Where Laurie Metcalf Takes On John Wayne

Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, showing off her group’s #FlushDiscrimination social media campaign.   | TRANSEQUALITY.ORG

Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, showing off her group’s #FlushDiscrimination social media campaign. | TRANSEQUALITY.ORG

BY ED SIKOV | The toilet that once dared not speak its name now won’t shut its lid. Judging by the profusion of bathroom coverage, the backlash to the backlash to trans rights is in full flush, and the media is all but backed up with pro-trans stories and editorials. So let’s plunge right in.

Support for trans-friendly restrooms is widespread, and some of it is coming from some most unexpected quarters. Even my favorite wingnut website, the deplorable TheFederalist.com, ran a pro-trans bathroom rights piece by Peter Johnson: “The law, which bars people in North Carolina from using bathrooms that do not match their birth sex, seeks to enforce traditional gender customs. The problem is, of course, that the train has left the station. Gender roles are no longer traditional. The law, despite its best efforts, cannot put the toothpaste back in the tube… A law like the one in North Carolina will actually make bathrooms much more dangerous and confusing.”

It may still be possible to put the toothpaste back on the train, however, but let’s not carp about mixing metaphors but instead simply welcome the Federalist into the 21st century.

Media Circus

Not surprisingly, as more and more Americans realize that trans folks pose no threat whatsoever to their safety or the safety of their kids, threats of violence are surfacing from the ever-shrinking and beleaguered goon community. As RawStory.com reports, Tracy Murphree, a candidate for sheriff in one Texas county, recently declared, “If my little girl is in a public women’s restroom and a man, regardless of how he may identify, goes into the bathroom, he will then identify as a John Doe until he wakes up in whatever hospital he may be taken to. Your identity does not trump my little girl’s safety. I identify as an overprotective father that loves his kids and would do anything to protect them.”

I must point out to Mr. Murphree that beating people to bloody pulps to the point that they can’t state their names in hospital emergency rooms doesn’t exactly jibe with the duties of a county sheriff. Maybe his hostility to gender fluidity stems from the fact that his parents stuck him with a girl’s name. (Taunt in singsong voice: “Hey Traaaaa-ceeeeeey! Why don’t you go play with your Barrrrr-bieeeeees!”)

Come to think of it, Mattel ought to come out with Trans-Barbie and Trans-Ken. I’d definitely buy them. It would be so much fun to trick out Trans-Barbie in a snap-on beard and muscle tank and tart up Trans-Ken in an Oscar de la Renta-designed prom gown. (Boring old girly Barbie has her own de la Renta bridal outfit that sells for $200.) What with companies like Dow Chemical (yay to napalm and Agent Orange, nay to anti-LGBT bigots), General Electric (the folks who gave us the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant don’t look kindly upon discrimination), and PepsiCo (have you ever put a nail into a glass of Pepsi and watched it corrode?) boycotting North Carolina since that state’s legislature and governor, respectively, voted into law and signed an especially vile anti-LGBT law that forces people to use only the bathroom that corresponds to the sex on their birth certificate, the tables have turned drastically as far as businesses’ responsibility is concerned. Corporate America has finally woken up to the fact that it cannot recruit the best employees if those employees have to live in backward states that refuse to grant them equality.

The very premise of the toilet war is bogus. Trans folks have to suffer because hung-up cisgender people can’t keep their minds out of the gutter. Loony Breitbart.com claimed that some pervy Pennsylvanian’s arrest for taking snapshots of a 10-year-old girl in the women’s room was the obvious result of trans people having civil rights.

“Quarryville, PA, resident James Thomas Shoemaker, 19, was arrested last week when he was found hiding in a stall of the women’s bathroom in the Sheetz store on Manheim Pike,” the Breitbart site reported. “Police said he was taking images of young girls on his cell phone. The arrest comes as progressives step up their judicial and media push to force American adults and youths to share all of their public bathrooms and changing rooms with the small number of people who try to live and look like people of the opposite sex.”

That is insane. No, the perv was just your garden variety creepy straight guy, and the incident had nothing to do with trans folks. Take some responsibility for your own kind, Breitbarters, and stop blaming trans people for sex crimes committed by cis-heteroperverts.

If it wasn’t for the ass-like stubbornness that resists reason, progress, and respect for human difference, I’d feel sorry for the poor fuckwits. Like Howard the Duck, they’re trapped in a world they never made.

Laurie Metcalf’s character has a simple but superb line about changing perceptions of sex and gender in the third episode of “Horace and Pete,” Louis CK’s terrific web series. She’s sitting at a table recounting in a beautiful long take how it came to pass that she and her 84-year-old father-in-law started fucking behind the rest of the family’s backs. She’s describing the father-in-law, but she is also talking about an entire class of people for whom the expansion of sexual and gender civil liberties has not been easy. “He has that kind of man’s ego from another time, when it wasn’t considered just being an asshole,” she says. In other words, the man’s man ethos exemplified by, say, John Wayne (whom I love, by the way), from gallantry to sexism, today seems purely assholic. Men like this father-in-law must feel as though what had once been — to them — a stable social order with gender behaviors as solid and immutable as Chartres Cathedral, has turned into a grotesque carnival built on a sinkhole just waiting to give way. We must seem like sideshow freaks to them — freaks who threaten to upend their basic understanding of what it means to be human.

In fact, of course, they’re right. We are flipping sex and gender assumptions on their heads. That’s what LGBT fighters have been fighting for since Mattachine and the Daughters of Bilitis. And besides, the best way to deal with people thinking you’re a freak is to revel in it. For me, along with chocolate, blow jobs, and steamed lobsters, it’s what makes life worth living.

As for the lunkheads who are terrified by the possibility of sharing a bathroom with someone who has different genitalia than they have, I’ll say only this: I sincerely hope everything comes out okay for them in the end. If it doesn’t, they’ll just have to work it out with a pencil.

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