California’s AB 1266: Equality, Respect and Peeing

So I’m still trying to help the niece get through quadratic equations.  Factoring some of these babies is like wrestling with a grizzly bear, I tell you.  Particularly the ones with fourth powers and such.  Just remember to rationalize your roots and use integer factoring before resorting to the quadratic formula.  Oh, and get rid of the variables in those denominators.  Simplify your expressions.  Show your work.

I’m so glad I’m not in school anymore.

My niece loves her psychology class but is stumped on choosing a topic for her final paper.  It has to be a current issue and she must introduce it by expressing her position in a letter to the editor of a local newspaper.  The instructor wants her students to stay away from topics that are “redundant.”  Whatever that means.  “Not gun control” was the example offered.  My guess is that this teacher doesn’t want to see any topic that has been debated to death in the news.

I asked my niece whether she had anything in mind.  She told me she’d like to gripe about why 18 year olds can die for their country in a war but can’t drink legally.  I asked if she’d Googled the topic and she said she had, but found nothing.  I suggested this could be because 18 year olds who are active military can drink legally.

So now we’re back to square one.  I suggested doing something on bullying, a topic that has returned to the news in the wake of last week’s murder/suicide at Sparks Middle School.  But we couldn’t decide whether or not this falls within the purview of the “redundant.”

One topic that interests my niece is California’s AB 1266, the recent law that modified the state Education Code to grant transgendered students the right to use their choice of the school’s boys’ or girls’ rest rooms and locker rooms, even before sex reassignment surgery.  Massachusetts and Colorado already have adopted similar laws, so our Golden State legislators are not exactly being mavericks here.

I rather like this topic, because it exposes entirely unreasonable societal fears for the warrantless cultural bugaboos they really are.  Tell me how this goes now?  As long as the student in the skirt still has male equipment, that student needs to stay out of the ladies’ room?  But as soon as she (yes, I said “she”) has her junk removed, it will be okay?  After all, we wouldn’t want any transitioning male-to-female transgendered people committing rapes in the women’s.  (Say what??)  Preoperative female-to-male transgendered people we don’t really care about, as they haven’t the equipment to rape anyone with.  Does this sound as insane to you as it does to me?

Of course, the conservative right and the evangelicals are up in arms.  That’s okay, go ahead and withdraw your kids from the public schools.  It may reduce the state aid available to our district, but at least it will improve the student-teacher ratio (until they start laying off teachers, that is).  Besides, home schooling rocks.

I went a step further and suggested that the whole issue of who is permitted to use which rest room is little more than a tempest in a teacup.  I am thinking in terms of all public rest rooms, not just those in schools.  Remember, it wasn’t that long ago that rest rooms were segregated by race.  Why should they continue to be segregated by gender?

If rest rooms in airports, stores and public buildings were not segregated by gender, the idea wouldn’t seem so radical in the case of schools. And when is a better time to teach gender equality, respect and human decency than during the formative years?

One thing that all of us of both genders have in common is that, sooner or later, we gotta go pee.  Standards of common decency should be no different in a rest room than elsewhere.  Like so many things, this goes back to how children are raised.  In the home, the bathrooms are not labeled “men’s and “women’s.”

I had to tell my niece a story about the rest rooms in my freshman college dormitory.  Each floor of the dorm had two wings, one for men and one for women.  Each gender had a large rest room and shower facility in the center of its wing.  In the men’s wing, the problem was that many of the guys had girlfriends who liked to stay overnight and didn’t want to have to trudge all the way over to the other wing to go pee in the middle of the night.  The residence assistant called a meeting to take a vote of the men living in our wing as to whether women should be permitted to use our rest room and shower facility.  The “yes” vote would have been unanimous if not for the fact that yours truly took the coward’s way out and abstained.

As I saw it, I no more wanted women walking in on me than the women in the other wing wanted men walking in on them.  So what terrible things happened?  Absolutely none.  I became accustomed to exiting a rest room stall to find a woman in a bath robe coming out of the shower with a towel wrapped around her hair.  It occurred to me that this was not that different from what I experienced with my sisters back at home.

I think the increasing popularity of “family rest rooms” is a baby step in the right direction.  This solves the problem of what Dad should do when his four year old daughter has to pee during a shopping trip to Wal-Mart.  The naysayers point out that family rest rooms are “single occupancy;” if the parent locks the door, no one else can walk in.  As I say, it’s just a step.  But it’s better than nothing.

A rest room should be just that, a rest room.  A neutral location divested of political and religious issues, an equal opportunity place where anyone can go pee.  I suppose there will always be those who obsess over who is a woman, who is a man, and who may legally step into a particular rest room.  I think those people have bigger problems.