Modern life

I love living in Santa Cruz, the PC capital of the Western world. I love knowing that racism here is not just wrong, but wicked, that the city is a Nuclear Free Zone, and that so long as you don’e2’80’99t frighten the horses (the Humane Society is active here) you can get away with pretty much anything.

But that doesn’e2’80’99t mean there aren’e2’80’99t problems. Take sexual orientation, for example. Our town wholeheartedly participates in the state’e2’80’99s law that prohibits discrimination based on what equipment one was born with. (This stems from the requirement that anyone undergoing the process of gender reassignment with an eye to surgery is required to fully live as the chosen gender for a given period of time–a year? two years??–in order to weed out the casual experimenters, and if you have that requirement, you have to reshape the laws to permit it to happen: no fair living as a woman 24 hours a day, except when you need to pee.) In other words, only you can decide what sex you are. Everyone around you may see a male, but if you feel you ARE a female, you have the right to use the female toilets.

Okay, toilets have stalls, and after all, in most of Europe they’e2’80’99re coed anyway, and the population somehow survives.

But then you get to the city pool, where I learned to swim half a century ago, and the budget hasn’e2’80’99t gone up much since then. An apparent male who is undergoing gender reassignment, yet is still saddled with male genitalia, is permitted to make use of the women’e2’80’99s changing room.

However, the women’e2’80’99s changing room is also used by elderly senior citizens and teenagers, two segments of the population unamused by being stared at by males. Even when said male declares herself a woman.

So the various swim and exercise teachers meet to discuss the conundrum of how to keep everyone happy without breaking the law. And of course, any such group discussion of the problem has also to include the question of how being seen by said female/male is different from being seen by a male/male, and ventures into the possibility that said female/male is actually a lesbian, and how that would differ from being in the changing room with a female lesbian, at which point the young men in the group speculate about being stared at by male gays and how that differs’e2’80’a6

Welcome to life, friends.

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  1. Anonymous on August 24, 2005 at 3:55 pm

    Isn’t the bottom line rape?I think both men and women would be uncomfortable being obviously eyed by persons of the same gender, not immediately because of fear of sexual assault as for embarrassment that one’s body doesn’t meet whatever ideal the person feels it should be meeting.

    When a woman is undressed in a room with a stranger of the opposite sex, even if nudity is appropriate in the circumstances, as in a locker room, it would probably be difficult for her to keep rape from her mind, no matter how non-threatening the male looks. A female-to-male transsexual would, frankly, probably have the same concern in a men’s locker room.

    The presence of teens (or younger females?) is particularly difficult. The full monty is something they should not unwillingly be exposed (good word) to — and yes, I know sex is all over the place.

    Would some changing cubicles help? I guess not, unless there were enough for all.

    On a somewhat related matter, how old should boys be to be too old to be in a woman’s bathroom? I’m bad at estimating kid’s ages, but boys who look about 10 strike me as too old. (They are with a female adult.)

  2. Dixie on August 24, 2005 at 4:44 pm

    hmmm… PC can go a bit far can it not? I guess my concern would not so much be the transgendered individual viewing my parts as it would my still impressionable daughter having to view his. No matter what he/she is inside, they are still definitely a he on the outside.

    Also, what do you do with the individual who asserts they are transgendered just to gain access to the female bath house? In our pool most of the girls 12 and up are unaccompanied by mom and those younger are still often permitted to run into the bath house to use the toliets unaccompanied. (I myself am the most paranoid of moms so I don’t fit in that category – I imagine I’ll be holding my daughter’s hand crossing the street when she’s 25.) Wouldn’t a supposedly transgendered male create the perfect cover for sexual predators, especially pedophiles? Too much opportunity for evil in my opinion.

  3. Anonymous on August 24, 2005 at 5:21 pm

    All this reminds me vaguely of going to the Hammam in N. Africa and being startled that, at least in some communities, boys up to eight years old (eight being a crucial year for Muslim men because that’s when they are circumcised, among other things) go into the womens bath with their mothers.

    Awkward, from my point of view, but it definitely gives you a society where the men are ‘imprinted’ on real female bodies rather than Barbie.

  4. 2maple on August 24, 2005 at 6:57 pm

    Interesting conundrum’e2’80’a6and comments. Our pool has decided that boys over three are too old for the women’e2’80’99s locker room as they upset/embarass the senior citizens, let alone an adult male’e2’80’a6yet, I would no more let a 3 yr old go into the men’e2’80’99s locker room alone than let him cross the street alone! But at least our pool came up with a reasonable solution’e2’80’a6two individual/family changing rooms. Seems like a more appropriate solution to me.

    Most pre-teen girls are so aware of there own body that for them privacy is paramount and that I don’e2’80’99t think many would even consider getting changed in the locker room with a man present regardless of where his head was at’e2’80’a6for most girls at that age, understanding the idea of sexuality and being confronted with the physical reality of it are still worlds apart. I also agree with Dixie that it presents huge risk for someone to take advantage an absurd situation. Why would I want to know where my kids are all the time and set limits but then say its OK go get naked in the locker room with what for all appearances is a male stranger’e2’80’a6I don’e2’80’99t think so.

    And seriously, do you imagine that respect for sexual orientation would be part of a 12 yr old boys thought process regarding a woman changing in the men’e2’80’99s locker room because that’e2’80’99s where her mind was at?

  5. WDI on August 24, 2005 at 7:14 pm

    I personally don’t think it’s taking PC too far to allow someone who feels female access to a women’s changing room, but agree that her right to that access ends where the right of other women and girls to not be exposed to male genitalia begins. If the women’s changing room has toilet stalls with doors, I would suggest that the transgendered individual use those.

    FWIW, my experience with girls well into their teens don’t like being naked in front of one another, much less someone of the apparently opposite sex.

    Also FWIW, my experience being looked at by a male-to-female transgendered friend is about the same as that of being looked at by female lesbian friends — but I suspect that’s because my transgendered friend is bisexual and all my friends are, well, my friends 🙂

    Frankly, I think all this gender/sexual variety is wonderful fun, and I’m delighted to live at a time when it has become at least marginally acceptable in at least some circles. I just wish homophobia weren’t so clearly the last socially acceptable form of discrimination 🙁

  6. Anonymous on August 24, 2005 at 10:54 pm

    Here’s the solution–close the changing rooms and everyone comes and goes wearing a swim suit. No changing, no exposure. So what if you’re a little wet when leaving; it is unlikely to upset anyone, make someone ask questions, or whatever else PC situations arise.

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  8. Marianne McA on August 25, 2005 at 3:25 pm

    Think it’s complicated. A teaching friend just had a 25 year old apply for her course. It wasn’t clear what stage of the process she is at, though she is pre-operative, and the interview was the first time she had been out in public dressed as a woman.
    We were pondering the whole changing room (she teaches drama) situation – most of the students on the course will be 16/17 years old, so not quite adult, and added to that the person in question defines herself as a lesbian. It is hard to think these issues through – your politically correct part wants to say – she knows she’s a woman, therefore she is a woman, end of story. However, I have teenage daughters, and if they came home from school having been asked to change with someone who was technically an adult male, especially one who was sexually interested in women – I’m not sure that I’d feel that the fact that that person currently intended to become a woman would be enough to allow me to feel the situation was appropriate.

  9. Jamie on August 26, 2005 at 9:15 am

    Oh how I miss the joys, freedom, and and all out fighting for human rights in CA…granted living in Monterey for two years will all the stuck up golfers, the loud annoying groups of vacationers, and of course the military…we never really had debates like this, but head 1.5-2 hours north you get Santa Cruz and the boardwalk, San Jose and the rather large arab population and then San Fran…Only here can you find these types of debates.

    What is my view? Not that anyone cares…but once a child is of the age where they can tell a man from a woman (didn’t we learn about that in like 5th grade?)…Honestly, why should it matter what they see? As someone else said, the fear of rape/assult is an issue…but personally I fear the same thing from some of the females I run into in the little girls room.

    People need to get past the horrible stigma of the human body. Remeber back to the cave man days when we didn’t even have clothes! 🙂

  10. FeltHat on August 27, 2005 at 3:52 pm

    For a brief minute there I read ‘PC capital of the world’ and I was thinking computers….

  11. Susanne on August 28, 2005 at 9:54 am

    I live in Sweden, and the view of nudity I’ve encountered in the States never fails to surprise me. Stalls in locker rooms are pretty much unheard of, and until 12th grade, gym class with a required shower after, is on everyone’s schdedules. No one would raise an eyebrow to see a 10-year-old child swimming in the nude on the beach. And just as little boys go with their mothers into the women’s changing room, I remember going with my father into the men’s when I was young, and not I, nor anyone else as far as I remember, considered this in any way inappropriate.

    I have a 20-year old friend living in the States, and used to wonder about his very skewed views regarding the human body and what he thought it was supposed to look like, until he told me he had never in his life actually seen another naked body, other than tv and magazines. With all the ways of exposing the human body through the media, I can’t believe that it wouldn’t be healthier for young people to be exposed to ‘real’ bodies as well, of both genders.

  12. elisa on August 29, 2005 at 3:15 pm

    Two points: It’s gender, not sex, that identifies the procreative components of the human body/psyche. Sex is the act.
    It would be appropriate for a pre-operative individual to turn their back to the general population in a changing room. If they deserve sensitivity for their identity process, they owe sensitivity to others as well. Generally, in changing rooms, I don’t “check someone out” unless they parade around.

  13. Anonymous on September 20, 2005 at 6:59 pm

    O.K., I’m new at this so here goes, blogging that is. I’m a sixty-one year old lesbian. Been around a few blocks. In the pre-PC daze I’d of been called butch. In that I have, even more as I age, a natural androgynous look. Soooooooo, some times when I walk into a rest room I have to paste on a big smile and speak, especially to little old ladies who look like a deer in the headlights and are backing out to check the sign on the door. Good manners never hurt in fact in the long run do wonders to not ‘frighten the horses’. I get less flack, and I always appreciate when I am treated with respect.

    Historically in the US we don’t share bathroom, well Starbucks has boy/girl locked one at a time lavies now, but we’ve not much experience. Emphasis on the locked rooms.

    One of the most empowering events of my youth in San Francisco hippie days was the ‘freed’ nude beaches. A way out in the open with everyone starkers, the sea crashing as backdrop, was one of the most liberating and safest venues I’ve been in. Oh how vulnerable EVERYBODY was, hense the safety. Not so in an enclosed pool locker room. So hey, just for good manners let us cover our incongruous parts.


  14. Anonymous on November 13, 2005 at 8:14 am

    I’m a 35 year old woman that worksout at a gym 4 days a week, and who swims at a local indoor pool the other 3 days of the week. Therefore I spend a lot of time in women’s locker rooms. I always shower in the women’s locker room after every workout, and I take off my swimsuit in the shower after each swim.

    I do not have a problem with the other women in the locker room seeing me nude, or me seeing them nude, even if they are a lesbian. I also do not have a problem with boys 8 and under being in the women’s locker room.

    But under no circumstances do I want any men in the women’s locker room, even the ones who think of themselves as being transgendered! The simple fact of the matter is that whether they think of themselves as being a woman or not, they are a man!

    My husband feels equally as strong that those men no-longer belong in the men’s locker room either! And that women who think of themselves as being men do not belong in the men’s locker room either!

    If I had to choice, I think I would be more comfortable with women who think of themselves as being men being in the women’s locker room than the men who think of themselves as being women. And the reason for that is that again no-matter what they may think of themselves as, they are men.


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