Dressed to Choose

By Cyberquill 07/09/20152 Comments

Dressed to Kill (1980)

All people are born equal, but some are born more equal than others.

Most of us, for instance, are expected, indeed required, in situations where gender-segregation applies, to use whichever facilities (bathrooms, locker rooms, etc.) correspond to the sex we were endowed with by our Creator.

The equaler among us, however, get to choose.

In its Guide to Restroom Access for Transgender Workers, the Department of Labor’s (DOL) Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) lay’s down the following “core principle”:

All employees, including transgender employees, should have access to restrooms that correspond to their gender identity.”

The rationale for this is given as follows:

Gender identity is an intrinsic part of each person’s identity and everyday life. Accordingly, authorities on gender issues counsel that it is essential for employees to be able to work in a manner consistent with how they live the rest of their daily lives, based on their gender identity. Restricting employees to using only restrooms that are not consistent with their gender identity, or segregating them from other workers by requiring them to use gender-neutral or other specific restrooms, singles those employees out and may make them fear for their physical safety.”

Therefore, the governmental directive goes on to say,

a person who identifies as a man should be permitted to use men’s restrooms, and a person who identifies as a woman should be permitted to use women’s restrooms.”

Permitted to use, mind you, not obliged to use. So presumably, if you are—or can pull off—a credible trans, you get to pick your restroom the way an unalloyed cis does not get to pick his or hers.

Here comes the kicker:

The employee should determine the most appropriate and safest option for him- or herself.”

And lest the transployee feel singled out and picked on,

[u]nder these best practices, employees are not asked to provide any medical or legal documentation of their gender identity in order to have access to gender-appropriate facilities.”

Bottom line, if you say you’re a woman, you should be able to use the lady’s room, no questions asked.

Since these government-issued guidelines are likely intended as an enlightened general protocol—to be adopted beyond the workplace—for the treatment and accommodation of those that maintain nature erred in assigning them the wrong sex; and unless it is decreed with like authority that trans-individuals, besides having access to restrooms that reflect their gender identity, are explicitly barred from using those that do not (the same way conventional men and women are barred from using each other’s); the spirit of Equal Protection demands that everybody be allowed to select whichever restroom he or she deems “most appropriate and safest,” for it flies squarely in equality’s face to give some people an option that most people are not afforded.

(Equality aside, how exactly does one grant a minority an exclusive right to choose without committing the offense of singling them out as if they had special needs, as it were, that warranted such unique kind of consideration? This type of stigmatization, it seems, is precisely what the OSHA restroom guidelines are designed to combat, even going so far as to suggest that to provide separate trans’s rooms “singles those employees out” and “may make them fear for their physical safety”?)

To be fair, the guidelines in question state that choice of facility shall be granted solely based on gender identity, not on preference of association, i.e., the mere desire, for whatever reason, to hang with members of one particular sex, including or especially in more intimate settings that involve various states of undress.

Which returns us to the tricky problem, already touched upon here and here, not of how to tell whether a person’s gender identity corresponds to their sex, but of how to tell whether a person’s stated gender identity indeed agrees with their true gender identity?

Leaving out of account the quite non-remote possibility that one or the other natural-born female might fear for her physical safety if some dude in drag, no matter how sincerely the latter may deem him/herself a dame, suddenly waltzes into the lady’s room—which, under the OSHA guidelines, he/she is perfectly entitled to do so that he/she won’t have to fear for his/her physical safety in the men’s room—the question becomes, if we’re not supposed to ask for any kind of proof of gender (such as might be provided by some accredited professional trained in distinguishing genuine gender dysmorphics from pranksters, sexual predators, or the merely delusional), how do we know, for example, we’re dealing with a “true” female in everything except anatomy as opposed to an unequivocal male (in body and soul) that likes to ID himself as a female solely or primarily because he prefers to sauna, pee, and shower with the babes?

Trans sympathizers and activists will be quick to point to the rampant societal stigmatization that still attends sexual ambiguity and hence to the infinitesimal likelihood of a cissexual person mendaciously outing him- or herself as a trans for seemingly trivial reasons—for, unless driven by a truly compelling need, who would volunteer to sign up for that?

But first of all, what comes off as trivial to others (e.g., an open license to mingle with naked people of the opposite sex) may be less trivial to a given individual.

More importantly, once said societal stigmatization has been all but eliminated—as is, of course, the stated goal of trans-sympathy and activism—what will be the downside of claiming for oneself whichever gender happens to come with the perks one desires?

Since to have undergone medical procedures like sexual mutilation surgery or hormone treatments, and to be able to document those, is not considered a necessary condition for one’s “true gender” being different from one’s sex, besides self-reporting in the absence of medical or other documentation, what are the additional criteria, if any, for qualifying as one gender rather than the other?

If a woman spurns makeup, is she not a woman? If she favors slacks and sneakers over skirts and high heels, is she not a woman? If she sports a buzz cut, is she not a woman? If she body-builds and rocks washboard abs and deltoids like a Calvin Klein briefs model, is she not a woman? If she spends more time swinging a baseball bat than shopping for shoes, is she not a woman? Is she likes to present herself as the butchest tribade in town, is she not a woman?

Beyond anatomy—which is obviously no longer considered conclusive when it comes to identifying a person’s “true gender”—what externally recognizable trait(s), feature(s), or behavior(s) must be present in a person such that the absence of said trait(s), feature(s), or behavior(s) exposes that person as clearly not a woman (or, vice versa, a man)?

Is it implicitly assumed, for instance, that someone that evinces little or no inclination to dress and face-paint like a (stereo)typical female can’t be a she in spirit? And is it therefore expected of a male-to-female trans to showcase a traditionally associated-with-women set of external trimmings in order to be eligible for a choice of restroom at the workplace? Do you have to at least dress the part to be taken seriously, unlike a natural-born female that can goes-without-sayingly use the lady’s room, even without special dispensation from the government, no matter how tomboyishly she may caparison herself?

Hard to say. The OSHA guidelines call for restroom access that conforms not to a particular dress or makeup code but to “the manner consistent with how they live the rest of their daily lives, based on their gender identity.” Without wading into Stereotype City, how exactly does a woman live her life differently from how a man lives his in a sense that these differences unambiguously reveal a person’s gender? If you feel more comfortable changing a tire than sewing on a button, does that mean you’re a man?

So if an employee of yours announces that “I’m a man” or “I’m a woman,” and you sincerely believe he or she is pulling your leg in order to wangle a choice of restroom or whatnot, yet you’re explicitly enjoined from requesting that he or she “provide any medical or legal documentation of their gender identity in order to have access to gender-appropriate facilities,” what kind or rationale might you put forth in order to counter his or her claim without resorting to the intellectually unsatisfactory and gender-stereotypes-laden “I know it when I see it” line of argumentation?

You’ll have to define the terms “woman” and “man.”

Devilishly difficult, isn’t it?

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  • Richard

    Another excellent and entertaining analysis.
    Is self-documentation possible? If so, is it reversible?

    • http://blog.cyberquill.com/ Cyberquill

      It’s tricky. What about nationality, for instance? How about self-documentation at an airport? If you sincerely feel that you are an American in soul and spirit, if you’ve been thinking and dressing up as a cowboy your whole life, but you technically do not hold U.S. citizenship, why should you be forced to join the Visitors/Non-citizens line as opposed to being allowed to choose whether to join that one or the U.S. Citizens line when entering the U.S.? Why are you expected to enter the U.S. as an immigrant or a visitor if you KNOW that you are an American?

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