Welcome to the Misadventures of Widowhood blog!

In January of 2012 my soul mate of 42 years passed away after nearly 12 years of living with severe disabilities due to a stroke. I survived the first year after Don’s death doing what most widows do---trying to make sense of my world turned upside down. The pain and heartache of loss, my dark humor, my sweetest memories and, yes, even my pity parties are well documented in this blog.

Now that I’m a "seasoned widow" the focus of my writing has changed. I’m still a widow looking through that lens but I’m also a woman searching for contentment, friends and a voice in my restless world. Some people say I have a quirky sense of humor that shows up from time to time in this blog. Others say I make some keen observations about life and growing older. I say I just write about whatever passes through my days---the good, bad and the ugly. Comments welcome and encouraged. Let's get a dialogue going! Jean

Saturday, April 23, 2016

The Public Bathroom Controversy


Where do you stand (or sit) on the bathroom controversy that started when North Carolina passed a law making it a crime for transgenders to use men’s or women’s bathrooms that don’t match the sex named on their birth certificates? The state where I live could see a similar bill soon. One is being introduced in our state legislation next month, but I was shocked to learn that people can already be arrested in Michigan for “disturbing the peace” if you have 'outside plumbing' and go into a woman’s bathroom or vice versa. In the twelve years that my husband was wheelchair bound I had to take him into a lot of women’s bathrooms, especially before family bathrooms started popping up here and there. I’d usually check them out first to make sure the handicapped stall was open and I forbid Don to talk while we were in them. I didn’t want someone who’d come into the bathroom after us to get scared hearing a deep male voice in the next stall. I had no idea we were law breakers and here I thought I was a goody two-shoes all of my life.

North Carolina’s House Bill 2 got stuck in my mind a few days ago when I stopped at a gas station to use their restroom and I was surprised to see they’d renamed the men’s and women’s single stall bathrooms since last month. They are now both “unisex.” That solves a problem on single stall bathrooms and that common-sense solution has the side benefit of helping to keep lines from forming by the formerly women’s side. After leaving the gas station I spent the next ten minutes wondering why the owners took it upon themselves to make the change. Is someone in the owner’s family transgender? Did they have an incident that triggered a demand that the ‘disturbing the peace’ law be enforced? Are they just compassionate business owners who believe in being politically proactive? Why, why, why didn’t I have the guts to ask about the unisex signs?

Two years ago I never would have ever guessed this topic would come up in our presidential election cycle. When I was young it was ‘whites only’ bathrooms that they fought about all the way up to the Supreme Court. Ted Cruz is on a rampage about men in “girls” bathrooms---he never calls them “women’s” restrooms---and last night Trump said, “Just leave things the way they are” because it would cost businesses too much to make changes. Then this morning he flip-flopped to match the Republican Party Line and he said it should be left up to each state if they want to change the law, it shouldn’t be a federal issue. Ya, Donald, if they’d done that with ‘whites only’ bathrooms, drinking foundations and lunch counters guess what the South would still be doing today. And now the United Kingdom and a handful of other countries have issued travel advisers warning their LGBT communities against going to North Carolina and Mississippi. I’m not sure, but I think this is a first for the USA to have other countries declare parts of our country as unsafe for tourist travel.

There probably isn’t much middle ground between where each of us stands on House Bill 2 issues. We either think it’s needed or it’s over-kill but I’d like to know what they’re going to do down in North Carolina to implement the new law. Do they expect people to have their birth certificates with them at all times in case someone questions if the sex you look is in opposition to what they suspect you might be hiding? I ask myself how I would feel if Caityn/Bruce Jenner came into a restroom I was using. I've seen other caregivers like I was bring their husbands into the ladies room and it never bothers me nor did it ever appear to have bothered other women when I did it. Many even went out of their way to be nice. How would a transgender be any different than a handicapped guy in a woman’s restroom? I ask myself how I’d feel if I had a transgender son who got beat up a few times for being in a men’s bathroom while dressed like a woman. 

Life was simpler back in the days when people in the LGBT community were still in the closet---simpler for many of us but vastly more complicated for those who suffered in those closets. I truly believe that someday (within 10 years) science will figure out how to test for and correct what goes wrong in the gestation period that causes a baby to be born wired in their brains differently than their sex organs. And do it while a baby is still in the womb. But until the research brings us to that point is it fair to expect transgenders to live life suffering in silence or with daily ridicule just so the rest of us don’t have to face our prejudices and fears? Knowledge is power but that doesn’t mean newly acquired knowledge doesn’t challenge our core beliefs from time to time and require us to grow...or be left behind on the wrong side of history. ©

33 comments:

  1. I applaud the NC gas station that re-labelled the restrooms as "unisex" - such a sensible solution. Thank God for people like that!!

    I remember quite a few years ago when a newly 6 foot re-assigned female used the ladies restrooms. There were whispers but no one spoke out (for once political correctness was great). It didn't bother me. The stalls are closed and private so why should it?

    In this context, I was recently watching "The Help" film on TV - racial discrimination in the South and whites thinking that they'd catch unholy diseases from blacks if they used the same toilets. And this in the 1960s, because Kennedy's assassination was in the background! Then I thought about discrimination in India where the Untouchables are similarly treated even today by the general public. Yet there are few Indians (both educated and illiterate) who see/practice no difference.

    I don't think foetal wiring is possible anytime, full stop. I also don't think that its a solution. Everyone's different. You separate the blacks and the whites, and amongst these "homogenous" groups, there are going to be differences - physically,mentally, rich/poor, etc etc - so many ways you can cut the same pie.

    And if, hypothetically, a newly arrived Martian, with a green glass head and orange eyes, came to live in the house next door, would I pop over the next day with a plate of bikkies to say "Welcome"? wish I could say yes, but it'd probably not be the case. So I can't say I practise what I preach always, but I try. Remember when AIDS infected people were ostracised? people here campaigned against AIDS children attending school - today, no one raises an eyebrow.

    That USA experiment on children, the blue / brown eyed differentiation, was great. It really made brought home the point that you have to walk in someone's shoes to understand their pain.

    Bottom line, there should be no discrimination. Treat others as you would be treated. ~ Libby

    Cruz is awful. Trump has no morals, he's a businessman and will slide whichever way there are votes - so whose surprised. ~ Libby

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    1. It wasn't in NC that the gas station relabeled their signs to 'unisex' unless you're talking about one I didn't write about. That place I wrote about was here in Michigan.

      In the late '50s my family took a vacation and drove through the South on our way to Florida (only made it to the border and had to come back because my brother got very ill). They still had the segregated bathrooms and drinking fountains then. What a culture shock it was for me, having lived my whole life up North. My dad was raised in an area where the KKK was active and when I grew up he told a lot of stories about the way it was down there but seeing it first hand was different.

      Rewiring a baby's brain in the womb could be as simple as an infusion of something that is missing during that small window when nature normally lays down the wiring. They already know when it happens, they just don't fully understand why it happens. When they do, then that opens up all kinds of possibilities. I hope I live long enough to find out where all the research ends and I might. The research is quite aggressive now.

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    2. (Reading my comment, I just realised its far too long winded - sorry!)
      My mistake - I thought the rest room in your blog was located in NC (did wonder in passing how they could do it in that state).

      Re re-wiring, who knows? Plenty of things that we take for granted nowadays, eg smart phones, etc would have been unimaginable years ago. ~ Libby

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    3. addendum: I'm getting senile. The reference to the 6 foot person in my comment above was someone in my office using the ladies toilets at the office. ~ Libby

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    4. Libby, you're not too long winded! Don't worry about that.

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  2. It doesn't bother me at all. I have transgendered friends and the bathroom is just that. A place to pee. Bee

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    1. Like Libby said above, the women's stalls are closed so why should it bother anyone. Maybe, if it bothers men---they seem to be the ones the most vocal on this topic---then maybe they need more stalls in the men's rooms.I just find it interesting that this has become such a huge issue all of a sudden.

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  3. Personally I hate to use ANY public restroom! The same reason I go in and scrub my toilet after Dar uses it, when she has just proclaimed that she is having a Herpes outbreak--again!

    Could the transgender people use the Family bathrooms you speak of? Have a bathroom that has one toilet, sink and the door locks, so women wouldn't be seeing a man's legs sticking out from under their multi stall bathrooms? I don't know. I guess at my age, that is not one of my more pressing worries. I'm all for State's Rights, I do know that.

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    1. To me, family bathrooms are ideal for many reasons: fathers and mothers taking opposite sex children, changing diapers, disabled people and transgenders. I once went into a family restroom that even had a short toilet for kids, a tall one for disabled people and a urinal. I wanted to take a photo.

      I use public restrooms a LOT. I pee every two hours, sometimes more. If you could get herpes from toilet seats I'd have it. Even though I know that's not possible I'd probably do the same as you do with Dar and her announcing her outbreaks. LOL

      I knew you'd be a State's Rights person. I'm not for many reasons...like disaster relief, standards in education and environmental protections among others.

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  4. Oh Jean, your are my kind of person. Why have I missed your blog for so long? I think what's driving me nuts about all this bathroom stuff is it involves religion. Christian fundamentalism is the absolute worst to deal with. All fundamentalism comes from the same root regardless if it's Christian, Muslim or whatever, always seeking power and control. Always suspicious and paranoid about others. They claim liberals and the federal government are trying to take away their 'religious freedom.' I don't see it. On the business of states rights, I get a little bonkers. Federal laws protect all persons from discrimination. I'm sorry but I don't think these wacko religious freedom bills trump federal law. If states do not protect the rights of ALL their citizens then I think federal law has the right to step in and protect those abused by state law. These latest state laws are going to cost these states a bundle of money and the federal government a bundle of money that could be used for much better causes. The states are going to lose their shirts on these laws but religious zealots never back off.

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    1. I absolutely agree with every word you wrote. I'm really starting to get wacked out over States Rights issues. In addition to what you've written for me it's about keeping our country strong, healthy and educated properly. You can't do that if we don't have basic standards for everyone and and everything.

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  5. Hurray for this post! I am 1000% in favor of equal access for all and federal law should reflect that to make our country one of true equality. And this ridiculous notion that LGBT people are inherently sexual predators is disgusting. Statistically the most dangerous sexual predator is a straight or closeted male -- who preys on both males and females -- but I am smart enough to know that not EVERY man is a predator. People, wake up! Use that big smart prefrontal cortex instead of your limbic reptile brain. There are enough real things to be worried about. Climate change, anyone?

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    1. Someone on a political website where I go to debate issues made the point that if a guy wanted to dress up as a woman and pry on women or little girls in a restroom, a bathroom law like NC did isn't going to stop them from doing it. Duh!

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  6. +1 to ALL fundamentalism being awful. ~ Libby

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  7. I have been wondering the same thing as you...how are they going to try and implement this law...police standing outside of bathrooms?
    Rant coming:
    One of the things that is immediately noticeable to me as soon as I am in another country is the bathrooms. The walls and doors go all the way down. They are private. And in many places there are individual cubicles so they are all unisex. So much more civilized. So many people have always been disgusted by the sparse separations between cubicles in this country. Most school age kids hate using bathrooms for a variety of reasons including this lack of privacy. Because that is what it is...a lack of privacy which honestly is undignified. So America ...it is time to upgrade bathrooms to insure more privacy with full walls and doors and that will also solve the transgender issues.
    And I'm not sure of the wiring in the embryo issue. I was a tomboy when I was young, and there were many of us and there was no problem with it...we played sports with the boys and we grew up normally. It never occurred to any of us that there were gender issues that needed to be changed. I think our thinking, in some ways, was much more liberal. We were allowed to be who we were. Because technology has the capability to change gender, doesn't necessarily mean it should happen.
    Rant ended!
    Regards,
    Leze

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    1. I had the same idea as you've seen in other countries... why not a bank of private cubicles that are all unisex? That's what they do at country fairs with the port-a-potties only malls and stores would be nicer, of course.

      I can't image going through all the medical stuff transgenders do for true gender reassignment but I don't think most do because of the costs, etc. It's too radial for most of us to accept and I agree with you regarding your last sentence. However, like I wrote up above, when transgenderism is a proven birth defect---i.e. born with chromosomes that don't match sex organs---then science will figure out how to prevent it from happening in the first place. That's would be ideal and save families a lot of grief.

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  8. As long as there are private stalls, I don't see the problem. Cruz supports legislation to prevent something that, according to law enforcement, is not a problem - attacks on "little girls" by transgender persons. Sexual predators are usually found in the male heterosexual demographic. Boy, you can tell it's an election year!

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    1. People like Cruz talk about how government regulates too much out of one side of his mouth, then tries to make more laws that are not needed out the other side of his mouth. I normally love the election cycle but this is one of the strangest and most unsettling one in my lifetime.

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  9. Boys have been molested by men in same sex bathrooms throughout time. Why aren't these same people outraged by that? There is a far greater chance that your little boy will be molested by a pedophile man (looking like a man) in a men's bathroom, than your little girl will be molested by a transgender man (looking like a woman) in a women's bathroom. Those social media comments and memes about "I will kill any man dressed like a woman who tries to go in the bathroom with my little girl" just drive me crazy. Transgender people are NOT pedophiles!!

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    1. There is too much ignorance in the world, isn't there.

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  10. I wouldn't mind if we legislated better public safety standards, like building more public bathrooms, period, so anyone, transgender or not, wouldn't have to walk into a restaurant or store or bar or hide behind a bush to do nature's business.

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    1. I don't think that will happen but we can all dream.

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  11. I think we are called the UNITED States of America because we have most things in common. It drives me NUTS to see states doing different (opposite?) than what our Federal government has in place. Maybe each state should secede and each become our own country. It would make a lot more sense. Most issues ARE national ... highways, health insurance and care, environmental safety, etc.

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    1. Me too. Alaska, to me, is the only state where it makes some sense to secede because of their distance to the mainland. Same case could be made for where you live. But who would they turn to if foreign aggression ever threatened them? Texas talks about it a LOT but when federal disaster relief money is needed they come to the federal government with their hand out. You can't have it both ways.

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  12. You know Jean, when I was a teenager in grade 12 and our class was going to Quebec for vacation, we had to wait for our train in Quebec and I had to go. I went into the bathroom and while doing my thing on the toilet, two girls came in to use the other toilet. Boy was shocked. I found out that there was only one washroom. Today it wouldn't bother me at all. If the women can deal with it so can I. The world is going crazy. When I was young there were gays and transgenders then but they weren't wide open at that time. Oh well. I feel for you Americans at this time of choosing a new president. Trump, Cruz, & Clinton. I'll pray for you all. Ha,ha,ha.
    Have a wonderful Monday Jean. See ya.

    Cruisin Paul

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    1. I think we'll need those prayers, Paul! LOL

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  13. And then there are all those mothers with little boys who take them into the women's rest rooms rather than sending them to negotiate the men's room on their own. Is someone going to have the 3-year-old arrested because he's not using the rest room that matches his birth certificate? My feeling about all this is that there seem to be a surprising number of people who have so little to occupy them that they have to spend their time obsessing about other people's bathroom habits. -Jean

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    1. LOL That's something I hadn't thought about. I wonder if they did put an age limit on taking a child in to opposite sex bathrooms.

      Now The American Family Ass. has gathered 700,000 signatures on a petition to boycott Target because of their inclusive policy. One lady lawmaker made the news today because she says she'll bring her gun into bathrooms at Target. You are so right about people obsessing over stupid things like this.

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  14. You encapsulated the whole restroom issue and logical solution quite well! As for racism, I, too, experienced "culture shock" as a young teenager moving from the north to a southern state where overt racial discrimination prevailed. Years later as a young adult I moved back north to the same Great Lakes State and ran head-in to racial discrimination again but it was just covert and more subtle. Friends and I overcame that in our own way. Even now this lack of valuing and respecting the differences in people exists in some people everywhere in varying numbers. Each of us must continue to demonstrate in our daily lives our desire for equality, acceptance and tolerance of those different from us.

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    1. I love your last sentence about "each of us must continue to demonstrate in our daily lives our desire for equality, acceptance and tolerance." However, it's disheartening to have to fight the same fights every few decades. Until recently I believed our generation was leaving the world a better place than we found it regard racism and people of different cultures getting along, but this election makes it feel like we're losing hard-won ground.

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  15. After 11 years advocating for child abuse victims in the courts I must say not one of them was molested by someone in a public bath rooom! More likely in a home bath room.

    After Bruce Jenner came out though I've had 2nd thoughts of what I would do if I ran into him in a woman's bath room. :-) I can't imagine how they will ever 'police' this issue. I don't look over a stall, would they?

    I never thought Jean about a woman having to bring a handicap spouse in as I never encountered it.

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    1. Thanks for sharing your career experiences. It fits everything I've read on the topic. Those laws are not very well thought out.

      It's not just women bringing handicapped husbands into a restroom. I've seen guys bring their wives in to them too. They can't go in the guys restroom because with open urinals it would really invalid the guys' privacy and most places still don't have family bathrooms. Don't get me started on family bathrooms that aren't wheelchair friendly. There is one at the hospital of all places that once you get inside with a wheelchair you can't close the door so anyone walking by in the hall can see what's going on. I've been in buildings with family/handicapped bathrooms that load them up with cabinets, taking up the space needed for wheelchair transfers. This topic is my pet peeve.

      Thanks for commenting, Bonnie!

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