A progressive approach to restroom policy ensures that the rights of all individuals are upheld

Much has been made in recent weeks over a popular dispute regarding the rights of transgender individuals to use the bathroom of their choice. This is an issue often intimately related to those issues sitting behind the LGBT movement. Many LGBT activists have spoken out in opposition to legal prohibitions existing as impediments to the equal use of restroom facilities by transgender persons.

Target corporation has made it store policy to desegregate bathrooms on the basis of sex. This policy is meant to reflect what Target considers to be its values. Target has taken criticism from conservatives, who have raised safety concerns related to women and children.

The American Family Association has called for a Target boycott. President of the AFA, Donald Wildmon, stated of Target’s restroom policy that it, “poses a danger to our wives and daughters [it]  is exactly how sexual predators get access to their victims.” Target’s stock price has fallen since mid-April. Part of this could certainly be traced back to the boycott.

The corresponding dialogue among progressive liberals has been in favor of expanding the rights of transgender individuals by enabling the introduction of standards that establish equal roles for all individuals. The recent North Carolina measure, which acted to prohibit individuals from utilizing restrooms in public facilities, sparked this debate. Other state governments have either passed or considered similar measures.

Donald Trump was recently asked to make comments about the North Carolina law (Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act), which applied to local boards of education and public agencies, that acted to define biological sex as, “The physical condition of being male or female, which is stated on a person’s birth certificate.”

The measure states that, “Public agencies shall require every multiple occupancy bathroom or changing facility to be designated for and only used by persons based on their biological sex.”

Under the measure, public agencies would be allowed, “accommodations such as single occupancy bathroom or changing facilities upon a person’s request due to special circumstances, but in no event shall that accommodation result in the public agency allowing a person to use a multiple occupancy bathroom or changing facility designated […] for a sex other than the person’s biological sex.”

This measure limits the abilities of transgender individuals to utilize the restroom of their choice. Conflict over the ideas behind criticism of this measure rages in political and social activist communities. Questions that will likely come to define social theory over the coming decades, like those surrounding the complex interplay between the concepts of sex and gender, sit at the heart of this conflict.

With respect to the North Carolina measure, Trump summed up his stance, saying“North Carolina did something that was very strong and they’re paying a big price. There’s a lot of problems […] You leave it the way it is. There have been very few complaints the way it is. People go, they use the bathroom they feel is appropriate, there has been so little trouble, and the problem with what happened in North Carolina is the strife, and the economic punishment that they’re taking.”

Other states have considered similar measures. In Alabama, the city of Oxford passed an ordinance that acted to restrict the rights of individual bathroom use to the sex of the individual. Those individuals found to be in violation of the law would be subject to a fine of $500 or six months in prison.

According to the president of the city council, Steven Waits, this measure was not meant to be discriminatory, it was instead sought, “not out of concerns for the 0.3 percent of the population who identify as transgender,” it was sought instead, “to protect our women and children”

In Kansas, protesters gathered at the state capital in Topeka to dispute the consideration of a bill that would require that students be restricted in their access to locker room and restroom facilities according to their established sex.

The director of Equality Kansas, Thomas Witt, commented on the topic of the bill, “You were all seventh- and eighth-graders and ninth-graders once. You know how brutal those kids can be to each other […] If this bill passes and it gets signed by that man whose office is right behind us (Gov. Sam Brownback), the blood will be on his hands and on the hands of every legislator who votes in favor of this horrible nightmare of legislation.”

There has been fervent resistance from conservatives who feel that the vocal efforts at inclusion, most often championed by the transgender and LGBT rights movements, will only serve to weaken American society.

These conservatives often fear the changes that modern progressive liberals seek to introduce. This is evident as these changes have been interpreted as things that will move American society away from its ideal self. Conservatism thrives on this idealized self.

Conservative politicians consistently invoke the founding fathers and the constitution as idols, which are not to be challenged. Tradition is, in this way, a source of power for conservatives. They have built their ideology out of tradition and out of the moral imperatives that come from tradition.

This notion of an ideal society is deeply rooted in American conservatism. Following this vein, in seeking the ideal society, Americans must maintain their reverence for tradition. They also must strive to maintain the standards of social order, which include those that have become associated with sex and gender.

Many conservatives comment that, in so many words, they simply do not understand the, “transgender phenomenon.” This generally also implies that the phenomenon in question is something which does not need to be understood. It implies that the recognition of this phenomenon is unnecessary because at the very least it challenges traditionally accepted views.

Former Olympian, Caitlyn Jenner, recently stated of her experience as, “A trans woman in New York, I gotta take a pee. Anyways, Oh my God, Trump International Tower, I love this […] By the way, Ted, nobody got molested.”

On Sunday Ted Cruz also commented to CNN that, “It doesn’t make sense for grown adult men, strangers, to be alone in a restroom with a little girl […] This is the height of political correctness. And frankly, the concern is not of the Caitlyn Jenners of the world, but if the law is such that any man, if he feels like it, can go in a woman’s restroom and you can’t ask him to leave, that opens the door for predators.”

U.S. citizens have been granted rights by the United States constitution. Rights are enforced by the Federal Government and by state governments. Some of these rights are in place to guarantee that citizens will not be subject to phenomena which infringe on those rights.

Can it be said that one’s occupying a restroom with an individual who they do not wish to occupy the restroom with is having one’s rights infringed upon? Could it also be said that an individual’s being denied the ability to utilize the restroom of their choice  constitutes a violation of that individual’s rights?

What if a comparison were to be brought between opposition to racial segregation in the United States and the sex-based segregation of bathroom facilities at present? It is evident that the socially normalized segregation of restroom facilities on the basis of race is similar, in many ways, to the segregation of restroom facilities based on sex.

An obvious difference would be that racially segregated restroom facilities were often also segregated on the basis of sex. Racially segregated facilities also often did not meet the standard of “separate but equal” that had been legally established and maintained despite this fact. This standard was determined to be unconstitutional in Brown v. Board of Education.

Progressives must strive to affirm the up-building of social and cultural groups that have been influenced by sex and gender paradigms such that they have been hindered in their ability to establish themselves and prosper within society. In doing so, progressives must seek to place those groups acceptably within the social order, which they have agreed to participate in.

In placing these groups into society as acceptable elements and in their working on society to expand acceptance of the equal roles of those groups, progressives  recognize the value of affirming an equal social role for each individual.

The progressive cause will remain dedicated to producing a conscious re-evaluation and a new and more all-encompassing understanding of the place that sex and gender have played in societies throughout history.

Gender roles have often been segregated in societies and cultures for the purposes of maintaining an efficient social order. The maintenance of this efficiency has served to propel those societies that behaved in certain ways above others. In the process, gender paradigms were born. Gender paradigms within similar cultures could certainly be understood to be similar specifically because of the relatedness of their relative cultures.

Those societies that prospered were able to set, for themselves, sex and gender paradigms which would then define those societies and the societies and cultures that came from them.

Progressives must seek to understand the ways that society and culture have placed them into roles defined by sex and gender as well as the ways that those roles have influenced the material facts surrounding their lives.

In working toward their goals, progressives will be brought into necessary conflicts with tradition. This is something that progressives do often in their common struggle to alter society. The observance of tradition as well as its acceptance on the basis of its authority shelters notions and practices that work against the accepted progressive standard of change.

An essential task will remain for progressives in orienting their political will toward real and evident political change which allows for this understanding. Public policy will be forced to confront this issue in the future. It is likely that this confrontation will be problematic for progressives and for the most staunch conservative traditionalists.

In coming to efficient solutions to the problems posed by this confrontation, public policy must ensure the rights of all individuals. It is in the determination and affirmation of these rights that public policy can be shaped.

Determination, for progressives, is also not necessarily imposition. Progressives, at a fundamental level, often seek to understand society in order to alter it. Part of coming to a sufficient understanding of society requires that progressives recognize that solid and unchanging categories can be difficult to interpret as society moves forward in time.


  1. Quite frankly, as well-considered, well-written and cogent a narrative about some of the deeper societal/cultural conflicts surrounding this and other related issues as I have lately read. In particular I appreciate your notation about the evolution of social theory and how “the complex interplay between sex and gender” will be an essential part of that evolution. Furthermore, your mention of conservative devotion to the idealized or ideal self is an excellent starting point per a conversation as to why the demise of conservatism is, historically and in any context, assured—either devolving into an authoritarian or fascist context or dying out for lack of fuel, so to speak.

    Well done.

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