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November 12, 2006

A Man's A Man For A' That... Sometimes

And it saves so much money too...

Separating anatomy from what it means to be a man or a woman, New York City is moving forward with a plan to let people alter the sex on their birth certificate even if they have not had sex-change surgery.

Applicants would have to have changed their name and shown that they had lived in their adopted gender for at least two years, but there would be no explicit medical requirements.

“Surgery versus nonsurgery can be arbitrary,” said Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, the city’s health commissioner. “Somebody with a beard may have had breast-implant surgery. It’s the permanence of the transition that matters most.”

But some warned of potential problems:

“I’ve already heard of a ‘transgendered’ man who claimed at work to be ‘a woman in a man’s body but a lesbian’ and who had to be expelled from the ladies’ restroom because he was propositioning women there,” Dr. Paul McHugh, a member of the President’s Council of Bioethics and chairman of the psychiatry department at Johns Hopkins University, wrote in an e-mail message on the subject. “He saw this as a great injustice in that his behavior was justified in his mind by the idea that the categories he claimed for himself were all ‘official’ and had legal rights attached to them.”

The move to ease the requirements for altering one’s gender identity comes after New York has adopted other measures aimed at blurring the lines of gender identification. For instance, a new shelter policy approved in January now allows beds to be distributed according to appearance, applying equally to postoperative transsexuals, cross-dressers and “persons perceived to be androgynous.”

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority also agreed last month to let people define their own gender when deciding whether to use the men’s or women’s bathrooms.

Joann Prinzivalli, 52, a lawyer for the New York Transgender Rights Organization, a man who has lived as a woman since 2000, without surgery, said the changes amount to progress, a move away from American culture’s misguided fixation on genitals as the basis for one’s gender identity.

“It’s based on an arbitrary distinction that says there are two and only two sexes,” she said. “In reality the diversity of nature is such that there are more than just two, and people who seem to belong to one of the designated sexes may really belong to the other.”

It's so refreshing when people can make reasonable compromises:

“If they wanted to change the gender for all the compelling reasons that they’ve given, it should be done perhaps with an asterisk.”

Now was that so hard?

Via mensnewsdaily

Posted by Cassandra at November 12, 2006 07:29 AM

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Recently I offered a 'tense' lady the opportunity to use the men's restroom because the ladies restroom was currently occupied. I stood by the door (Starbucks) until she emerged 'less tense' as it were. We went our seperate ways with a 'thank you/you're welcome' as the only mark of our encounter.

New bathrooms should be designed as gender neutral with appropriate doors on the seated facilities. Time to grow up in the U.S. and stop this silly seperation of the sexes in the restroom!

Posted by: vet66 at November 12, 2006 09:04 AM

This is getting strange. A couple of weeks ago I saw a casual reference to gender-neutral toilets. Shortly after, I saw a blog commenting on a change in policy at a university to support them. Then, the FRC in their email mentioned an entirely unrelated by similar incident. Noticing the trend, I posted on the subject in my own blog - (moronality.blogspot.com to plug shamelessly). And now, up they come again. Why is everyone suddenly talking about toilets!?

My small article supports the idea as well, though for more practical reasons: Reduce space requirements and cleaning/maintinance costs.

Posted by: Suricou Raven at November 12, 2006 10:34 AM

So gender is a typo. I feel so much better now.
Well, I am going to out myself: I am a hetero female who didn't get the 'right' body. Can I get disability for that? As well as mental anguish? Who do I sue?

Posted by: Cricket at November 12, 2006 10:58 AM

I don' t know about the rest of you physically and mentally female persons out there, but I like to know that when I go into the Ladies' Room that there are only other physically female persons in there. I don't go for the "just have unisex public bathrooms" idea - okay, have unisex bathrooms, but keep the Ladies' and Mens' Rooms, too.

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at November 12, 2006 12:16 PM


Remember when John posted that infomercial about men's bathroom protocols and etiquette?
Just think about it...women and men have different rules for the bathroom.
Never the twain should meet publically.

The potential for rioting over the age old lid up/lid down is huge...HUGE!!!!!!

Posted by: Carrie at November 12, 2006 01:52 PM

When someone teaches me to pee standing up without getting half nekkid, count me in!

Posted by: Ellen at November 12, 2006 02:09 PM

The lid up or down isn't a biggie for me since I never made the assumption it would be down. Having grown up with brothers and being very much in the minority in my home now, we use a night light in the bathroom and that solves most problems...except when the very little ones need accompaniment to use the big toilet because they have been known to 'fall in.'

Many was the night...and I am so glad they are out of diapers, don't need help at night.

My issue is with privacy. Public is one thing, home is another.

Posted by: Cricket at November 12, 2006 02:28 PM

Oh, what a tangled web we weave,
When, with penis or vagina,
We attempt to deceive.

Posted by: Steve at November 12, 2006 03:43 PM

"Time to grow up in the U.S. and stop this silly seperation of the sexes in the restroom!"

Why stop there? In China, it's normal for a man in need to simply stop in the street and relieve himself against the nearest wall. The product of his relief is entirely sterile, so there's no public health hazard associated with the practice.

Why, if we could just grow up and stop being so silly about all this, think of how much society would be improved.

Posted by: Grim at November 12, 2006 05:18 PM

Sterile, perhaps, but typically redolent of numerous aromatic hydrocarbon compounds not likely to improve society's atmospherics.

I know, I know, you already knew that, Sir Grim.

Posted by: socialism_is_error at November 12, 2006 06:23 PM

Apologies, "atmospherics" should have been quoted, as here, but for a different reason.

Posted by: socialism_is_error at November 12, 2006 06:30 PM

I am an architect. The rush to provide disabled access to bathroom facilites that started in the 80's cost this country billions of dollars. The lawsuits are costing us billions more. Because of materials and plumbing bathrooms are very expensive to install and maintain. I submit it might be prudent to do a little research on how much another change in our bathrooms will cost.

Posted by: tyree at November 12, 2006 07:45 PM

"...cost this country billions of dollars..."

I'm not any more sympathetic to that claim than I am to the claim that we should re-design our entire social structure to permit unisexual bathrooms.

What does it mean to say that it cost billions?

It means that billions had to be spent on redoing the bathrooms.

What does that mean?

Well, it means that plumbers and architects such as yourself, plus manufacturers of various products, made billions of dollars.

Sure, it cost somebody billions, but not "the country." In an age of globalization, bathroom-rethinking is one of the few endeavors likely to keep the money circulating within the national economy. After all, you can't outsource your plumber to India.

Posted by: Grim at November 12, 2006 08:00 PM


Call me old fashioned, but there are certain times in life when a person wants privacy.

And there are biological differences between the sexes which, how shall I put this delicately?, make it IMNSHO very necessary for women in particular to have a place where we can be apart from men to take care of certain things, both when we are nursing or taking care of small children and at certain phases of the moon.

The idea of unisex bathrooms is utterly rephrehensible to me. Answering the call of nature is not all we do in a rest room, and women in particular need additional privacy. There have been times in my life when I have been very glad to be able to retreat to the powder room. If we ever get to the point in society where niceties like that go away, I am going to go live in the woods where things are more civilized.

Posted by: Cassandra at November 12, 2006 08:14 PM

How about letting you put 'yes'...or 'maybe'

Posted by: LarryConley at November 12, 2006 08:32 PM

Boys will be boys...unless they swap their "toys".

Posted by: camojack at November 13, 2006 12:43 AM

You seriously think tearing out a pefectly good bathroom and replacing it with another one that has fewer stalls was good for the economy? It did put money into circulation, but couldn't some of that money have been better spent doing something that hadn't already been done by someone else? Is "busy work" as good for the economy as "productive work"?
All I am saying is that when massive change is forced on the people by changes in the law or the way the law is interpreted, someone needs to look at the bottom line. Any system, even an economic one, can be overburded to the point of failure.

Posted by: tyree at November 13, 2006 12:53 AM

If you read the entry on this subject in my blog, you can find that my suggestion was to install unisex restrooms (to use the american term) in new buildings during construction. I make it clear that the cost and inconvenience would make it impractical in most existing installations.

Posted by: Suricou Raven at November 13, 2006 07:44 AM

"Is "busy work" as good for the economy as 'productive work'?"

Yes, it is. The magic of the capitalist system is that every exchange has the potential to increase total value -- so long as it's kept within the system.

Let's say we've got a set of plumbers, X. X can do a certain amount of work. Let's say that X is totally involved in ripping out and replacing bathrooms.

X makes, therefore, the maximum amount of money it can make. It is taxed on this money at the maximum level; it spends the largest amount that it can spend on consumer goods; it saves as much as it can. Because the plumbers must live near the bathrooms they're replacing, virtually all of this is done within the US economy. The US tax base and internal economic activity is improved as much as X can improve it.

Now, alternatively, let's say that X is maxed out in the field of creating new bathrooms. What changes?

Nothing at all.

What would be worse for the economy is for X not to be kept busy. Let's say there wasn't enough non-busywork to keep the plumbers busy; and the corporations were not required to rebuild their bathrooms.

The situation is better for the corporations, certainly. They have more money to spend on other things. But there's no guarantee that they will spend it within the US economy -- in fact, increasingly it's likely they will not. In a globalized world, an ever-larger percentage of that revenue will be used for things that don't improve the US economy. Say, it may be that they'll invest in buying more cheap goods from China (thus sending money to China), which they will sell at a profit (extracting money from Americans) and then buy more goods from China (see above).

From the point of view of the USA, the main thing is to keep Americans busy. It's not really important if they're busy building new buildings or busy rebuilding old ones, so long as they're busy. To the degree that we maximize economic activity within America, we maximize our economic growth.

Posted by: Grim at November 13, 2006 08:32 AM

Nothing is being "forced" on anyone. Some persons who were recently excluded from society are now being included. This happened fifty years ago when we cut the number of toilets dramatically when we went from "White and Colored" to simply "Human." Then we began accommodating the disabled, which is a pretty broad community. Just imagine being wheelchair-bound in a public building such as a court with no bathroom access the entire day.

The simple biological fact is that there are men with vaginas and women with penises. This may be news to many of you with very limited high school biology (which is most of us) but it is a scientific reality. Your gender is a brain-based function, and your sex is much more (hormones, hormone receptors, gonads, reporductive organs, secondary sex characteristics, genes, chromosomes, developmental pattern, etc.) than your genitals.

On occasion pediatricians mistakenly assign a baby's sex, so all this law does is allow for that mistake to be corrected. All an asterisk would do is remind the authorities that a mistake had been made; would you want your boss or the government to be needlessly reminded of that all the time? Just think about living with that for a minute.

Posted by: Dana Beyer, M.D. at November 13, 2006 08:39 AM

"The simple biological fact is that there are men with vaginas and women with penises."

Yeah, that's pretty much news to me.

My understanding is that sex is determined at the level of whether your individual cells are XY or XX. That is, I was given to understand, an immutable characteristic. You're either male (XY) or female (XX).

American society is pretty much willing for men to act however they want these days; and women likewise. Sex for purposes of identification shouldn't be a question of calling society "inclusive" or not. You can be as manly a woman as you want to be; but if your cells are XX, you're a girl. How you feel about it isn't really part of the question: you can feel however you like.

Posted by: Grim at November 13, 2006 09:16 AM

It's not just a question of how you, as an individual "feel".

What a lot of these "movements" like to leave out of the equation are the rights and feelings of others.

For instance, I may not, as a woman, "feel" terribly comfortable having a biologically male person in the bathroom next to me. You can tell me all day or all night that this person "feels" female inside, but when they expose themselves in the bathroom I am going to be a bit uncomfortable.

And any doctor who tells me that there will not be perfectly redblooded hetero men who wouldn't take advantage of loopholes in the law to get inside a women's locker room or restroom is ignoring centuries of male behavior as well as centuries of law enforcement statistics.

But hey... the heck with my rights, or the rights of my children. The bottom line is that so long as you can cross-dress and not reveal your true sex anyway, this is all a moot point, isn't it? Because you will not be found out and you will never create discomfort or problems for others.

End of problem. As always, discretion and good manners solve most problems in society, but there are always those few who have to shove their issues in someone else's face.

Posted by: Cassandra at November 13, 2006 10:09 AM

Dana Beyer, MD
"Nothing is being "forced" on anyone."
Actually, I did work for a great number of clients who were "forced" to change buildings that were built to code, maintained for years and then with the stroke of a pen were deemed substandard. I am not saying that handicapped bathrooms were a bad thing, please re-read my post, I am saying that too often discussions such as this speak to what we want, and do not address what is possible to do.

Suricou Raven..
"my suggestion was to install unisex restrooms (to use the american term) in new buildings during construction"
According to the AIA (American Institute of Architects) about 85% of the buildings we are going to need in the next 50 years have already been built. Buildings tend to last a long time. If the "activists" will be happy with 15% and not start suing everyone like they have with the handicapped code, that would be a different story.

I am not an economist but common sense tells me that paying workers to dig a foundation leads to greater economic growth down the line than paying workers to dig holes and then paying them to fill them in.

I know I have made my responses brief and way to general. I hope these remarks clear make my position more clear.

Posted by: tyree at November 13, 2006 02:09 PM

This whole thread is icky.

What ever happened to chivalry and modesty? If the vulgarians of Europe want to do this stuff, let's not jump off the cliff with them. No wonder the Muslims hate them.
Christ on a crutch; arguing economic utility regarding 'unisex' bathrooms? Are you all nuts?

Where's Pile On in all this? Teaching school right now, no doubt. :)

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at November 13, 2006 02:31 PM

Sorry, I believe in modesty and privacy. That is how I 'feel' about that particular aspect of needing to relieve myself in public. In doctor's offices there are usually one or two (gasp shock) separate bathrooms and there is no gender specified, but there is only one toilet/urinal in each bathroom. Which leads me to the conclusion that even in doctors' offices a semblence of dignity and comfort prevails for the patient in keeping some things private.

After years and years of delivering children all over the US and overseas in military installations and a private hospital, modesty goes out the window for the function and convenience of the attending personnel. So, in a medical facility, that would be 'appropriate.' But it isn't appropriate for a non medical place of business. I don't care what color the person in the stall next to me is, but I sure as helk will care about age and whether or not it is indoor or outdoor plumbing.

Posted by: Cricket at November 13, 2006 02:49 PM

"...there are men with vaginas and women with penises."
Posted by: Dana Beyer, M.D. at November 13, 2006 08:39 AM

Dadgum morphadites*!!! Well, this man has been "with" many vaginas...I was a regular slut in my youth.
(NOT that there's anything wrong with that, right?)

See why they call it practicing medicine?! I've got a friend who's an MD, and she tells me I'm the smartest person she knows. I don't know 'bout y'all, but that scares this dumb biker.

*Hermaphrodites, that is...

Posted by: camojack at November 14, 2006 03:49 AM

Oh the days I must refrain from snark...it just makes my head go 360, it does.

Posted by: Cricket at November 14, 2006 10:12 AM

Oh the days I must refrain from snark...it just makes my head go 360, it does.
Posted by: Cricket at November 14, 2006 10:12 AM

By all means, play right on through!!! Heh.
(I'm practically begging for it)

If you wish, do so via email.
(That's listed on my blog)

Either way, I can take it...

Posted by: camojack at November 14, 2006 11:06 AM

camo, you are just scrumptious, but it isn't so much directed at you as the women with penises comment.
The visual was hilarious, but to go further, it was along the lines of counting coup...and it kept me in self inflicted hysterics for a few minutes.

Oh, and of course, the 'surgical enhancements' and plastic surgery and so on and so forth...

I really need to get my mind out of the gutter.

Posted by: Cricket at November 14, 2006 03:01 PM

I really need to get my mind out of the gutter.
Posted by: Cricket at November 14, 2006 03:01 PM

A mind is a terrible thing...

Posted by: camojack at November 15, 2006 04:07 AM


Posted by: Cricket at November 15, 2006 11:44 AM


What you're arguing for is known as The broken window fallacy.

By ripping out the bathroom and replacing it, you have a bathroom. But if you hadn't torn it out you would have a bathroom and something else.

1) Bathroom
2) Bathroom and X

Pick the greater value.

Posted by: Masked Menace at November 15, 2006 12:44 PM

The parallel is not exact b/c of the extra factor of internationalism. Your parable takes place entirely within a village, so that both the baker's profit and the glasier's profit would have equally benefitted the village.

What I am arguing is that you can have either:

1) A bathroom, plus the extra economic benefits that come from full employment of plumbers, etc, virtually all of which will remain in the US; plus a smaller corporate profit, which may or may not remain within the US system.

2) A bathroom, plus a larger corporate profit which may or may not remain in the US system; plus a much smaller set of economic benefits from plumbers etc who are not fully employed.

It's not easy to say whether the final sum of all those products is greater in (1) or (2). Assuming they are roughly equal, however, there is a benefit to the US economy in (1) that is greater than the benefit in (2). The world's economy may be better off with (2), but it's not likely that America's is.

Posted by: Grim at November 15, 2006 01:18 PM

So why don't we just dismantle and rebuild every city every couple of years?

Sure it would keep the money more local as you can't outsource construction to India, but you would spend an exorbanent amount of money just to maintain what you already had instead of spending it to make improvements. You cannot ignore opportunity costs.

Secondly, value is not a closed system, it is not a zero sum game. If you create a new product then you have just created value out of thin air. Money moving from the US to India does not make India richer and the US poorer. If the money is traded freely, then we both become richer.

For a concrete example, when I bought my last TV I gained value because I valued the TV more than I did the cash used to buy it. The business valued the cash more than the TV. We both increased value in the transaction. Neither one of us is poorer for the transaction. And neither of this mattered whether the TV was a foriegn or domestic product.

Better win win than lose lose.

Your #1 scenario loses because that business while helping the plumbers didn't advance in the market and get's bought by a foriegn company who did advance. Now all the profits go overseas. A much much better result isn't it?

Posted by: Masked Menace at November 15, 2006 02:36 PM

Not so. You underestimate the US economy -- and overestimate its competitors.

India is desperately poor, as is China. India's famous technology sector isn't making money by being better than America's, but by being cheaper. It's a parasite, not a competitor.

China, meanwhile, is doing the same thing in manufacturing. One of the biggest engines of worldwide growth is China selling America goods -- but not good we couldn't make ourselves, not innovations that create wealth out of thin air. They are selling us things we could easily make ourselves, but they are willing to make them so cheaply that they remain cheaper even after being shipped across the globe.

America has the money and energy to both rebuild its cities and also innovate. But there are two other things to keep in mind.

First, we do rebuild our cities constantly, to the benefit of our nation. Keeping the infrastructure in top condition is part of what keeps us on top -- India and China's infrastructure is decades behind us, and even in the rich urban islands that mimic the first world, it's terrible. Buildings that look like modern skyscrapers have glass that breaks when the wind blows too hard.

America benefits from replacing copper cables with fiber-optics, endlessly rebuilding bridges so that any interruption of commercial traffic is planned and scheduled, keeping our professions and skilled laborers employed (even with busywork) so that they are available if needed for pressing projects and driving the economy with their activity. Keeping the fundamentals strong is an ongoing economic activity itself.

Second, innovation is cultural. The parasite states don't innovate in a way that threatens us. A few places do -- Japan, for example, and parts of northern Europe. But no culture has the right set of traits to compete fully with ours: Japan's is demographically sick, and Europe's likewise, with the additional problem of socialism.

What we do that is wrong is letting go of our wealth too easily. International trade is beneficial in a number of respects, to be sure. Still, to a large degree we've found parasites and have chosen to welcome them. They're good for a lot of American companies, but not so obviously for America.

Posted by: Grim at November 15, 2006 07:20 PM

Yes, we do maintain our infrastructure. But that is because it wears out. We didn't intentionally destroy it to provide jobs for construction workers.

We update copper lines with fiber optics not to give people jobs but because it is a better product and we wanted it. Any company that lays cable and then digs it up in 2 years to put down the exact same cable so that they can provide jobs will quickly find itself out of business.

Posted by: masked menace at November 15, 2006 08:52 PM

I submit to you that an ADA advocate would argue that modern bathrooms are likewise a better product. Indeed, I wouldn't be surprised to encounter an argument from economics: that, by enabling disabled persons readier access to our society, we improve our economic situation. For example, they are able to engage in the economic process as producers and consumers -- rather than as wards for whom resources must be set aside.

Posted by: Grim at November 15, 2006 10:21 PM

But a sex change and differently gendered feelings are not 'disabilities.' Those are persynal.

When I had to live for three months in a hospital bed and then use a wheelchair, talk about irritating. But I knew my condition was temporary and I did NOT have issues with bathrooms that made the statement that a person of the opposite gender may accompany a disabled
person into the bathroom to use it. And all it took was a sign.


I am going to go overhaul my roof right now.
I am feeling manly.

Posted by: Cricket at November 16, 2006 07:50 AM

But grim, you weren't arguing from a position of renovated bathrooms because it expands potential workforce and thus increases productivity. That could make sense if 1) increased productivity brings in more revenue than the cost of the bathroom (long term almost assured) and 2) the cost/benefit ratio is higher given the constriants.

But renovating the bathroom for no other purpose than providing jobs to local construction workers in order to prevent the expansion of telecom infrastructure with Chinese made satellite systems does not make sense.

If you think it does, I invite you to find all the American made products in your home and destroy them so that you can replace them with the exact same item that you destroyed. It'll keep you from sending money to Japan for that new TV, and it'll pump more money into the US economy.

Come on grim, do your patriotic duty. :-)

*apologies if that was overly sarcastic*

Posted by: Masked Menace at November 16, 2006 10:22 AM

Nonsense. I pledge to do just that duty to every bottle of American-made Sierra Nevada beer I can find on the premises.

What I was arguing for, to begin with, was this: "I'm not any more sympathetic to that claim than I am to the claim that we should re-design our entire social structure to permit unisexual bathrooms.... Sure, [ADA reforms] cost somebody billions, but not 'the country.'"

If I introduce new evidence to support that claim, in response to new lines of attack, nevertheless I'm still arguing the same thing. These changes may be costly for companies, but they don't hurt the nation.

Posted by: Grim at November 16, 2006 01:48 PM

You know, the number of comments on this entry is beginning to frighten the Blog Princess.

Posted by: Cassandra at November 16, 2006 01:55 PM

These changes may be costly for companies, but they don't hurt the nation.

From an economic perspective, they are the same thing.

The increased internal circulation (total circulation didn't change the money was going to be spent somewhere) doesn't and can't replace the value destroyed.

Posted by: Masked Menace at November 16, 2006 02:14 PM

Here's your sign.

Posted by: Cricket at November 16, 2006 02:16 PM

"From an economic perspective, they are the same thing."

That was probably true even as late as the 1980s.

Posted by: Grim at November 16, 2006 05:07 PM

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