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Transgender persons, transsexuals, and gender identity

Conflicts over the use of washrooms
and dressing rooms in stores.

Sponsored link.

The core problem:

Most washrooms and dressing rooms in North American stores are gender-specific: Unless they are labeled for family use, they are restricted for men only or women only. This presents no problem for cisgendered persons. These are the vast majority of individuals for whom:

  • Their gender identity -- the gender that they perceive themselves to be, and
  • Their biological gender -- there are normally either male if XY sex chromosomes are present in each cell, or XX if female, and
  • Their birth-identified gender -- the gender that they were assigned when they were born,

are all the same. That is, the three indicators of gender are either all female or all male.

However, a small minority of individuals are transgender; the above three indicators of genders do not match. They sometimes describe themselves as a woman trapped in a man's body or vice-versa. Some say they have a female brain and a male body, or vice-versa. A MTF (male to female) transgender person is as certain that they are female as is any cisgendered female, even though their primary sexual organs and sex chromosomes may both indicate that they are male.

As described elsewhere in this section, the gender mismatch can cause emotional conflicts that are so severe that a large percentage of transsexuals will attempt suicide. All types of therapy have been tried but have zero impact. Fortunately, sexual reassignment procedures have an excellent success rate. Through surgery and hormone medication, they can often change their outward appearance so that they can successfully pass as the gender that they identify themselves as. They can become the man or woman that they believe that they really are.

Unfortunately there is no agreement on how one should refer to a transgendered person or transsexual -- as a he or she. Take, for example, a MTF (male to female) transsexual:

  • Religious and socal conservatives typically refer to the person only according to their birth-identified gender -- male in this case. Even if their brain screams femaleness, and even if they appear as a strikingly beautiful female, they are to be referred to as male.

  • Gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgender persons (GLBTs), religious liberals, secularists, psychologists, psychiatrists, other therapists, and human sexuality researchers typically refer to the person according to their gender identity, which is female in this case.

When this above lack of agreement over terms meets with gender-specific washrooms, conflicts are inevitable at some level.

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About public washrooms:

Unisex washrooms can cause problems with transgender persons. A MTF transsexual might enter a women's washroom and be challenged because she is viewed as having some noticable male facial feature(s). On the other hand, for her to enter a men's washroom dressed as a woman might cause a greater disturbance.

Men with babies sometimes find that baby changing facilities are only avaialble in women's washrooms.

Adults with children of the opposite-gender often "... must choose between bringing the child into a toilet not designated for the child's gender, or entering a toilet not designated for one's own."

Increasing numbers of retail outlets, universities, offices, etc. are providing family washrooms for use by either gender, or are providing single-occupancy washrooms designated as unisex. 1

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2011-DEC: An incident at Macy's:

Patriot Newswire posted an article titled "Homosexual Rights = Privileged Rights" that described an altercation between an employee of Macy's and a transgender person.

The title is unrelated to the content of the article.

  • Homosexuality is a sexual orientation defined by the gender of the person to whom you feel attracted.

  • Transgender is a condition in which a person's perceived gender does not match their birth identified gender.

Macy's in San Antonio, TX, has a fitting room that is restricted to cisgender women and transgender persons. Natilie Johnson, a clerk at Macy's, spotted a male to female transgender person walking out of the fitting room. According to Liberty Counsel -- a fundamentalist Christian legal advocacy group -- theclerk "politely told him [sic] that he [sic]could not go back in because it was for women only."

The customer explained that she is a female and a transsexual. Liberty Counsel said that some if the customers' friends:

"argued with expletives that Macy’s is LGBT-friendly, to which Johnson replied that Macy’s is also non-discriminatory toward religion and that it would go against her religious beliefs to lie that he was a woman or compromise with homosexuality."

Being a fundamentalist group, Liberty Counsel identifies the MTF transgender customer as a "he."

It is not clear why she felt that she would be lying if she followed Macy's policies. It is also unclear why her beliefs about homosexuality are related in any way with the events on that day.

The clerk later told Macy's that she could not allow a male to change in a females' fitting room because of her religious beliefs. She referred to the company's policy that protects employees against religious discriminaion.

This is another example of a recent shift in the concept of religious freedom which used to refer to a person or group's freedom of belief. Increasingly religious freedom is being used to denigrate & oppress others -- often women and sexual minorities. In this case it is a clerk at Macy's wishing to use freedom of religion in order to oppress and denigrate transgender persons and transsexuals.

Liberty Counsel reported that: "Johnson refused to go against her sincerely held religious beliefs and was terminated from her job."

Mathew Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel, concluded: "Macy’s policy which allows men to use the women’s dressing room is fraught with problems. This policy will cause significant problems and will alienate the majority of Macy’s customers."

Hopefully Liberty Counsel and the customers of Macys, over time, will accept that the customer is female because she beleives that she is female and presents herself accordingly. 2

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Gender-neutral toilet," Wikipedia, as on 2011-NOV-20, at: http://en.wikipedia.org/
  2. "HOMOSEXUAL RIGHTS = PRIVILEGED RIGHTS," Patriot Newswire, 2012-DEC (exact date not specified), at: http://patriot-newswire.com/

Copyright © 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Original posting: 2011-DEC-12
Latest update: 2011-DEC-12
Author: B.A. Robinson

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