A few weeks ago, North Carolina passed House Bill 2 seemingly out of nowhere. For those who don’t know, the law — soon to be overturned — now mandates that people use the bathroom of their assigned sex. Yet just a few months prior, Governor Pat McCrory wished to emphasize gender identity as “complex” and “best handled with reason and compassion at the local level” — a call, one might assume, to let things be hashed out on the micro-scale, as most things inevitably are. And given how much of a non-issue it’s generally been, it is odd, indeed, that a muffled sort of tolerance had to be re-codified into something else entirely. Odd, of course, unless you know the law’s true aim, which has nothing to do with the social issues that it purports to address, but offers lists, menus, deductions that few could ever support.
It is no surprise, then, that the first half of the law is garbled by both sides of the debate. Conservatives decry the way sex-neutral bathrooms indulge predators who’d merely pretend to be trans, thus mirroring an identical fault in the Liberal argument against gun ownership: namely, that violence occurs by way of access, and not by the fact of predation itself. For just as the vast majority of gun violence occurs with illegal guns, sexual violence — molestation, in particular — generally revolves around those closest to the victim, two things that by their nature are neither bound nor legislated. Liberals have pointed out that the Conservative argument is pure fear-mongering, and they’re right. Sure, that’s bad, but it also means that Conservatives have, from their own insecurity, ignored the far more obvious argument of human discomfort: that men and women simply do not want to share such spaces to begin with, turning, instead, to extremes that disqualify the position as a whole. The tacit admission is that their personal boundaries do not matter, that they should be sacrificed for the sake of others. Not that there’s anything wrong with self-sacrifice for some perceived good, but if it’s done unwillingly, the whole thing will collapse into resentment and backsliding.
Yet Liberals are victims of the same trap they’ve been falling into for decades: hypocrisy. In short, for all of the ‘toleration’ and ‘understanding’ they generally expect of others, it is clear that it’s reserved only for their pet causes and tokens — tokens that (lest they forget!) were at some point people, now long remodeled into a source of personal gratification in the narrows of ‘Identity’. Now, there are lots of examples of this, but perhaps one will suffice. In this video, the infamous Young Turks — whose viewpoints I generally agree with — make light of the fact that 150 high school students in Missouri protested a trans girl’s insistence on using the girls’ locker room, which included the showers, as well. Yet it isn’t enough to decry a bunch of kids’ lack of sensitivity over the sexual issues they, being kids, are also going through. The air-headed Ana Kasparian goes on to call them “bigots” for their refusal to share space with someone who, except for a full head of hair, a lisp, and some feminine mannerisms, is for all intents and purposes a MAN, and will remain so for the foreseeable future. And, yes, while I agree that our long-term health as a species depends on the ability to slough off the petty shit that’s been hard-wired into us after a billion+ years of sexual differentiation (“a man might catch a glimpse of my nipple!”), to criticize the speed at which this happens is ridiculous. The fact is, while the trans girl certainly has an identity, an identity that others should try to respect, it is just as true that the school’s biological women have an identity, as well. Sure, it’s an identity a touch less ‘exciting’ than hers — white, blond-haired, cis, with jobs at the mall and boyfriends on the football team — but it is an identity regardless. They are girls, and as such have congenital discomforts: things that, in this society, purely by historical accident, tend to play out more in bathrooms and shower stalls than in jobs and interpersonal relations. Indeed, what Liberals don’t seem to realize is that while sexual segregation in bathrooms is socially constructed and can therefore be reversed, the act of sexual segregation, itself, is NOT. Sure, nudity in, say, hunter-gatherer societies might be the norm, as the LGBT community readily points out, but so is a strict division of labor, the exercise of male strength, and other negatives which show that when the sexes open up in one way (which is culturally determined), they are then closed off in others (which is not). The balancing act has limits, and will only truly disappear when cybernetics — and post-cybernetics — engineer the differences out of us that so many pretend do not exist.
Yet The Young Turks go on to straw-man a bunch of teenagers, lecturing them on “ignorance” and “stupidity,” encouraging them to “learn” more, and misrepresenting the students’ position as one of fear and cynicism as opposed to what it really is: a bunch of girls who don’t want to see a guy’s dick in the shower. After all, bathroom use is mandated by sex, not gender: and we are talking about a transgender issue, are we not? Perhaps TYT’s inability to see this is why this is far and away the most criticized of their videos, where even TYT’s most rabid fans overwhelmingly turn on them? Sure, I get that a trans kid feels differently about all this; that something might have ‘switched’ in her brain some time ago; that a mis-match whose origins aren’t well understood (and even less talked about) is difficult to cope with, and needs to be treated with compassion. But let’s be frank: what should be done about all the other kids, then, whose ‘problem’ can’t merely be shut off with a flick of the wrist and some sensitivity training? For just as a trans person can’t help but be trans, and feel derided, out of place, the cis folk — privileged or not — can’t help but be repulsed at showering with strangers of the opposite sex. It is just that simple. The problem, as I see it, is that neither is inherently ‘wrong,’ yet BOTH are savaged by those with an ideological ax to grind, and the only short-term solution — such as offering trans students their own bathrooms — is treated like a half-assed compromise. Liberals insist that the ‘vanilla’ world capitulate, and understand that their feelings on the matter are somehow less important. In a way, then, Liberals show this is not a fight for identity and mutual respect, but the rights of a Preferred Vanguard. Conservatives, on the surface, seem to hate the trans community for even existing, even as their reflexive argument — abuse! predation! death! — is really born of an insecurity that is in fact quite rational: that their feelings will not be respected, and so must metastasize in order to survive. And in that way, the apparent bigotry that might have once been a veil is a veil no longer, yet just like the Russians who hated every German at the height of Operation Barbarossa, it is no longer the bigot only that can be blamed.
To quote Lenin: what is to be done? Enter, of all people, Republican John Kasich with a decidedly Leninist solution: kill ’em all, or rather, let the People kill each other, first, then sort the detritus how one might. As Kasich said after House Bill 2 passed: “Why do we have to write a law every time we turn around in this country? Can’t we figure out just how to get along a little bit better and respect one another?…Get over it if you have a disagreement with somebody.” And, naturally, that would be my solution, as well. Don’t pass any laws, do not sanction, don’t condemn, and let the world slug it out. In most cases, they will piss, shit, perhaps even shower where they want without incident. In others, there will be shouting, disrespect, the inability to compromise, as crowds will gather, disperse, and reflect. Violence against trans folk will be treated like all undue violence against anyone: with punishment. And although the present majority will not take trans people’s side, a subsection of those — mostly young people — often will, until the inevitable happens. For while I think the inevitable is the right thing, the transcendental thing, even, there is something to be said for letting it transpire organically. No, neither side is wrong here. Unfortunately, they are also incompatible. Tough shit. Such is life, and the first step towards adulthood is puberty. The question, in my mind, is who will grow out of it first.
And, oh, as for the second, vastly more important half of that law? It eliminates protections against racial, ethnic, religious, and sexual discrimination, curtails minimum wage standards, overtime rules, health insurance, and child welfare. So while half of America’s worrying about the true status of Needle Dick one stall over, they do not see Long Dong Silver smiling at them with a trenchcoat and a box of Raisinets. Fuck: the predator WAS among us all along!
[A version of this article first appeared on the Cosmoetica website on 5/8/16.]