Saturday, 26 September 2020

Gender-Identity Battlefields

Sometimes the comments on an article in the Guardian are as interesting as the article itself. In one that I read recently, they were more interesting. They were easier to understand as well. In a comment on an article by an Australian academic, entitled “Public bathrooms are gender-identity battlefields”, a reader wrote: 

I fully agree with the sentiments expressed in this article, but sentences like “the positive reinforcement of gender-neutral language and pronouns works with designs for lived experiences of gender that exist outside the male and female binary” need to be taken out and shot.

The writer was arguing that symbols of the conveniences within should replace words or even the typical pictograms of men and women in the signage on public toilets, and that persons should make their choice accordingly.

The ever-inclusive Oak Bay United Church in Victoria felt this way as well. For a time, the traditional Men’s and Women’s signs on the toilets were replaced by graphic representations of cubicles and urinals. One would enter a door marked either with two cubicles, or two urinals and one cubicle. 

Fortunately, a year or two later, common sense prevailed. The Men’s and Women’s signs were back, along with an appropriate welcome to persons of either or neither gender. Perhaps one of the 98% of the population happy to self-identify as male or female had felt left out when the traditional signs were taken down. I for one am always happy to see written signs, for I can read but have difficulty with symbols, and have walked into the wrong washroom on occasion.

Writers of articles in favour of eliminating toilets exclusively for men or women dismiss the argument, supported by J. K. Rowling in the recent controversy, that women feel safer when persons of masculine appearance cannot enter their space. But many of the comments on this article, made in polite and articulate language, argued in favour of facilities for women only. 

However, the most practical comment, written in a better style than the article itself, was from Grumblebum McWombat, . 

As long as the dunny works, I'm happy.

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