Toilets aren’t just a storm in a urinal

Trans man Michael C. Hughes, who has been taking selfies in the toilets he is obliged to use

Clearly everyone should use the toilet they feel most comfortable in. That should be a given. No-one needs to know what’s in anyone else’s pants when they go to relieve themselves. Yet in the United States today, this has become a hotly contested issue, alongside that of marriage equality. While it now looks as if the latter will soon be resolved, the toilet issue has become more prominent as the forces of intolerance shift their focus.

This issue has been seized on by social conservatives, egged on by the religious right, in order to further their campaign of hate and discrimination against anyone who is not one of them. At root, it is a non-issue. There is no reason why all public toilets should not be unisex (or unigender, perhaps). And even if it might be argued that there is a case for gendered toilets, trans women are women and trans men are men. The problem is non-existent except as a tool for the most viciously conservative voices in society to promulgate hatred against those they think weak enough to attack.

In the USA, this issue has reached histrionic proportions unseen anywhere else. Why? In Germany, most toilets are gender-neutral already and elsewhere, most people are too decent to cause a fuss about something so personal. So what has caused it to become so prominent in the US?

To answer this, we have to look back to the unresolved issues of the American Civil War, which the nation has never brought itself to confront. This cathartic, catastrophic war, that famously divided families and set ‘brother against brother’ (and we presume, sister against sister) was fought over the issue of whether a black person could legally be a US citizen, and so fall under the protection of the Constitution — which would have meant the end of slavery, upon which the economy of the South was based.

In other words, the Civil War was fought to determine whether all humans were equal under the Constitution, or not. And this principle was positively, irrevocably established when the Confederate forces disparately surrendered in 1865.

The principle of equality, while initially established in response to the condition of African slaves in America, was extended, by implication, to everyone else. All ‘races’ were therefore equal — although it took over 100 years for the native Americans to be recognised. Women must, by definition, also be equal. A hundred and some years after the end of the Civil War, gay men and women, quite rightly, insisted that the right to equality under the Constitution, established by the Confederate surrender, applied to them too. Each and every one of these was vehemently opposed, and always by the same social conservatives, to the point that today it is hard to believe that it was the Republican Party that put an end to slavery, prosecuted and won the war against the South and established the principle in the first place.

Now, 150 years after the end of formal hostilities, the focus has shifted to trans people. All the debates over ‘restrooms’, toilets, changing facilities, call them what you will, in the USA, are part of the same campaign: to ensure that equality is not extended to this group, as it has been to all the others.

The reason is simple: if one is determined to think of oneself as superior to others, one must have people who are inferior. But the Constitution, rightly, wonderfully and proudly says that you can’t have that. The war may have been fought, by the South, to ensure the inferiority of black people and preserve ‘white supremacy’ but that was lost a long time ago and, despite the vicious and ongoing rearguard action that only last week claimed nine people’s lives in Charleston, the right knows, while it ‘nurses its wrath to keep it warm’, that this battle is lost.

The same is true of women’s equality, a battle, though still ongoing, which the right knows it will have to concede. Over the last fifty years the battleground has been over gay equality. Today, transgender equality is the conservative right’s next line in the sand; its next attempt to find a group in society that it might condemn to inferiority. Just as with blacks and gays and with women, who, after all, are actually a majority, its tactics are the same: lies, discrimination, suppression, violence and the manipulation of the legal system.

All because, in order to exist at all, the American social conservatives must have someone they can not only feel superior to, but against whom they can legally, if not legitimately, discriminate. After all, what is the point of ‘white supremacy’ unless there is someone whites can lord it over? And that is why this ridiculous toilets issue has moved centre-stage: the white conservative right is running out of people to feel superior to.

Make no mistake, the same people who are behind transphobic discrimination in the use of toilet facilities are the exact same people whose ideas are responsible for the killing of Gwen Araujo and, in this year alone, 15 reported murders of trans women, countless killings and beatings of gay people, ongoing violence and discrimination against ‘racial’ minorities and ultimately, the deaths of 9 people last week.

They are the same people who have insisted on flying a Confederate flag over the State House in South Carolina for FIFTY YEARS. People whose goal in life is to insult others and why? So they can say, ‘See? We didn’t really lose after all. We’re still superior. That war changed nothing.’ It is this defiance, this denial of the truth, that gives them their identity.

That defiance is expressed in discrimination, violence and killing. From the Ku Klux Klan to the ‘Moral Majority’ (which was neither) to today’s ‘Male Rights Activists’ and the racist, transphobic and homophobic religious right, these are all the same people. They deny science, they deny the Holocaust, they deny evolution, they deny climate change, they even deny that the US, in an era when it was great, put men on the moon. What’s the denial of human rights after that? And all that denial is rooted in the primary denial of one simple, incontestable, historically demonstrable fact: the Confederacy and all it stood for, LOST. You deny one fact, you can deny them all. They’ve been doing it for a hundred and fifty years now.

Toilets are just the latest absurd non-issue they have seized on in order to promote hatred, division and discrimination. And this horrible litany, that regularly leads to violence and death, is being preached in churches all over the United States, but particularly in the South.

Don’t take my word for it: do the research and you’ll find an unbroken trail of hatred leading right back to Gettysburg and beyond, from the pulpits of ‘Southern Baptist’ preachers. And what is the root cause of that hatred? THEY LOST. These people are nothing more than sore losers with money and guns.

There is a sure way to cure this and America has to grasp the nettle. End the tax-free privileges of ALL religious organisations, now. That will fix it. These people will melt away like the snows of yesteryear.



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Copyright 2015 Rod Fleming's World

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