Greetings, WYMOP readers!
Sorry folks, but this is a long one. I actually felt that I had something to say.
I saw a video on Facebook recently, where the listed description was “Magician perfectly destroys anti-transgender bathroom argument in 2 minutes.....you know, for the kids!” I saw it on a few different walls, and everywhere it went this video was collecting likes and the usual Facebook chest beating: “AWESOME!” “Like X 1000!” “THIS! THIS guy GETS it!”
To set my personal stage here, I’m cis male on the gender spectrum (and remember that: it is a spectrum), meaning that I identify sexually with the gender I was physically assigned. I am straight and male, and have always felt that way. I do know some transgender folks, though, and I am aware of the anti-transgender bathroom argument, and roughly aware of how much the situation sucks. Also, I’m a really just a big kid when it comes to magic shows. I watched the video.
I’ve included the video here so you can check it out—and I urge you to, it’s a good trick and he’s using it to make an impassioned argument about a very important topic—but I’ll give a brief description for anyone who just doesn’t have the time.
Comedian/Magician Justin Willman uses a jar of peanut butter (representing one physical sex), a jar of jelly (representing the other physical sex—remember, physically there are only two sexes), and two fully-concealing slipcovers (representing public bathrooms, one dedicated to each of those two physical sexes). He opens the jars to show that yes, indeed, there is peanut butter in the peanut butter jar, and jelly in the jelly jar, and he begins his demonstration. The peanut butter is in the PB slipcover, the jelly is in the J cover, and everything is square and well labeled. But then, almost magically (remember, Justin is a magician), they switch, and the peanut butter is in the J cover while the jelly is in the PB.
Whoa, says Justin, and I’m paraphrasing here—the man has much better patter than I do. You guys don’t belong there! What’s up with this? Then he opens the jars again to show us that, magically—and yes, I told you I love magicians—there is jelly in the peanut butter jar and peanut butter in the jelly jar. You see, the jelly and peanut butter really are where they belong, it doesn’t matter what their outer jars look like. In my opinion (yes, heterosexual cis male, but I still have a brain) it’s an excellent, easily understood, visual representation of what it is to be transgender: what you see on the outside doesn’t necessarily represent what’s inside, and it’s what’s inside that counts.
To bring this demonstration back to the bathroom issue, Justin winds down with the following:
“Kids, I know this seems so simple, but there are some fucking idiots out there who just can’t comprehend this. They think that the peanut butter is going to pretend to be jelly just so it can sneak over here and listen to the jelly pee and just jerk off—that’s not what this is about, Dad! If it’s peanut butter, let it pee with peanut butter, and if it’s jelly, let it pee with jelly. Got it?”
Yes, I got it. I actually got it before watching this entertaining video—I believe I mentioned somewhere above that I do have a brain. However, along with being cis male, I’m also a dad, and right there at the end he seemed to be addressing me personally. “That’s not what this is about, Dad.” One of the comments on that Facebook posting (remember Facebook? Where I saw the video that started this?) was even “‘That's not what this is about, Dad!’ Love it.”
So on that posting, right beneath the “Love it” comment, I posted my own comment:
“Question: is it impossible for a . . . I guess I'll use the inclusive term of ‘pervert,’ to get into a public bathroom in order to get their jollies/harm someone?”
Now, this is Facebook, the Internet, the place where if you even hint at the thought of planning to express an opposing viewpoint on the popular post of the minute, you better be prepared for an avalanche of people calling you an idiot, or worse. The greatest kindness you can hope for, usually, is that someone will take the time to explain why you’re an idiot. Sometimes this activity spawns a discussion, if people like-minded to you come to your defense, and these can become either (depending on the topic, whose wall it’s happening on, and the people involved) intelligent, thoughtful back-and-forths, or energetic bouts of name-calling and bile.
I hunkered down and waited for the shitstorm.
. . . And I’m still waiting. Yup, two full days later and my question is still sitting there like dogshit on a hardwood floor that no one wants to clean up; everyone’s aware of it, but no one’s looking directly at it, instead maintaining plausible deniability. That? Oh, well I didn’t even see that. I would have picked it up, but, well I was looking at this thing over here . . .”
So I’m picking it up myself. Rather than slap my big, long response on someone’s Facebook wall (it wouldn’t be fair, this isn’t really what he was looking for), I decided to put it in my own blog.
Hi, Justin. I’m a dad. Now, in case you’re not a parent (I honestly don’t know) and for people out there who may not be parents themselves, I’m going to describe a little of what it’s like to be a parent. Ready? Okay.
Fear. You’re afraid a lot.
And I’m not talking about living in terror, or anything so dramatic; I mean there are all levels of anxiety involved in having a child that can come at you every day: from small stuff (boy, I hope no one picks on him his first day of school), to mid-level (I know he’s just going to the store, but it’s the first time he’s driven the car solo, and—hey, is that a siren?), to what may be referred to as mind numbing (It’s three o’clock in the morning, she was supposed to be home by eleven, and she’s not answering her cell phone—fuck this, I’m calling the cops!). And odds are that no one picked on him on his first day, he got back from the store in one piece, and she made it home before the call could go through to the police, safe and sound and with a funny story about why she was so late.
But there’s always the chance, slim as it may be, that the situation won’t have a happy ending, and that’s what keeps parents afraid—the thought that bad shit happens, and it’s got to happen to someone, but please, God, don’t let it happen to my kid.
So yes, the world can be a horrible place, and parents are afraid of it. And the more vulnerable a situation makes a child, obviously, the greater the fear. Tell me my son is getting a ride home from a sober, responsible parent, and it’s no big deal. Tell me he’s just gotten in the car for that same ride, but the driver is sixteen, has only had his license for a week, and is already a six-pack into his weekend, and I’m a wreck.
That’s a little bit of what it’s like to be a parent. Are some people more anxious than others? Of course they are: everyone is different. Now, though, I want you to do me a favor: I want you to take whatever you’re reading this on—phone, tablet, whatever—into the bathroom, flip up the lid, and take a seat like nature’s calling and you’ve got extra rollover minutes to use. Plant yourself on that bowl like you had the jalapeños with hot sauce a couple of hours ago, and they want out.
Go ahead, I’ll wait.
There. Comfy? All right.
Feeling a little vulnerable? You are. You’re sitting there with your pants around your ankles, or at least your underwear if you’re skirt- or kilt-clad, and all your stuff, whether you’re an innie or an outie, is hanging in the wind. If something bad were to happen right now—the phone rings in the kitchen, there’s a house fire, Jehovah's Witnesses have knocked and entered and are even now on their way upstairs to personally introduce you to Jesus—how fast could you react?
You are vulnerable, and predators look for vulnerability—all kinds of predators. Raise your hand if you’ve never heard on the news or read in the paper about someone being robbed, raped, or assaulted while in a public restroom. Now, just for shits and giggles, raise your hand if you’ve never seen it on television, in a movie, or read it in a book. It’s common enough that it’s become an entertainment trope. Is this a good thing? No, of course not, it speaks poorly of our society—but it is neither deniable, nor new.
Now, let’s bring the kids back into the equation. From the time they can walk and talk we’re telling them to be careful of strangers. Don’t take candy from strangers. Never take rides from strangers. Christ, even elementary schools teach the concept of Stranger Danger. We tell them all this, really hammer it into them . . . and then, when they reach six or seven years of age, we start sending them in to use the facilities in a place where yes, their innies and outies will be in the wind, a place where even adults feel vulnerable, and a place where strangers might have access to them.
Quick side trip: many years ago I was an assistant instructor in a martial arts school, helping with the children’s classes. One afternoon I was changing from my street clothes into my uniform, and some of the students came into the locker room to change as well. These were boys of probably eight or nine, and they wanted to chat, so I chatted as I finished dressing. I was probably in the locker room with them for four or five minutes—and upon exiting I was promptly pulled aside by the instructor. I was told to never be in the locker room with the children if I could help it, and to get out ASAP if some of them came in. I wasn’t a parent yet, and I didn’t get it. She explained to me that it made the parents nervous to have me in there with their kids—me, someone they had met and spoken with and observed working with their children twice a week for months. I have to admit I was a little insulted, and said so.
“It’s not just you,” she said. “All my instructors get the same talk. It doesn’t matter who you are, parents get nervous. It makes it worse that you’re a man. It sucks, I know. I’m sorry.”
And that was, as I said, in a place where they knew my name, who I was, could check up on me, etc.; I wasn’t exactly a stranger. And here we are as parents, sending our children in to use the facilities in a place where anyone could be in there with them. Absolutely anyone.
So this brings me back to my original question—you remember that question I posted to Facebook that no one wanted to answer? Is it impossible for a . . . I guess I'll use the inclusive term of "pervert," to get into a public bathroom in order to get their jollies/harm someone? It was a trick question. I posted it already knowing the answer: no, of course it’s not impossible; globally speaking it actually happens all the time. And parents are insanely aware of this.
Quick quiz time! Have I been writing about transgender folks here? I mean, have I even mentioned transgender since describing Justin’s video? I’ll look back and check, but I’m pretty sure I haven’t. What I’ve been writing about are predators, though, and that word has been in general public use a lot longer than transgender. My point here is that if I have a problem with people in public restrooms, it’s not with transgender citizens. It’s with the same people parents have always been afraid of with regard to their children: the sick fucks.
Sick fucks: pedophiles, rapists, and anyone else who gets some kind of gratification at the expense of someone else. People who take. Some are sort of sad, weenie-whipping individuals; some of them are real-life monsters living among us. And it may well be that it is a sickness, or it might be that they, like the cis and transgender, were simply born that way, and they can’t help it, and I’m being insensitive here; but wherever they fall on that particular spectrum, from sad to monstrous, I wouldn’t want them in the bathroom with my child.
So yes, Justin, I do believe that peanut butter should pee with peanut butter, even if it’s in a jelly jar, but here’s the real problem: how do we know? How do we, as parents, know what’s in the jar? Oh, sure, the jelly jar might claim to have peanut butter inside, but what if it’s Fluffernutter? What if it’s honey? What if it’s—gasp—nutella? You see, that’s one of the things you kind of gloss over with your video, Justin: what’s on the outside, an individual’s physical sex—the jar, if you will—is fairly cut-and-dried. There’s peanut butter or jelly. Male or female. But what’s inside, an individual’s sexual orientation, that falls on more of a broad spectrum.
And before anyone goes losing their shit, yes, I am aware that, according to the current psychology, rape isn’t about sex, it’s about power. But it involves sex, and there is a huge sexual component, so I’m including it in the spectrum for the purposes of this writing.
I’d also like to point out another thing Justin glossed over: even in his (admittedly excellent) demonstration of what it is to be transgender, he didn’t take their word for it. “What’s that, peanut butter?” he says, smiling and friendly. “You say you’re actually jelly?”
And then he opened the jar.
Probably beating a dead horse here, but I want to say that again: he opened the jar. Even in his wonderful, “That’s not what this is about, Dad” moment, he didn’t take their word for it. Hmm . . .
Okay, so say I’m the father of a six-year-old girl, and I wait outside as she skips on into a public restroom at the park. Now someone—an obviously physically male someone—strolls on in behind her.
“Hey, there!” I say, filled with all those Stranger Danger elementary school thoughts. “Where do you think you’re going?”
“Oh,” this individual says. “Don’t worry, Dad. I’m jelly on the inside.”
How do I know? It’s entirely possible that this person is jelly on the inside—transgender and identifying as female, to put it plainly—but how do I know? This isn’t a jar I can screw the lid off of to check what’s inside, as Justin could so conveniently do in his video. What if this person isn’t jelly on the inside? Are you actually asking me to believe, in this world where every day millions of people point fingers at the two frontrunners for the presidency of this country and scream liar, that a simple sexual predator wouldn’t lie? That some peanut butter who does want to listen to my jelly pee and just jerk off—or worse—couldn’t just claim to be transgender?
Is that what you’re asking me? Because if so I’ll call bullshit.
So you’re right, Justin: if it’s peanut butter let it pee with peanut butter, no matter what jar it’s in. I completely agree with that part of your argument. I’m not one of those asshats saying to simply look at the jar and follow the rules. I am saddened by the whole issue, and that it’s making some already difficult lives even more difficult. I wish there were a simple solution, but there isn’t. This can’t be solved by just overexplaining what transgenderism is, because transgenderism isn’t the real problem here: predators using transgenderism as a sort of camouflage is.
This is a case of a small group of people screwing it up for the rest of us, and it’s as complicated as human sexuality as a whole, and that’s a lot more complex than peanut butter and jelly. It’s a good trick, an excellent demonstration, and you obviously feel strongly about the issue, but, Justin, you’re a little off-target as to what the issue looks like from the other side of the table—and there are two sides to the table. Pointing your finger at people and shouting about something that’s not exactly the issue, claiming that such a complex problem is as simple as A and B and that people who don’t agree are neanderthals and bigots, yeah, you get a lot of attention, and you get people fired up . . . and you’re also clouding the issue. Rather than focusing all this attention on what transgenderism is, shouldn’t we be paying more attention to protecting our children and the transgender community (and if that term is either outdated or somehow insulting, I apologize) from the people out there who want to take advantage of them both?
Congratulations, Justin: I think you just became part of the problem.
Talk to you later.