Current Wisdom

Current Wisdom

By From the September 2013 issue

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The antics of an apparent Peeping Tom provoke Adam Winkler, an idealistic professor of law at UCLA, to make a fool of himself on the prissy pages of the New Republic: 

Where should a transgender schoolgirl be allowed to pee? To some, this may sound like a minor, insignificant question, but not to Nicole Maines, a 15-year-old transgender girl who attended Maine public schools. Born a boy biologically, Maines now self-identifies as a girl, dressing in girls’ clothing and sporting a typical 15-year-old girl’s hair and makeup. In addition to the harassment she faced from other kids, Maines also met intolerance by school officials, who refused to allow her to use the girls’ bathroom. Instead, in a remarkably insensitive decision, the school required her to use a staff bathroom after a grandparent of a male student complained that Maines shouldn’t be allowed in the little girls’ room….

Restrooms are one of the last explicit vestiges of segregation on the basis of sex. In a nation evolved enough to allow women to serve in combat and have women on the presidential ticket, we still maintain strict and outdated rules that discriminate in who can use which restroom. Even at liberal law schools like UCLA, where I teach, the bathrooms are all clearly marked for gender uses in a way that no one would accept for race: there are rooms labeled specifically for men and others specifically for women.

Most people don’t question this form of separate-but-equal, perhaps because there don’t appear to be inequalities engendered by gendered bathrooms. (This, despite the fact that there often seem to be much longer lines to use women’s rooms.)
(July 12, 2013) 


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