A snippet of a real conversation at the Fox a couple of years ago. Setting: The line for the men’s bathroom at a concert intermission. The Fox is an older theatre and the bathrooms aren’t large – the lines were hanging out of both bathrooms.
A gentleman is looking for the food line. The concessions are right next to the bathrooms. The guys say this is the line for the bathroom… And he gets into the women’s bathroom line. It’s pointed out to him that he’s still not in the food line.
Me: He would have figured it out eventually.
Guy in front of me: Yeah. But, you know, now they have bathrooms for transgenders, and you don’t know where to go.
Me: {smiling.} Then you just go. Takes all the mystery out of it.
Him: {Wonderingly} So, where ever the line is shorter, huh?
Me: Yup.
(Trust me, I considered several other more fun comments…but decided to not rock his world too much.)

I was in Arkansas a couple of weeks ago. I stayed in a hotel in Deep South Arkansas, a hotel sandwiched between a liquor store and a Pawn and Gun store. The next morning, I noticed something disturbing. The Black men who came in for breakfast stood to eat, in the back of the room. Neither one of them approached the tables where the white men…including me… had sat, even though there were open tables. I am not a morning person, and I didn’t notice what was going on right away. When I did, I was sick – I would have invited them to sit with me. I felt like I’d hit the Twilight Zone and landed in 1950. I did notice that every interaction I had with a colored person in Arkansas was tainted with tension until I spoke and the combination of my slight New England accent and my general attitude changed the interaction into something more friendly.

Meanwhile, at work, there’s been a bit of a brouhaha of discussions over bathrooms, similar to the scene at Fox. I had to ask if they’d seen the movie Hidden Figures, and watched Kathrine Johnson running across the campus to the Colored bathroom. It’s not the same, and I’m not trying to appropriate the racial issues, but I certainly empathize with that suffering. When you can’t use the restroom all day because of the socially imposed rules around you, life sucks. I’ve even pointed out that the history of gender segregated bathrooms in the USA is derived from sexism and “keeping women in their place – the home.” A woman insisted this week that she had “a right to not share the restroom with someone who was male at birth.” Not only do you NOT have that right, sweetheart, I bet you already have been in a bathroom with a trans woman and didn’t know. How would you enforce that “right” anyway? There are transgender people everywhere. Not everyone has “passing privilege,” but there are many more than you think who do.

Trans women are women. Trans men are men. Black men are men. We’re all human! Why is this so hard? I am currently very irritated with humans who “fit in” so well with their worldview they have no room to recognize anyone else’s humanity. So many of them are modern day Pharisees – “I’ve got mine; I’m saved, and you’re outside of my moral order.” It must be nice to have your life line up so neatly with the strict moral code that they seek to enforce on others, nice to never have had a problem that challenges you to your core. Tell you what, baby, if you haven’t had it yet, you will. And what will you do then?

We would all be so much better off if we could stop seeking to control others versus trying to understand.

 

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