Traveling Privilege

I’m spending most of today asleep because of jet lag, but I did want to comment briefly on my travel experience. I have been to North America. I have taken a total of four plane flights. Not once have I had anyone grope my genitals giving the excuse of “security”.

This might not seem entirely surprising to you, but I only managed this degree of comfort because I confined my travel to Canada. Trans women in the USA are groped pretty much every time they fly, sometimes several times per flight. I suspect that I would fare better because I have had surgery and therefore don’t show up as an “ALARM” on the perv scanners. However, the TSA are a law unto themselves and are perfectly capable of demanding to grope someone because they “look suspicious”.

I have lost count of the number of times that I used public bathrooms in Canada. I used the ladies, as I have been doing without incident for over 20 years. However, it will be a lot of times. I spent hours in airports, Kevin and I spent a lot of time in restaurants and tourist destinations, and on Monday I spent the day at a hotel giving a training course for clients. All of those things were only possible because I was able to use public toilets.

My use of women’s restrooms is not a crime in Canada, save for in the fevered imagining of Germaine Greer and her supporters who claim I have committed “rape” by “penetrating” women-only spaces. However, as of yesterday it would be a crime in North Carolina. In less than 24 hours the state’s three levels of legislature — lower house, upper house and Governor — all approved a sweeping bill to repeal and ban all equality-based legislation, and also to require trans people to use the bathroom appropriate to their “biological sex” (whatever that means). There’s a lot in the bill, an I expect most of it to be rolled back quickly, but it was the alleged need to keep women and girls “safe” from people like me that was used as the excuse for pushing it through with such unseemly haste.

Actually I might be OK. According to The Guardian, the bill has an exemption for trans people who have had their birth certificate changed. Obviously I’d need to carry mine with me, which I don’t have to do anywhere else in the world. However, I note that laws governing trans people are not uniform in the USA. There are still some states where, no matter how much medical intervention you have had, you can’t get your birth certificate changed. Also there’s no public health coverage of trans issues in the USA, so the proportion of trans people able to access surgery (always assuming that they want it) is probably much lower than in the UK.

The main group of people who will suffer, however, are trans kids. There is barely a country in the world where trans kids can legally change their gender, and access to surgery is generally restricted until they are legally adult. Obviously they cannot take advantage of exemptions to such laws the way I can. There are even places (hello Kansas) where laws are being proposed that will allow kids to get a substantial reward for ratting on trans pupils who dare to use a gender-appropriate bathroom.

UK readers may think that sort of thing doesn’t happen here, but it does. Today’s Gay Star News has a report by Jane Fae on a pub in Ramsgate that operates a strict “no trans women in the ladies’ toilet” policy. Obviously that’s not a legal requirement the way it is in North Carolina, but the report suggests that the pub’s landlord has had legal advice assuring them that their policy is legal. Jane notes that this seems to contravene the Equality Act, but I beg to disagree. What you can say is that the case has not been proven, because no precedent exists, but the pub’s action may be legal.

The point that will be argued is that a pub toilet is a single-sex service, and the Equality Act contains language that allows businesses to deny trans women access to women-only services if it is reasonable to do so. The recent Transgender Equality Inquiry notes that such exemptions can apply, even if the trans woman in question has a Gender Recognition Certificate and has had her birth certificate changed. Which means that they apply to me. One would hope that a judge would deem that banning me from women’s toilets in the UK would be unreasonable, especially as this contravenes the intent of the Gender Recognition Act, but until such time as the law is clarified, or a test case has been heard, the question is unanswered.

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6 Responses to Traveling Privilege

  1. AndyHat says:

    The North Carolina bill defines “biological sex” thusly: “The physical condition of being male or female, which is stated on a person’s birth certificate.”

    There are so many things wrong with that, it’s hard to even know where to begin.

  2. Margaret Organ-Kean says:

    Whatever your gender, don’t piss on the seat or forget to flush.

    That’s all I ask.

    • Cheryl says:

      Oh dear me yes. The number of people not flushing seems to be going up of late. I’m wondering if it is something to do with the number of loos that have automated flushing.

  3. Jazzlet says:

    Yet another reason to get rid of single sex bathrooms all together. Places like the Molly House in Manchester manage perfectly well with one bathroom for use by all able bodied people (first floor, no lift). Yes it is disconcerting the first time you use it, but that’s just because it is not what one is accustomed to, not because there is any inherent problem with the concept.

    • Cheryl says:

      Most people have an all-gender bathroom in their home and they manage perfectly well with that.

      FYI, the NC law specifically makes multi-stall all-gender bathrooms illegal.

  4. Dr Bob says:

    Given that going to the loo is a basic human right, someone ought to sue that pub landlord for not providing toilet facilities for ALL his customers. But I guess such things cost money and would make the landlord in question even less likely to turn to the Good Side of the Force.

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