It wasn’t going to happen. This was not going to be a problem. Only honest-to-goodness women who were trapped in a men’s bodies by genes were going to use women’s locker rooms. Everyone would be well-intentioned and everyone would be comfortable. No big deal. Any concerns some might have about opportunistic voyeurism were an overblown panic.
Except it wasn’t. Recently, a man who did not claim to be a trans-woman just walked into the women’s locker room at a Seattle public pool and started changing and watching the women change. A woman reported him. Staff asked him to leave. He resisted, asserting he was allowed to be there. He went for his swim and then returned to the women’s locker room when he was finished. A girls’ swim team was using the facility. Mothers complained, and he eventually left. The police were not called because if he identified as a woman, then he was within his rights, and if he did not, then the staff preferred to settle the issue without involving the police. The story got out when a witness called a radio station.
Two things that stand out to me, besides the “told ya” point all of us maligned panic mongers can claim: One, the staff person interviewed said, “We want everyone to feel comfortable at our facilities.” Well, the woman who asked him to leave did not feel comfortable with a man changing in the women’s locker room. Nor did the young girls’ swim team or their mothers who were in the locker room when he returned to assert his legal right to change in the women’s space. When does their comfort count?
Or if a rape survivor was in the locker room at the time, would her discomfort count? The trigger warnings that now blanket our public discussion actually became popular because feminists wanted to advertise that they cared about rape victims. (Ponder for a second that they felt they needed to advertise that fact.) So are we supposed to accept discussion restraints because someone might talk about rape in the presence of a victim but brush away any concern for past victims actually confronted with a male in spaces where women get naked?
Two, how is it that in our panic-ridden helicopter mom culture, in which we jump at shadows and analyze every if-then daisy chain of risk, we are okay with this? Parents regularly don’t post pictures of their children on social media lest they end up leading a predator right to them in one of those if-then daisy chain scenarios. That’s good parenting. But if we worry about men with sex dysmorphia in the girls’ locker room, we are a bunch of trans-bigots projecting our unfounded fears onto merely misunderstood men?
This is common, this disconnect between low-probability things we make a big deal of avoiding in an abundance of well-intentioned caution and high-probability things we do daily because it would be too uncomfortable or inconvenient to stop. Think totally avoiding hormones in milk and meat, but blithely encouraging young women to use hormonal birth control from puberty.
These trends suggest that we are not actually assessing risks, but asserting our opinions in spite of the risks. Oh, and also “solving” “problems” that we find easiest to solve. It’s comforting to think that we can keep our kiddos safe just by keeping their images off the internet. It is much harder, really impossible, to guard them every moment when they can use their own two feet. And it certainly isn’t pleasant to have to confront others in the process.
We pretend that the easy to solve problems are THE problems of life. We ignore the hard and the real problems. Only if we are very, very lucky, does that strategy end well.