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A little common sense

Culture | It’s sorely lacking in the growing debate about transgender restrooms

Issue: "Believing in Iraq," May 17, 2014

I still remember, some 20 years later, the confrontation with our local building inspector. We were finishing some extensive renovation of WORLD’s office space, and were pretty desperate for our certificate of occupancy. But our new restrooms, whose fixtures and grab bars met an array of handicap requirements, still fell short of the city code. “Your signage,” the inspector told us, “needs to include a Braille notice.” I was glad the inspector didn’t hear the wry comment of one of our staff: “And I suppose next they’ll be demanding a scratch-’n’-sniff version as well!”

If that’s the limit on bathroom humor here at WORLD, it’s also time to note that there is nothing at all funny about the growing debate over so-called gender sensitive restrooms in public places across the country. Want to know how to bring a great nation to its knees? Want to know how to humiliate the United States of America? Take ever so seriously, then, this supposedly lofty discussion about whether we owe it to the “transgendered” folk among us (or others who are still just gender-confused) to spend vast sums so they can go relieve themselves without discomfort or embarrassment.

Don’t kid yourself. If you’ve done any remodeling around your house recently that involves even a little bit of plumbing, you know how quickly the costs mount. So get your mental calculator going, and take a guess how much Columbia University in New York will be spending this year to carry out this front-page announcement a few weeks ago in the Spectator, the school’s student newspaper: “The fourth floor of Lerner Hall, the seventh and eighth floors of McBain, and the 12th through 15th floors of John Jay will see the addition of new single-use, gender inclusive bathrooms this summer—a change that organizers say is a significant step towards making trans students feel more comfortable at Columbia.” The Spectator’s story didn’t include any cost estimates.

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But it’s only the beginning. The Spectator also noted,  “Future renovations to residence halls will also feature single-use, gender neutral bathrooms.” And anyone who supposes that the new construction will finally resolve such burning issues might well follow up on the official public response of GendeRevolution’s executive board: “While the addition of gender-inclusive bathrooms this summer is an improvement,” they threatened, “there is a lot more to be done.”

Pity the people who are reduced to such a debate. Both those who are insisting on such “rights,” and the university officials who dignify such demands by investing even five minutes in such a discussion, should go hide themselves. It’s not the exposure of certain body parts or functions that’s so embarrassing. It’s the nakedness instead of some supposedly smart people’s minds.

All of which might not matter so much—or merit such extensive mention in this space—if such malarkey were limited by geography or the calendar. But the movement is already spreading from one jurisdiction to another. Well before the Columbia shenanigans, California’s state legislature had passed a bill requiring all public K-12 schools to let “transgender” students choose which restrooms they want to use and which athletic dressing rooms they prefer.

And who can look into the years just ahead—or even the months of 2014—and deny with confidence that what only yesterday seemed unthinkable will be commonly accepted by tomorrow? Who among us, for example, would ever have predicted, even five years ago, that same-sex marriage would have become so extensively and so quickly accepted in our society?

So-called unisex bathrooms, in and of themselves, are no big deal. Most of us grew up with them in our own homes. When I was a kid, we had no running water, and my father regularly took my brothers and me to the waist-deep creek in the woods behind our house for our Saturday night baths. Later, we helped Dad dig the pit for a two-hole outhouse, which our mixed gender family (plus many guests) learned to use in an orderly, discreet manner.

That worked because we all understood God’s creation order, and responded to it with a little common sense. One could wish for a bit of the same at Columbia University, at other prestigious educational posts, in the halls of state where our nation’s laws are formed—and in the society that right now takes way too seriously all such exalted institutions. 

Joel Belz
Joel Belz

Joel, WORLD's founder, writes a regular column for the magazine and contributes commentaries for The World and Everything in It. He is also the author of Consider These Things.


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