostile as I am hostile to this hijacking and reason as it’s hugely damaging to our society and the relationships between men and women in our society.

            • This could all be true, without it making this post, blog or website your personal soap box to vent frustrations or recruit allies for your pet war.
              These comment sections exist to facilitate discussion on the material in the post to which they are attached. When you show up and immediately launch into your own tangent, you are being self-indulgent and disrespectful toward the host. No degree of being right or the importance of cause changes the basic expectations for decorum and discourse here. Please respect those expectations.

            • Giggling. The social construction of gender theory is tangential to this discussion? It’s the foundation which it rest upon. Funny, you call my commentary a “soap box” but the propaganda and hate (that’s right dismissing people who disagree with you as racist is hate) presented above is what, cogent journalism? And she’s not “recruiting allies” by this article? You are blind to your own biases, which I kind of suspected from the outset.

              I’m attacking the very relevant premises of the author’s arguments that go unstated but are nonetheless crucial to her argument. And I have no obligation to respect you or the author. I have not used profanity or slurs or threatened violence and will not. But I have no respect for this author and am rapidly losing respect for you.

            • the propaganda and hate (that’s right dismissing people who disagree with you as racist is hate) presented above is what, cogent journalism? And she’s not “recruiting allies” by this article? You are blind to your own biases, which I kind of suspected from the outset.

              Except that you got that part wrong. Nobody has been called racist. Vandy (as clarified above) was objecting to the racist intro to the video. Which was racist by definition. But even if you were right, and I were hypocritical, it still would not justify your behavior and such fallacious reasoning has a name, tu quoque (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tu_quoque).

              Nothing you have said is crucial to her argument. Your comments are to the legitimacy of a specific brand of activist and their ideology which nobody but you has mentioned. Her points are good ones, even if someone fully agrees with your perspective.

              If you can not summon the basic respect required for people to have a civil, productive exchange (including not hijacking topics) then please leave.

        • Typical attitude. Bailey was attacked viciously and almost lost his job depsite tenure – but was actually saved due to many fairminded academics coming to his aid. He’s not the only one who’s very critical of the ideas peddled by social scientists about the nature of gender.

          Bailey’s “sin” was that he posited that femininity and masculinity are innate in humans and made many observations that supported this. Have you read The Man Who Would Be Queen? It’s an incredibly thoughtful inquiry into this topic filled with engagement of trans people and homosexuals. It’s not a particularly tough read – 175 pages – and it’s constructed as a very readable narrative. Here’s a link to a free PDF of it http://faculty.wcas.northwestern.edu/JMichael-Bailey/TMWWBQ.pdf
          I dare you to read it and come back here and tell us that he doesn’t raise some very trenchant questions about how gender is viewed by gender activists – and that’s what they are now. When you combine politics and moral outrage with science, the results will always be tainted.

          Bailey never posited his views as “true” but he does claim to be unconvinced by the “gender is a hetero-normative social construct imposed on humans by the patriarchy” view. You could inquire to say Steven Novella on this subject, a well known skeptic and a teaching Neurologist/Neurosurgeon at Yale. He was recently debating a “medical cultural anthropologist” on the SkepChick site about this and posited emphatically that sexuality has a strong biological basis and that to separate gender from it is quite at odds with the understanding of such things in his field. But hey, he must be a junk scientist too.

          Here is a great video done by a Norwegian journalist questioning the current gender orthodoxy being perpetuated. In it he shows numerous scientists in various fields offering what appears to be very sound evidence debunking the gender activist view of gender as social construct. The worst part? When the activists are confronted with this evidence, they just deny it. One could call them “gender science denialists”. Here’s the link. http://youtu.be/p5LRdW8xw70 Watch it and tell me he doesn’t raise some very troubling questions about the current orthodoxy presented by gender activists.

      • NB: I actually don’t really do Bailey justice in this description. See the link to the New York Time article in my comment and the link to Bailey’s actual work below for a better presentation of it all. I am directionally correct though…

    • Funny, I posted my response as a test of this site, to see if it there was actually any real skepticism going on here as from the other content I’ve had my doubts. By posting Bailey’s ideas I guess in your world that makes me a “racist” (the silliest, hysterical, baseless criticism that could be made of Bailey or me).

      This isn’t a trans-friendly site, it’s a skeptical site. It’s purpose is skepticism, not activism in service of a particular worldview. That my comment wasn’t approved is quite telling about the moderators biases, not mine.

      My experiment is finished, as I did a couple of other test comments on other topics and this is just another PC site posing as a skeptical one. Too bad for all of you as it’s your critical thinking that will be weaker and your understanding of what’s true will be weaker.

      Have your cesspit of conformity, as apparently agit prop is what you are up to here.

      • Relax a little, Glenn. Your comment was held in moderation because of a default setting that requires the first comment from a person to be approved (which I’ve since changed). Vandy did not even know it existed because she has only been using this software for a matter of days yet. Nobody has censored you, and barring incivility, I expect that nobody at Skeptic Ink will.

        Whether or not we agree on the substance of the material you have written, you’ve shown rather poor form. This post is about student bathrooms. I do not see what your Bailey rant has to do with this subject. You’ve used this post to launch into your own lengthy arguments which seems a tad self-absorbed.

        By your own admission, you came here with the intent to prod and to “experiment”. Along with instantly launching your own tangent, this shows very little respect and I do not appreciate it. We aren’t here for game-playing and instigating fights. You seem knowledgeable, and it’s a pity you’re not better behaved.

        • Oh stop with your patronizing nonsense. It’s not out of line for me to think that my comment was blocked by the moderator as I allowed a reasonable amount of time to pass before I concluded so (2 days or so), and in fact when I returned to check on it yesterday, the comment wasn’t just blocked with a message visible to me that the comment was “awaiting moderation” as Disqus does as a standard feature, it was gone completely from the thread. Even now, I edited the original comment for clarity (not a substantive change) and it’s again in the mod queue for some reason – and I can see it if I want to by clicking, but it’s not displayed publicly yet. So, I don’t really buy the way you’ve characterized how my comment was handled. Furthermore, and more to the point, you admit that there was a snafu in your moderation process, so the fault is Vandy’s, not mine. The fact that I was being intentionally provocative (but in no way obscene or inappropriate i) is irrelevant to that matter, but you inject it for some reason. Ask yourself, is it not the role of a skeptic to ask provocative questions about ideas that are being peddled as “true”? Does that somehow seem suspect from the outset to you? If so, one wonders what you think skepticism is.

          It’s also interesting that the original comment reappeared and was posted until i posted this comment, but whatever, I’m just glad it’s posted. I’ve also posted several other comments on this site previously, so it seems strange that I would be auto-blocked on this post. Also, I’ve moderated several blogs and I’m well aware that moderators get emails and other alerts when they need to mod a comment, it’s not really hard to figure out, so pardon me if I don’t just conclude it was an oversight – but whatever, it’s posted now.

          Here’s a little advice. A reader friendly approach would have been to apologize to me for the screwup in moderation and an assurance that there is no PC moderation going on, but that doesn’t seem to occur to you which is quite telling. You instead feel entitled to be snarky in tone with me for some reason, which, again, says a lot about you and this site – not me.

          • Glenn,

            I don’t really know what’s wrong with the comment but I can assure you it is a technical problem not any other kind. If I wanted to delete or block you, I would do so without hesitation or compunction and we would not be having this exchange right now, would we? Your comment did not violate any part of our discussion policy and so there is no reason we would have deliberately withheld it. I will attempt to resolve the display issues with disqus as best I can. I apologize for the problem with that, and it wasn’t your fault. Your suspicion was not unreasonable, but your reaction was perhaps, unnecessarily hasty.

            Thank you for your advice,


            • Ed – If I want your coaching on how to interact with you, I’ll ask for it. Thanks for the reply and the admission that this was a snafu of some sort. My reaction is shaped by the fact that on several trans-friendly sites, the mere mention of Bailey is considered a crime against humanity, hate speech, racism and you get banned immediately.

              On to some substance. In this article Vandy apologizes just below the video for the “racism” the speaker in the video is supposedly engaged in. Here’s a definition of racism and its similar across all dictionaries:

              racism – the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, esp. so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races.

              How could someone who doesn’t subscribed to the ideology of gender activists be properly described as racist? It could be described as bigotry perhaps, or maybe as prejudice but racism? Yet this kind of language is used by gender activists to shame those who disagree with them – academic and lay person alike.

              Question: Are you okay with such invective being hurled at people without basis? The charge of racism here has no basis and is clearly used as a shaming tactic. It’s so common on the social justice community to dismiss anyone who they disagree with not as purveyors and hate and racism that the author apparently isn’t aware how ridiculous a charge it is. But it’s still ridiculous and has no place in a skeptical community.

            • My construal was that Vandy was talking about the first few seconds of the video which is a litany of racist stereotypes, not about what any speaker says in the video, nor did she mention a speaker being racist.

              Yet this kind of language is used by gender activists to shame those who disagree with them – academic and lay person alike.

              You have now multiple times cited behaviors you have experienced or witnessed elsewhere to support presumptions about what is happening here. Can you please suspend some of your expectations and permit us a minor benefit of the doubt so that we can have a conversation about our own subject and views, not those of others that may have nothing to do with us here?

              I see no undue shaming, no unfair use of the term “racism” by Vandy or anyone here. This post, and the video, is about transphobic hysteria and the irony of fears of violence given that transpeople are the most at risk for such violence. Since that is the topic, as far as I can tell, you have not once addressed the substance of this post, or even succeeded in grasping it in your repeated efforts to find, unsuccessfully, insult and irrational bias.

              If you just want to fight because some social justice activists are unreasonable and it makes you angry, go fight them, not us, and stop inventing faults for the task. Your leeway is expired.

            • Vandy Beth Glenn

              The “racism” I referred to was in the title given to the video by that channel, “Ghetto Girlz Beatdown” (there’s no reason to think the attackers live in a “ghetto” just because they’re African-American). That’s all.

            • Yes, I thought that was pretty obvious, but thank you for clarifying anyways.