Gender Neutral? Let’s get comfortable…

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Before anyone gets their knickers in a knot, this post isn’t about being politically correct or incorrect.  It’s not about judging or criticizing or hate crimes or anything else.  It’s about being open to listening to the needs of others and trying to find ways to be helpful without imposing anything – from either side – on people who will be made uncomfortable, and yes, people on both sides of this are allowed to feel uncomfortable without it meaning they are hateful or phobic or aggressive or any other word used to describe someone whose perspective is different than our own.

I seldom listen to morning radio anymore because once Rutherford moved on whatever was left behind just didn’t peak my interest.  Yes, he annoyed me sometimes, just as I’m sure I annoy you, the readers of this blog, sometimes 🙂  But he brought things to light that made me think – as I hope I do here – and I do miss that, so it’s a rare occasion and only in my car  that I actually tune in to find out what the topics of the day will be.

This morning while driving I actually heard a discussion on a topic that has long been a bone of contention with me (surprise!) and it made me want to spout off all of my own opinions, which you just don’t have time or space to do in a short text that you should never try to write while you’re driving.  By the time I got home, it was a blog post waiting to happen, so here I am.

I have no problem with the idea of having gender-neutral bathrooms in public places, including schools, as long as it is a single stall and as long as if it isn’t, there are still gender-specific bathrooms available alongside it (ESPECIALLY in schools).  It sounds simple to me, yet it seems to have become a huge and out of proportion issue that, as many others have, has moved into the whole “homophobic versus LGBTQ” war and it surprises me that people on both sides can’t seem to just be practical and logical about it.  I am not phobic (fearful) of those with sexual orientations that differ from my own.  I just don’t share all the same ideas about how things should be.

If a person has the body of a man but feels like a woman, I can understand how it would be uncomfortable for him/her to use a multiple stall bathroom for males, and vice versa.  It must be difficult to deal with these situations and, where possible, a gender neutral bathroom would solve this problem.  HOWEVER, I do NOT agree that they should just be allowed to enter any bathroom they choose (again, multiple stall) based on their feelings, because at that point, their feelings are imposing on the rest of us a situation that we have just as much right to feel uncomfortable with.

It isn’t about a man with female tendencies being perceived as a danger to the rest of us women in a public washroom, it’s about opening the door a crack and having it fly open as often happens with issues like this and the responses from government; ie. if one person clearly looking like a man is allowed to enter a women’s washroom, there is nothing stopping every other man from entering, because no one will notice or even be watching for it.  And that bothers me.  By making things “comfortable” for a man who feels more like a woman, this situation makes it possible for men who ARE a danger to move about freely as they please without question, even if every single one of the men with legitimate female feelings is a perfectly safe person to be around.

On the flip side, a woman who feels more like a man and wishes to use the men’s washroom is imposing on the comfort of the other men, not to mention the little boys who are in there and shouldn’t have to be embarrassed in front of females who go in because they feel more like males.

Has anyone even considered the impact of this issue on children who have reached an age where they are allowed to go into the washroom without a parent?  I would never be comfortable sending even an almost teenaged daughter alone into a gender neutral bathroom in a crowded public place, because while she might encounter some very nice man with female tendencies, she might also encounter a man who has no business at all being in there but who entered unnoticed and waited for a girl to come in without a parent.  Let’s face it, that already happens!  Are we seriously saying we want to make it even easier so that no one even questions anymore if they see men going in and out of women’s washrooms?

My first response to this issue, when it became a public discussion months ago, was that people should use the washrooms that match their body parts.  Simple. Having considered it further, though, I realize that people dealing with gender issues have real difficulties and their feelings shouldn’t be ignored, just as the feelings of everyone else shouldn’t be ignored.

So as I said at the beginning, this is about finding ways to help people feel comfortable without imposing on the comfort of someone else.  This isn’t always possible to achieve in other areas of controversy, and there are times that I wouldn’t agree with just trying to keep everyone comfortable because sometimes when you are standing up for something important and you happen to be right, others won’t like it and that’s too bad.

But in this case, I believe it is possible to help people on both sides maintain a reasonable comfort level.  I propose that where there are only single stall washrooms available, they should all just be gender neutral.  Where there are only multiple stall washrooms, there should be gender-specific washrooms because that makes sense for the majority, and really, a public washroom is a nice convenience, but it shouldn’t be considered a right, so if a person doesn’t feel comfortable using one and they really have to pee (pardon the potty language), they need to find another location, or just suck up the discomfort because we all have things that make us uncomfortable in sticky public situations where there is no option.  And where possible, in the area where there are multiple stall washrooms, a separate washroom area that is gender neutral could be set up so that those who feel uncomfortable in the other ones have a place to go.  I think it’s as simple as having a single stall washroom placed in the vicinity of the other ones, even if it cannot be right next to them.

I believe that reasonable people on both sides would be content with this solution.  Unfortunately, there are also unreasonable people on both sides!  Instead of finding an easy solution at a simple level, it becomes a battle of human rights and immediately backs are up.  Sometimes it seems like the anti-LGBTQ people will do anything at all to just reject the interests of that group without attention to their human dignity.  And sometimes it seems like the LGBTQ people will push everything to the furthest limit to make a point, even if it isn’t necessary.

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I want the struggling person to have a place to feel comfortable, but I want to feel safe and comfortable too.  One shouldn’t overrule the other.  Does every public washroom everywhere have to be gender neutral? No.  Is it reasonable for this need to be accommodated wherever possible? Yes.  People on either side of this issue who don’t agree are, I fear, the ones who refuse to listen and simply wish to rule out a compromise so they can hang onto their own ideas at the expense of others.  The pictures below show examples of unreasonable behaviours on both sides, and they aren’t pretty.  There is no need for extremes here, just logic and consideration 🙂

NEWS_shitin_jennamackey RESTROOM

Booze Fans, Please Hear Me Out

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I’ve never been much of a “drinker” myself.  I enjoy an occasional glass of wine or a beer, but there are other things I prefer.  I didn’t know what beer pong was until the other day when I had to ask my daughter to explain it to me – not that she plays the game, but she’s young enough to have heard about it and know what it is.

I’ve never understood why people have to drink to have fun in a group (I’m often having a great time in the presence of others who assume I’m drinking because “no one can have that much fun sober”) or why it’s considered fun to drink excessively and not remember the next day what you said or did in the presence of others.  I’m one of the people who can tell you exactly what you said and did and help you remember what an idiot you were the night before.  But it isn’t “fun” to watch you.  It’s disturbing.  And for people like me in their right mind, it’s scary because we can still formulate thoughts about the possibilities for upset or even disaster at the end of it all, long after you’ve stopped caring, if you ever considered them at all.

But I know that my perspective is rarely considered on this subject because I have no experience in this area – happily, by choice – and to some that means my opinions aren’t relevant.  To those people I feel compelled to offer a couple of stories I have to share that might hopefully give you pause to reconsider your choices:

When I was in Ponoka for months with Pat at the centre for brain injury, I met another patient who, despite the strong fighting spirit of his mother and many months of recovery and rehab will likely never walk, drive, dress himself, or even sit up independently again.  He will be in a wheelchair that supports his body in a comfortable position and he will require constant care, likely in a facility, for the rest of his life.

He wasn’t in a car accident, he didn’t suffer a work-related injury.  He was drunk at a party in a friend’s home during the Christmas season and he passed out.  Sound familiar? While he was sleeping he choked on his own vomit and lost consciousness.  From what I know the others around him were likely too drunk themselves to even notice his situation.  As a result, he suffered a traumatic brain injury and will spend the rest of his life paying for his choices that night.  He was nineteen years old.  He had no career, no disability pension, no life savings.  His mother sold their home and left her job to be with him at the hospital and beyond that, they had nothing to fall back on.

I wonder how many drinking games he won that night?  I wonder how many times he had done it before?  From what we were told, it wasn’t an uncommon occurrence in his life on the wild side.  He actually joked about his previous lifestyle after his injury, but I didn’t laugh.  Don’t get me wrong, I do feel for him, but I feel more sorry for him that he wasn’t able to control himself when it counted and now has to suffer forever because of some alcohol.  And I feel for his mother whose pain and suffering will always be worse than his own because he has a very limited mental capacity now.

While we were at the Glenrose in Edmonton we met another family whose daughter had been hit by a drunk driver.  She had just graduated high school and was bound for college.  She had a boyfriend and a bright future and just happened to be in the wrong place.  She suffered a serious brain injury, went through months of rehab, thankfully learned to walk and talk again  eventually , but will never be the same and neither will her family.  I’ve often heard that in accidents involving alcohol, it’s more likely to be the victims that are seriously injured than the drunk driver.  Fair?  No, but we all know by now that life’s not fair.  Her mother had to take a long leave from her job in another town and together with her dad whose job allowed some flexibility, they made sure their daughter had company nearly every day to help her do her therapies.  They had other younger children at home from whom much of their time was taken to maintain a cruel balance between keeping the family together and ensuring their now injured daughter had what she needed.

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I don’t think anyone in their right mind makes a choice to drive drunk.  The problem is that the choice gets made with an impaired mind because the person didn’t pay attention when they passed their reasonable limit earlier in the day/evening.  But when you sober up, can you live the rest of your life knowing you robbed another person of theirs?  Perhaps a whole family?

So I offer this to young people and old who think that their own excessive drinking, in freedom and independence, occasional or frequent, will only affect them.  It does not.  At the very least it can hurt, embarrass, and cause discomfort to others around you who watch the changes in your behaviour and attitudes that make you appear to be someone you are not – unless you are only surrounded by others also too drunk to care.  And at worst, it can kill you, or put you or someone else in the hospital with life altering injuries.

  • Who will pay for everything involved in a resulting traumatic injury?
  • Who will look after you if you can no longer take care of yourself?
  • Whose responsibility is it to give up their own lives to help if you have made an irresponsible choice in freedom to do something that has put you there, something you could have avoided but chose not to?

I just don’t get it and I never will, this attraction to alcohol that takes nice intelligent people down to a level of ridiculous behaviour and dangerous choices.  I don’t object to drinking.  I object to intoxication that robs the mind of responsible thought and consideration for others, and the idea that people don’t quit while they’re ahead instead of adding one drink on top of another when each one further impairs their ability to quit.

I don’t have any experience being drunk, but I’ve seen many others “having fun” (tongue in cheek) and I think I’d rather stay sober, alive, and be in control of my words and actions, so that in the morning I don’t have to worry about whether or not I’ve done something I will have to regret forever while I’m leaning over the toilet holding my stomach.

So I hope that at least for a few minutes, even the invincible, “it-will-never-happen-to-me” people might be open to the idea that they are not immune, and that maybe the next time they’re playing a drinking game they might, for just a minute, consider whether or not winning is really “winning” after all.  And I hope that those who have already suffered consequences in one way or another will learn from their situations before something much more serious comes along.