A Philosopher's Blog

Bathroom Laws

Posted in Ethics, Philosophy, Politics by Michael LaBossiere on February 27, 2017

Embed from Getty Images
One way to approach the moral issue of whether transgender people should be able to choose their bathrooms is to consider the matter in utilitarian terms. This would involve weighing the harms inflicted by denying this choice against the harms inflicted by granting it. In a democracy, this approach seems to a reasonable one—at least if it is believed that a democratic state should aim at the general good of the people.

A utilitarian assessment of the bathroom choice issue leads to an obvious conclusion: bathroom choice should be granted. As I have argued in another essay, the two main arguments against bathroom choice fail in the face of due consideration and facts. One argument is that allowing bathroom choice would put people in danger. Since some states have already allowed bathroom choice, there is data about the danger presented by such choice. Currently, the evidence shows that there is no meaningful danger. As some wits enjoy pointing out, more Republican lawmakers have been arrested for bathroom misconduct than transgender people. As such, those worried about misdeeds in bathrooms should be focusing on that threat. The other argument is the privacy argument, which falls apart under analysis.

While those advancing these arguments might honestly believe in them, it might be suspected that the prime motivation for opposing bathroom choice is a dislike of transgender people—the “transgender people are icky argument.” This “argument” has no merit on the face of it, which is why it is not advanced as a reason by opponents of bathroom choice.

One stock problem with utilitarian arguments is that they can be used to justify the violation of rights. This problem typically arises in cases in which the benefits received by a numerical majority come at the expense of harms done to a numerical minority. However, it can also arise in cases where the greater benefits to a numerical minority outweigh the lesser harms to a numerical majority. In the case at hand, those opposed to bathroom choice could argue that even if bathroom choice benefits transgender people far more than it harms people who oppose bathroom choice, the rights of anti-choice people are being violated. This then makes the matter a question of competing rights.

In the case of public bathroom facilities, such as student bathrooms at schools, members of the public have the right to use them—that is the nature of public goods. There are, however, reasonable limits placed on access. For example, people are generally not allowed to just wander off the street into schools to use the facilities. Likewise, the bathrooms in courthouses and government buildings are generally not open to anyone to wander off the street and use. So, there is a right to public bathrooms—but, like all rights, it does have its limits. It can thus be assumed that transgender people have bathroom rights as do people who oppose bathroom choice. What is in dispute is whether the right of transgender people to choose their bathroom trumps the right of anti-choice people to not be forced to use bathrooms with transgender people.

Disputes over competing rights are often settled by utilitarian considerations, but the utilitarian argument already favors bathroom choice. As such, another approach is needed and a reasonable one is the consideration of which right has priority. This approach assumes that there is a hierarchy of rights and that one right can take precedent over another. Fortunately, this is intuitively appealing. For example, while people have a right to free expression, the right to not be unjustly harmed trumps it—which is why libel and slander are not protected by this right.

So, the bathroom issue comes down to this: does the right of a transgender person to choose their bathroom have priority over the right of an anti-choice person to not encounter transgender people in the bathroom? My inclination is that the right of the transgender person has priority over the anti-choice person. To support this, I will use an analogy to race.

Not so long ago, there were separate bathrooms for black and white people. When the bathrooms were to be integrated, there were dire warnings that terrible things would occur if bathrooms were integrated. Obviously enough, these terrible things did not take place. Whites could also have argued that they had a right to not be in the same bathroom as blacks. However, the alleged white right to not be in a bathroom with blacks does not seem to trump the right of blacks to use the bathroom. Likewise, the right of transgender people to choose their bathroom trumps the right of anti-choice people to exclude them.

It can be objected that if this argument is taken to its logical conclusion, then gender mixing will occur in the bathrooms. For example, one common sight at road races (such as 5Ks and marathons) are long lines leading to the women’s bathrooms and short lines (or no lines) for the men’s bathrooms. Women runners, desperate to lighten their load, might start going into the men’s room (they already sometimes do). Then terrible things might happen. Specifically, I might need to wait longer to pee before races. This is a case where my selfishness must outweigh my moral principles: though I have no moral objection to gender mixing of bathrooms, my selfish bladder says that I cannot give up my right to a shorter line. This makes me a bad person, but a bad person with a happy bladder. Yes, this is satire. Maybe.

My Amazon Author Page

My Paizo Page

My DriveThru RPG Page

Follow Me on Twitter

2 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. ronster12012 said, on February 27, 2017 at 9:30 am


    I will state at the outset that I consider this tranny fad(not to be confused with actual transsexuals born with physical appendages to match)to simply be a combination of mental illness and social hysteria. As such there is no more need to accommodate them as anyone else suffering from delusions. Even the overly celebrated but still mentally ill Bruce Jenner has yet to cut his dick off. Go on Bruce, get the scissors….lol….do it!!

    If that seems a little harsh given victim politics these days, would you consider extending the same consideration to someone who considers himself to be the reincarnation of Jesus Christ? Or Satan?Or Elvis? Or a potted geranium? They sincerely believe it so should you indulge them? Would you be oppressing them by refusing to recognize their delusions as real?

    You say that using utilitarian reasoning the harms inflicted on those objecting are less than the benefits accruing to those that gain rights….but does that include the loss of free speech that that involves when women can’t tell a tranny to GTFO of the toilet without being charged with some bogus “hate crime”? Loss of freedom of association and freedom of contract.

    Another question and that is to do with privately owned toilets. The owners of such toilets presumably have the right to control their use. Therefore, should they be forced to go along with this nonsense or are they being forcibly conscripted(without compensation)to accommodate the whims of the deluded too? And if voters vote in say a referendum to ban trannies using women’s toilets, do tranny rights, a tiny minority, get to trump democracy as well?

    As for using the segregation argument and how allegedly it beats any argument, I note that blacks have started calling for the reintroduction of segregation, at least on some campuses(even Princeton). Maybe they are onto something? Should their rights to freedom of association be respected?

  2. ronster12012 said, on February 27, 2017 at 11:27 am


    Further to my above post, I have just read something that has a bearing on this question.

    As I suggested, before any decision regarding trannies in toilets(not bathrooms, unless they actually have a bath ffs) it would pay to know whether to take them seriously or not. As I said, they are suffering from a mental illness coupled with a social hysteria that supports their delusions.

    Well, remember Rachael Dolezal, the white woman who pretended to be black,and was a leader in the NAACP till she was shown to be actually white? She was also a university professor of something or other too.


    Anyhow, after she was outed as a fake black, she lost her job and is on the dole etc……….but she still says she is black.Or “trans black” as she says, meaning I know not what. Anyhow she says that she isn’t white.

    So, as an analogy, should she be taken seriously and recognised as a black, denying the evidence of one’s eyes in order to indulge her, or should she be recognised as mentally ill and suffering delusions? Obviously I go with the latter as to recognise her as actually black is to join her in her delusions.

    So, is it an apt analogy and if so what effect does that have on the tranny toilet question?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: