Trans

It's Always About the Bathrooms, Isn't It?

Mike Huckabee shares his shower fantasies.

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Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee weighs in on trans lib:

At last, a chance to use this photo.

"For those who do not think that we are under threat, simply recognize that the fact that we are now in city after city watching ordinances say that your 7-year-old daughter, if she goes into the restroom cannot be offended and you can't be offended if she's greeted there by a 42-year-old man who feels more like a woman than he does a man."

Huckabee continued saying saying he wished someone told him in high school he "could have felt like a woman" and shower with the girls.

"Now I wish that someone told me that when I was in high school that I could have felt like a woman when it came time to take showers in PE," said Huckabee. "I'm pretty sure that I would have found my feminine side and said, 'Coach, I think I'd rather shower with the girls today.' You're laughing because it sounds so ridiculous, doesn't it?"

Young Mike Huckabee

Huckabee's joke certainly gives us a new image of the candidate in his adolescence, forever trying to think up scams that will get him into the girls' locker room. (From now on, every time Huckabee talks about his youth, I'm going to imagine it as an '80s teen comedy.) It also suggests that he's less broad-minded in this area than Pat Robertson, for whatever that's worth. Also, less broad-minded than the Iranian government. (Countdown to Caitlyn Jenner is the thin wedge for Sharia law! arguments in five… four… three…)

Still, Arkansas' former governor isn't the only person whose mind leaps quickly from the word transgender to the word bathroom. I am unaware, despite the candidate's claim, of any ordinances saying you "can't be offended" by what you see in a public restroom. But Florida lawmakers did recently debate whether discrimination against transgender toilet users should be required or banned, and a fight over who gets to use which school restrooms recently rattled California. The underlying fear—this idea that there's an army of horndogs ready to adopt a new gender identity just to spy or prey on people—seems ludicrous to me. I suppose I could imagine some anti-trans trolls trying the Huckabee Plan as a sort of protest. But given all the crap that transgender people have to put up with, does anyone really think the nation's schools are about to be overrun with horny teens switching from M to F just to see some boobs? For heaven's sake, kids have the Internet for that now.

These gender-politics debates always seem to take a long stop in the water closet. Feminists and antifeminists spent the '70s arguing about whether the Equal Rights Amendment would mandate unisex bathrooms. The gay rights movement had to contend with arguments like this one, from 1978: "Firefighters live in very close quarters, so close that if homosexuals were admitted…we would have to seriously consider providing separate bathrooms, showers, and living facilities for gays." A decade and a half later, when Washington was debating gays in the military, you heard the same sort of thing: "This tells me as a straight man showering in the barracks, that I have no choice but to expose myself to any gay men present." (A quick aside to anyone else exploring this history: If you Google the words gay, military, and bathroom together, you won't just find old news clippings. Word to the wise.)

I can't predict which way the latest washroom war will resolve itself. (Hopefully we'll all get our own personal port-a-johns.) But I'm pretty sure how the trans debate will play out: Americans will gradually get used to seeing transgender people in their day-to-day lives, and even if some folks don't buy the idea that your gender and your biological sex might be misaligned, most of them will come to tolerate it the same way they tolerate different religious beliefs. Beyond all the bluster, even fairly conservative people are willing to sigh and say, If that makes you happier, it's no skin off my nose. Be they flexible and diverse or rigidly imposed from on high, the restroom rules will be just a detail.