Why not gender neutral?

Wheaton College bathrooms would be against the law in North Carolina.  This is true now that a law was passed there last week that is being called the “bathroom bill”.  The law blocks local governments from passing anti-discrimination rules to protect gay and transgender people.  It was passed by the Republican controlled legislature after the city of Charlotte had passed a law protecting gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people from being discriminated against by businesses.  The new state law is called the bathroom bill because the part of the Charlotte law that caused the controversy was that it allowed trans people to use the bathroom that corresponded with their gender identity.  The new state law requires “ all government-controlled facilities — including schools and universities — to assign all multiple-occupancy bathrooms and locker rooms to a single sex and prevent anyone who doesn’t match that biological sex from using the facility.” (Domonoske). As we all know Wheaton College has coed bathrooms so we would be breaking the law if Wheaton was in North Carolina.

The legislators have banned gender neutral bathrooms because they think that men could pretend to dress as women and go into the ladies room and attack the women.  For instance,  Chloe Jefferson, a junior at Greenville Christian Academy, said letting biological males into women’s bathrooms would expose girls to sexual predators, adding, “Girls like me should never be made to shower and undress in front of boys” (Phillips). I think that what she is  saying does not make any sense at all. Saying that all males are sexual predators is categorizing them and showing her fears.. Not all men are sexual predators. Why should you never be allowed to shower/undress in front of them?

The real danger is the opposite of what the legislators fear.  The real danger is attacks on transgender people.  As of November 2015, 21 transgender people had been killed in the US.  That is surely an underestimate because many people are not identified as transgender openly.  Advocate argue that making people use a bathroom for when they no longer look like that gender exposes them to danger.

There are two anthropology questions here.  One is why people get so upset about bathrooms?  Wheaton has coed bathrooms and I think some people worry about it before they get here.  It’s a cultural value in our society that men and women use different bathrooms.  So Wheaton is breaking a taboo by having people of different genders share bathrooms. Does anyone feel uncomfortable about this?  Do some people pick single sex floors because of the bathrooms?  Why?

The second issue I think about is cultural relativism. As anthropologists we should respect different  values and try to understand them.  But does that mean I should accept the values of the Republicans in North Carolina as different and equally valid to my own or should I condemn them for their hatred and ignorance about transgender people?  How should an anthropologist understand two value systems that are so different?






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