You don't talk about The G Word on the front page of the blog-- you put it behind the cut.
Whew. Okay. It's a little more "private" here.
So, I've got to confess: I've been thinking about genitals all week and it's getting me in a bit of trouble.
That feels a lot better. Thanks for listening.
Seriously though, it's not just David Valentine and Riki Anne Wilchins that have me reeling about what's in my pants and yours-- it's all these crises I've been running up against around restrooms (in the MN Daily Article on restroom access and then some). And when we talk about restrooms, whether folks can utter the word or not, we're kind of talking about genitals. Or we're at least thinking and wondering about genitals. And here in the United States, that's more than a little weird. Genitals serve some functions, sure, but they're nothing to dwell on, especially not out loud and outside of a hospital.
Framing this through the experiences laid out in "One Percent on the Burn Chart: Gender, Genitals, and Hermaphrodites with Attitude," I'm focused most on Valentine's thoughtful descriptions of having his own genitals called into question. So, in order to engage with some scenarios of genital (and gender) inquisition, I'd like to reflect on spending this past week so entrenched in heteronormative anxiety around (non-normative?) genitals.
Alright. As a brief review: most of us (animals) have genitals, and most of us also use said genitals or their general area to pee in some way. Indeed, this plumbing design may be viewed as less than ideal [SIDETRACK ALERT: Why must God be a civil engineer? Who else would run a toxic wastepipe directly through a recreational area? (Ha ha ha, God)], but it's what we've got to work with, so-to-speak. So I've got to ask: when you're in a stall doing your private business, do you ever think about the genitals in the stall next to you? Do you worry that they might not be just like yours? If so, do you worry that they might be doing naughty or even downright inappropriate things in there?
Maybe I'm asking the wrong crowd. If you've used the gender neutral restroom on the 4th floor of Ford Hall, you've probably moved through some of this social anxiety around genital mingling already (thank you).
But the majority of U.S. society has not. To be sure, the majority of the U of M has not either, as clearly evidenced by the collision of the Transgender Commission's work with a reporter from the MN Daily, and Wednesday night's Schochet Endowment /McNaron Lecture at the Hubert H. Humphrey Center for Public Policy on the West Bank.
In the midst of my work at the GLBTA Programs Office on Wednesday morning, I found out that HHH was, at the last minute (read: the night before), denying (or rather, un-approving after having approved) our event request to professionally designate (with fancy signs including braille) the nearest restrooms gender neutral and post clear signage pointing folks to the nearest gendered restrooms and nearest wheelchair accessible restrooms (whether or not the gender neutral restrooms are accessible for folks using wheelchairs). We do this not just to be "the queerest queers who ever queered," to disrupt space, and possibly to throw some folks into some interesting peeing formations; but also to flip the experience of lots of people who intentionally seek out gender neutral restrooms while holding their pee all day. That is to say, we do it to make folks looking for comfort in a strictly gendered restroom go do the uncomfortable and unhealthy looking for once.
Needless to say, this makes a lot of people anxious! At past events where our requests have been honored, I have been witness to many hilarious resulting moments including: two feminine-presenting folks carrying on inter-stall conversation in what is usually the mens' room with me in the middle, individuals or groups of feminine-presenting folks walking into what is usually the mens' room and immediately walking back out (sometimes giggling), and folks walking into whatever restroom and asking me (of all people) if they are in the "right one." My response to that last one: "I know I am!"
But I digress. My question is really, with all respect to safe spaces for woman-identified and feminine-presenting folks of all kinds, what can be done to help educate people in smaller, less scary ways around the frighteningly repressive culture of U.S. restrooms and the ways in which we all lose by participating in their policing? Why are someone's genitals the greatest determinant of how they'll behave in a restroom or further, how you'll interact with them? Based on past experience, I'd certainly prefer to share gendered facilities with the visitors of any womens' restroom, but I'm currently more likely to have my genitals called into question there. So, if I say the word "genitals" enough times in a conversation with a genderist Building Manager of HHH or a genderist Administrator at Carlson School of Managment, will that do any good?
In my experience, no.
What's a tea guzzling tranny to do?