I just have so much to say, and I keep trying to tease it all apart, but it wants to come back together in one glop, so I’m sorry. I’m going to break this into four posts to make it easier:
- Why I’ve been gone
- Things on my mind #1: Labels revisited
- Things on my mind #2: Planet Fitness and why I care
- Things on my mind #3: I’ve Been Rethinking Lately
I’m getting to the heart of the matter now, what I really want to talk about. Perhaps you’ve heard of the incident recently where a woman was stripped of her membership at a Planet Fitness gym because she objected to a transwoman being in the women’s locker room and told other women about it.
The incident struck me harder than I might have expected. At first, I assumed it was because this happened in my state, and I am also a Planet Fitness member, though not of that location. And while this does make it more immediate, that’s not it, either.
The truth is, this incident unsettles me. I do not feel comfortable knowing that “penis bearers” are welcome to enter my locker room just on their own say-so that they are women. Pro-transgender activists will swear up and down that this is not risky, and that transwomen have never harmed women in a locker room or bathroom. The thing is, I don’t believe it, because my own experience tells me otherwise.
I bet these same activists would say that no transwoman would ever call up a crisis hotline, effect a woman’s voice and claim to be a rape victim, in order to graphically talk about rape scenarios. Would never happen, right? Except it does, and often. And I know, because I was a volunteer at a rape crisis center, and I answered these calls often. On one four-hour shift, it would be rare that I wouldn’t hear this at least once. Usually more than that. And some would call back repeatedly, trying to force you to listen to them masturbating.
I bet transactivists would say that no man would take advantage of such a policy to wander into a sex-segregated place. But I know better. I was married to my crossdressing husband for less than a year when we went out to a gay bar, and when he had to use the bathroom, I went with him to the women’s. A lesbian sneered and tried to keep him out, and it took my stink-eye to let us pass. But truthfully, I’d be on that lesbian’s side today, because my ex-husband is a man who got turned on imagining himself as a woman, and for him, going out of the house en femme was a kind of public role play.
Maybe the activists are right to say that the people described above aren’t really transwoman. Laying aside claims of “no true Scots(transwo)man” for a moment, maybe no honest-to-gosh transwoman ever would wander into a locker room meaning to do anyone harm. But the problem is, how do I know if that person who is obviously male-bodied walking in is an honest-to-gosh transwoman, someone like my ex or one of the callers I heard at the crisis center? There is no way to know, and policies like Planet Fitness make me vulnerable to predators. A transwomans word is to be taken as gold and access granted to the woman’s room. The problem is, the word of a predator would also be taken at face value.
In fact, it really isn’t a stretch of the imagination to think that those callers I used to deal with have heard of the Planet Fitness situation and are making their plans to buy a membership now. Why in the world wouldn’t they?
What’s more, I’m deeply troubled that Planet Fitness is discouraging women from acting on their gut instinct that something is not right. That gut feeling has often been a lifesaver for women, and I wish to god I had listened to my own when it counted the most. Instead of acknowledging that women have legitimate concerns and fears, instead the message here is that we’re to be punished if we dare act on what our gut is telling us. Moreover, we will be punished if we dare to warn other women that something may be wrong. This is silencing.
I am not unsympathetic to the issues brought up by transwomen. I understand that men can be a scary bunch of people, with a collective history of violence often directed at anyone who threatens their idea of masculinity. But then surely the men are the problem – why is no one pressuring them to change? Why must my safety be relegated second to a transwoman’s safety while men are allowed to go on being violent knuckle-draggers without challenge?
I believe places like changing areas and bathrooms are sex-segregated for a good reason. Women have a reason to not want “penis bearers” around when we are in a more vulnerable state. Perhaps that is the simplest solution – penis bearers to the left, uterus bearers to the right (since transactivists insist on calling us that anyway, we might as well put it to good use).
Or perhaps the criteria should be the sex listed on a government-issued ID. The reason being, by the time you go through the trouble to get that changed, you’ve invested a lot more in your identity than simply setting up a Tumblr blog and making a declaration to a clerk at the counter of Planet Fitness. The problem is, not every state or national government will allow for changing a sex on government-issued ID.
I’m frustrated that so few people seem willing to understand points of view like mine. On the right are a bunch of Neanderthals who want to use this as an excuse to create restrictive and prejudicial legislation intended to drag us down the slope, back toward the 1950s. On the other hand are liberals who blindly go along with the transactivist crowd without really thinking this through. If they knew what I know, or would at least be open to hearing about it, I think they’d at least think twice.
But instead of actually talking about this, everyone retreats to their corners, the doors to women’s areas are flung open, and it’s women who once again be expected to accommodate.