A Philosopher's Blog

Florida’s Bathroom Law

Posted in Ethics, Philosophy by Michael LaBossiere on March 23, 2015
English: I photographed this picture from a pu...

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Being from Maine, I got accustomed to being asked about the cold, lobsters, moose and Stephen King. Living in Florida, I have become accustomed to being asked about why my adopted state is so insane. Most recently, I was asked about the bathroom bill making its way through the House.

The bathroom bill, officially known as HB 583, proposes that it should be a second-degree misdemeanor to “knowingly and willfully” enter a public facility restricted to members “of the other biological sex.” The bill proposes a maximum penalty of 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.

Some opponents of the bill contend that it is aimed at discriminating against transgender people. Some part of Florida have laws permitting people to use public facilities based on the gender they identify with rather than their biological sex.

Obviously enough, proponents of the bill are not claiming that they are motivated by a dislike of transgender people. Rather, the main argument used to support the bill centers on the claim that it is necessary to protect women and girls. The idea seems to be that women and girls will be assaulted or raped by males who will gain access to locker rooms and bathrooms by claiming they have a right to enter such places because they are transgender.

Opponents of the bill have pointed out the obvious reply to this argument: there are already laws against assault and rape. There are also laws against lewd and lascivious behavior. As such, there does not seem to be a need for this proposed law if its purpose is to protect women and girls from such misdeeds. To use an analogy, there is no need to pass a law making it a crime for a man to commit murder while dressed as a woman—murder is already illegal.

It could be countered that the bill is still useful because it would add yet another offense that a perpetrator could be charged with. While this does have a certain appeal, the idea of creating laws just to stack offenses seems morally problematic—it seems that a better policy would be to craft laws that adequately handle the “base” offenses.

It could also be claimed that the bill is needed in order to provide an initial line of defense. After all, one might argue, it would be better that a male never got into the bathroom or locker room to commit his misdeeds and this bill will prevent this from occurring.

The obvious reply is that the bill would work in this manner if the facilities are guarded by people capable of turning such masquerading males away at the door. This guards would presumably need to have the authority to check the “plumbing” of anyone desiring entry to the facility. After all, it is not always easy to discern between a male and a female by mere outward appearance. Of course, if such guards are going to be posted, then they might as well be posted inside the facilities themselves, thus providing much better protection. As such, if the goal is to make such facilities safe, then a better bill would mandate guards for such facilities.

Opponents of the bill do consider the dangers of assault. However, they contend that it is transgender people who are most likely to be harmed if they are compelled to use facilities for their biological sex. It would certainly be ironic if a bill (allegedly) aimed at protect people turned out to lead to more harm.

A second line of argumentation focuses on the privacy rights of biological women. “Women have an expectation of privacy,” said Anthony Verdugo of Christian Family Coalition Florida. “My wife does not want to be in a public facility with a man, and that is her right. … No statute in Florida right now specifically prohibits a person of one sex from entering a facility intended for use by a person of another sex.”

This does have a certain appeal. When I was in high school, I and some other runners were changing after a late practice and someone had “neglected” to tell us that basketball cheerleaders from another school would be coming through the corridor directly off the locker room. Being a typical immature nerd, I was rather embarrassed by this exposure. I do recall that one of my more “outgoing” fellow runners offered up a “free show” before being subdued with a rattail to the groin. As such, I do get that women and girls would not want males in their bathrooms or locker rooms “inspecting their goods.” That said, there are some rather obvious replies to this concern.

The first reply is that it seems likely that transgender biological males that identify as female would not be any more interested in checking out the “goods” of biological females than would biological females. But, obviously, there is the concern that such biological males might be bi-sexual or interested only in females. This leads to the second reply.

The second reply is that the law obviously does not protect females from biological females that are bi-sexual or homosexual. After all, a lesbian can openly go into the women’s locker room or bathroom. As such, the privacy of women (if privacy is taken to include the right to not be seen while naked by people who might be sexually attracted to one) is always potentially threatened.

Though some might now be considering bills aimed at lesbians and bi-sexuals in order to protect the privacy of straight women, there is really no need of these bills—or HB 583. After all, there are already laws against harassment and other such bad behavior.

It might be countered that merely being seen by a biological male in such places is sufficient to count as a violation of privacy, even if the male is well-behaved and not sexually interested. There are, after all, laws (allegedly) designed to protect women from the prying eyes of men, such as some parts of Sharia law. However, it would seem odd to say that a woman should be protected by law merely from the eyes of a male when the male identifies as a woman and is not engaged in what would be reasonably regarded as bad behavior (like staring through the gaps in a stall to check out a woman).

Switching gears a bit, in an interesting coincidence I was thinking about this essay when I found that the men’s bathroom at the FSU track was locked, but the women’s bathroom was open. The people in ROTC were doing their track workout at the same time and the male cadets were using the women’s bathroom—since the alternative was public urination. If this bill passed, the cadets would have been subject to arrest, jail and a fine for their crime.

For athletes, this sort of bathroom switching is not at all unusual. While training or at competitions, people often find the facilities closed or overburdened, so it is common for people to use whatever facilities are available—almost always with no problems or issues. For example, the Women’s Distance Festival is a classic race in Tallahassee that is open to men and women, but has a very large female turnout. On that day, the men get a porta-pottie and the men’s room is used by the women—which would be illegal if this bill passed. I have also lost count of the times that female runners have used the men’s room because the line to the women’s facilities was way too long. No one cared, no one was assaulted and no one was arrested. But if this bill became law, that sort of thing would be a crime.

My considered view of this bill is that there is no need for it. The sort of bad behavior that it is aimed to counter is already illegal and it would criminalize behavior that is not actually harmful (like the male ROTC cadets using the only open bathroom at the track).

 

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17 Responses

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  1. T. J. Babson said, on March 23, 2015 at 9:32 am

    Agree.

    In fact, now that gender is a fluid concept, I think that all frat boys should be encouraged to get in touch with their feminine side by prancing around naked in the women’s bathroom.

    • ronster12012 said, on March 23, 2015 at 9:48 am

      TJ

      Good point……..if it is all so fluid then they can be women for few minutes. Who’s to say that they aren’t suffering from Sudden Onset Gender Confusion?

      • T. J. Babson said, on March 23, 2015 at 10:00 am

        Exactly. And all those who suffer from SOGC deserve our compassion.

        • ronster12012 said, on March 23, 2015 at 10:52 am

          TJ

          The whole ‘transgendered’ thing….real but previously unacknowledged, a social meme/fashion/promotion/hysteria or the inevitable result of previous social trajectories and movements?

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on March 23, 2015 at 1:11 pm

      Isn’t that part of initiation already? I mean, doing that while carrying a baby goat and a keg, of course.

  2. ronster12012 said, on March 23, 2015 at 10:18 am

    Michael

    I think that the proposed law may be to neutralise somewhat a potential legal shitfight that may be developing.

    A woman was banned from a gym in Michigan for complaining about a trannie in the women’s changing room. http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2015/03/08/planet-fitness-bans-woman-for-protesting-man-in-locker-room/.

    This has the potential to turn all US toilets and changing rooms unisex once the usual suspects start campaigning for ‘toilet equality’. Some may say that it would only be for ‘real’ trannies but who is to judge?
    It would just be a never ending drama with women being the main losers.

    It would be entertaining though to watch two different strands of SJWs, feminists and LGBT campaigners fight this out. Peak political correctness lolol….when the factions turn on each other and tear each others throats out.

    I have only ever been in one unisex toilet, and that was in Japan. Standing at a urinal when a posse of Japanese women walk in and head straight to the stalls. I thought for a millisecond that I must have walked into the wrong toilets. It doesn’t make for a smooth toilet experience, at least for this whiteboy. It may work for Japanese but I doubt it would work at all in Anglo countries.

    • ronster12012 said, on March 23, 2015 at 10:46 am

      Oh, and I just came across this excellent point made by a commenter(Kristy624) on the above article

      “The funny thing is they must have had transgenders complain to them that they felt intimidated changing in the men’s locker room. So they totally accommodated for the transgender, but yet they tell the women that their feelings of intimidation don’t comply with their non-intimidating and welcoming environment, so shut up.”

      So now we have a hierarchy of ‘feelings’ and whose are worth more than others. So much for non discrimination and equality. All animals are equal but some are more equal than others lol

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on March 23, 2015 at 1:18 pm

      My perspective is shaped by the running experiences I mentioned-I’ve seen women runners pop into the men’s room to use the toilet right before the race start and have no problem with that. After all, when you gotta go, you gotta go and I would not want anyone to have to race with a full bladder. That said, I do realize that races “bend” the usual rules. For example, as other runners have written about, public urination is accepted at most races-provided that the person is at least making some effort to duck behind a fern, tree or dumpster.

      I suppose the main reason I prefer gender distinct bathrooms under “normal” conditions is totally selfish-the line for a men’s room is usually quick and if everyone was going to a unisex one, I’d have to wait longer.

      Overall, I think that the opponents are making a mountain out of a molehill. If trans folks can use the bathroom of their chosen gender, they will not do anything awful 99.9% of the time and no problems will arise. Of course, I am speaking as a man-some women might think differently.

      When it comes to laws, I generally go with the principle of harm: does the law serve to protect people from being harmed by others? I also consider the cost of the law, which would include the potential violation of rights. In the case of the bathroom bill, it does not seem to protect people from being harmed by others and would require considerable cost to actually enforce (bathroom guards). Being for small government, I’m against this law.

      • ronster12012 said, on March 24, 2015 at 9:30 am

        Michael

        In your running examples of course common sense suggests that people work things out reasonably. It’s the same here in Oz, and as long as some discernable effort is made as regards a little decorum, there’s usually no problem, unless there is a cop around who has been infected with the zero tolerance(zero common sense) meme.

        Perhaps the only way out is to have three public toilets, male, female, and one with a big ?mark over the door? But that would no doubt be seen as discriminatory…..

  3. ajmacdonaldjr said, on March 23, 2015 at 11:09 am

    • ronster12012 said, on March 23, 2015 at 11:32 am

      AJ

      I only saw the first half minute of the vid(crappy internet connection). Two points………..1/ the ‘transgendered’ reporter. Better to be an ugly man than an ugly woman. 2/ the reporter tried to say that there was a confusion between transvestites and transgenders, as if that line wouldn’t be blurred in about two minutes, “but I identify as a woman, therefore I am!!!” and realistically who is going to argue and subject themselves to relentless campaign of criticism??? Chickens coming home to roost IMO, actually from horizon to horizon….

      • ajmacdonaldjr said, on March 23, 2015 at 8:46 pm

        The supposed transexual turned out to be a cross dresser, or transvestite. He’s a man who likes to dress as a woman. He’s not transitioning. Dr Drew points out that Planet Fitness’ policy says they go by whatever opinion you have about your gender, which is the very epitome of subjectivism. When it comes to public men’s and women’s restrooms and who can use them, the objective trumps the subjective any day of the week.

        • ronster12012 said, on March 24, 2015 at 8:24 am

          AJ

          So Planet Fitness have basically just said that they have unisex facilities……if you feel it you are it and if you object then you are wrong wrong wrong(and we’ll cancel your membership for good measure).

  4. nailheadtom said, on March 23, 2015 at 7:07 pm

    This situation is reminiscent of the battle against “separate but equal” facilities waged during the civil rights movement of the sixties. Except that it’s an inversion of that argument. The idea that a white man should be made uncomfortable by the presence of a black man in the bathroom is considered preposterous. But it’s supposedly quite normal and justified that a white woman should be freaked out by a white man in a bathroom. That’s ridiculous.

    • ronster12012 said, on March 24, 2015 at 9:17 am

      Tom

      Is that a valid analogy you are making?

      “The idea that a white man should be made uncomfortable by the presence of a black man in the bathroom is considered preposterous.”

      It may be considered preposterous but the question is whether it is true, given black on white crime. I am not an american so I am just looking from the outside on this but it is true that black on white crime is vastly greater than white on black crime, no? Another question along those lines is whether you would mind being dropped off in the middle of some black ghetto at midnight and have to make your way out on foot. Feel intimidated?…… Put aside any PC programming for a minute and tell me honestly. I could say that you *shouldn’t* feel intimidated but that has absolutely no bearing on whether you do or not.

      “But it’s supposedly quite normal and justified that a white woman should be freaked out by a white man in a bathroom. That’s ridiculous.”

      Try telling your wife that her feelings are ridiculous and see if you get any sex tonight or any night in fact, till your grovelling apology is finally accepted lol
      .
      Why did you bring race into it anyhow saying a white woman? Why not just say any woman? But since you did bring race into it why not say a white woman and seven black trannies in a female toilet…..and those trannies are transvestites not transexuals. She still shouldn’t feel intimidated?

      How’s this for a radical idea? Leave things as they are, if you have real tits then go in the girls toilet, changeroom etc, if you have dangly bits go in the boys. It used to be all so simple somehow……..

      cheers

      • nailheadtom said, on March 26, 2015 at 6:19 am

        Apparently you’re saying, and many others are saying as well, that segregation on the basis of race is wrong but it’s OK in the case of sex. Why should this be the case? Should it be a goal of society that no one ever feel “intimidated”? If a society wishes to consciously move in a certain direction it might very well have to accept aspects of change that are extensions of the original idea. If it’s going to be forbidden to display trained elephants in circuses why should exposing police K-9s to danger be acceptable? After all, neither animal has any choice in the matter.

        • ronster12012 said, on March 26, 2015 at 9:10 am

          Hi Tom

          Thanks for the reply.

          …………………………………………………………………..

          “Apparently you’re saying, and many others are saying as well, that segregation on the basis of race is wrong but it’s OK in the case of sex.”
          ……………………………………………………………………

          I didn’t say that segregation based on race is wrong. I have no problem with it, I do admit that I was against apartheid in South Africa back in the 1980’s but my excuse was that I was younger and more stupid than I am now. I even believed in multiculturalism too, again young and dumb….

          ……………………………………………………………………

          “Should it be a goal of society that no one ever feel “intimidated”? ”

          …………………………………………………………………….

          Definitely not. Many people should not only feel intimidated but actually be intimidated. Criminals for one, politicians for another. Your Thomas Jefferson said that politicians should fear the people not the other way round. Wise man.

          The actual goal sounds a bit utopian IMO and would likely involve mass intimidation to achieve a society without intimidation lol.

          ………………………………………………………………………

          “If a society wishes to consciously move in a certain direction it might very well have to accept aspects of change that are extensions of the original idea.”

          …………………………………………………………………………

          It is hard to say whether society ever wishes to move in a certain direction or whether a few change agents or activists are able, with appropriate means to move a society in the direction of their agenda. Let’s not forget that most societies are hierarchical and the great mass of people form their views from those of their perceived superiors, whether it be the Kartrashians or some other celebrity if they are ordinary people or the latest scientific fad if they are a bit more highbrow.

          Then there is the problem of taking ideas too far, the extensions you mention. The slippery slope is supposedly a falacy but only to philosophers(sorry Michael but it’s true).

          ………………………………………………………………………….

          “If it’s going to be forbidden to display trained elephants in circuses why should exposing police K-9s to danger be acceptable? After all, neither animal has any choice in the matter.”
          ………………………………………………………………………….

          Sure, then leave the elephants in the jungle to be turned into aphrodesiacs for superstitious chinese. And police dogs would never exist as there’d be no need for them. Of course there’d be no pet dogs either as their consent is never gained to be pets instead of fulfilling their biological destiny. So any dogs that actually exist would only ever be starving mangey things or strays to be shot on sight. A better society? I don’t think so.

          cheers


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