Open BookDear State Legislators Passing “Bathroom Bills,”

Please. Please. For the love of God and your constituency, find a real problem to write bills about. Because transgender people in bathrooms are not causing any problems. None. Zero.

My preference would be that you spend your energy addressing pressing concerns that threaten to destabilize society and possibly annihilate the entire human race. Might I suggest: generational poverty, mass incarceration, underfunded public schools, or Donald Trump’s presidential bid.

If, for reasons I won’t pretend to understand, you insist on creating bills related to public restrooms, allow me to suggest some bills that might actually improve the bathroom-going experience of the general public:

  • A bill requiring “occupied/not occupied” signs on stalls. The older I get, the more awkward it is to bend over and check for feet under the stall door.
  • An “all or nothing” bill regarding automation of bathroom amenities. Does the toilet flush by itself? Will the soap squirt out automatically? Will the water turn on if I move my hand back and forth faster under the faucet? How long should I stand here waiting for the paper towels to emerge? An “all or nothing” bill would help me avoid quite a bit of embarrassment.
  • A bill prohibiting the use of 1-ply toilet paper. For reasons I shouldn’t have to explain.

I appreciate your time and attention to my concerns. And I hope your next experience in the public restroom of your choice is a pleasant one.

Kind regards,
Joanna

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Dear Conservative Christian “News” Sites and Conservative Talk Show Hosts,

I imagine you and I disagree about many things. Evolution. Abortion rights. Gay marriage. Women pastors. Israel/Palestine. Military service. But with all of these issues, I at least understand where you are coming from. I can articulate the values that undergird your opposition to same-sex marriage. I can turn to the Bible passages that you quote when you champion creationism. I can even tell you all the reasons you would say that I should not be a pastor.

I don’t agree with you on these issues; I do (more or less) understand your perspective. But when it comes to your opposition to inclusive bathroom policies, I am truly and completely at a loss. I listen to your arguments in favor of forcing people to use the bathroom of the sex they were assigned on their birth certificate. I try to find some shred of reason in what you say, but every single argument I hear either says nothing or it says something that is so obviously false I can’t imagine anyone really believes it.

The say nothing arguments go something like this: You know we’ve just always . . . and we’ve never . . . and society and common sense and values.

false argumentsThe obviously false arguments go like this: If you let people use the bathroom that corresponds to their chosen gender identity, men will go into women’s restrooms and attack women.

The fact that a man followed a mother and daughter into a women’s restroom and choked the 8-year-old girl until she passed out is awful. Horrible. I cannot imagine the terror that mother and girl must have experienced.

Also, it has NOTHING to do with allowing transgender people to use the bathroom that corresponds to their gender identity. The man was not transgender. He was not even a cross dresser. He was a creepy guy who walked right into the women’s restroom and strangled a girl. Which, by the way, is against the law everywhere.

I don’t get it. I have deep roots in the Christian tradition—Baptist roots. I’ve read a broad theological range. I’ve attended prayer meetings where people spoke in tongues. I’m fluent in evangelical-ese (if a bit rusty), and I almost always understand the conservative Christian perspective, even though I don’t often agree with it.

bathroom wordsBut not this time. This time I’m stumped. I truly and honestly have no clue why you are opposed to letting people use the bathroom that corresponds to their gender identity. I thought maybe there was something in the Bible that I’ve somehow missed in all my years of study. So I did some searching.

Turns out that many relevant bathroom words are not found in the Bible at all: bathroom, toilet, pee, poop, feces, shat. None of them are in there.

But “urine” was a hit. God tells Ezekiel to proclaim the coming devastation: “Every spirit will become faint and every leg will be wet with urine.” (Ezekiel 21:7) Also, in a story repeated in 2 Kings and Isaiah, a commander declares that the defeated enemy will “have to eat their own excrement and drink their own urine”. (2 Kings 18:27 and Isaiah 36:12)

Which led me to “excrement” and a passage in Ezekiel where God relents and lets the prophet bake his bread over cow dung instead of human excrement. (Ezekiel 4:15)

Very vivid verses—but not especially relevant to the topic at hand.

I was able to find only one verse that seems at all related to modern bathroom use. In Deuteronomy 23: 12-13, instructions are given to the Israelites:”Designate a place outside the camp where you can go to relieve yourself. As part of your equipment have something to dig with, and when you relieve yourself, dig a hole and cover up your excrement.”

I think we can all agree on the basic Christian principle of covering up our excrement. Or flushing. Beyond that, perhaps we should keep silent where the scriptures are silent.

Your Sister (I can show you my birth certificate if you like) in Christ,
Joanna

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have a nice dayDear Cis Woman in the Women’s Restroom with Me,

If I run out of toilet paper in the stall next to you, I may ask you to pass me some. I would be happy to do the same for you. Otherwise, I expect we can each do our bathroom duties in peace. Have a nice day.

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Dear Trans Woman in the Women’s Restroom with Me,

If I run out of toilet paper in the stall next to you, I may ask you to pass me some. I would be happy to do the same for you. Otherwise, I expect we can each do our bathroom duties in peace. Have a nice day.

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Dear Cis Man or Trans Man in the Women’s Restroom with Me,

It seems only fair that if you enjoy the privileges of being a man in our society—higher pay, more respect, a wardrobe that does not go out of style every six months—then you should also experience the down sides of being a man in our society—nasty public bathrooms.

But, at any rate, if I run out of toilet paper in the stall next to you, I may ask you to pass me some. I would be happy to do the same for you. Otherwise, I expect we can each do our bathroom duties in peace. Have a nice day.

In bathroom solidarity,
Joanna

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Dear Sexual Predator in the Women’s Restroom with Me,

GET OUT!

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dear men

Dear Men who were in the Men’s Room when my Woman Friend Accidentally Wandered in there and Used the Bathroom and then Noticed You All Looking at her Funny While She Was Washing her Hands,

She feels pretty silly and wants you to know she was really tired and jet lagged. It won’t happen again. Probably. But if it does, thanks for being cool about it.

For a friend,
Joanna

About Joanna Harader

About Joanna

Joanna Harader‘s literary creations can be heard from the pulpit most Sunday mornings at Peace Mennonite Church in Lawrence, Kansas. You can also read her essays from time to time in The Christian Century and The Mennonite magazines, as well as various and sundry places online. She has degrees in creative writing, biblical studies, and English literature, plus a diploma that claims she has mastered divinity. In addition to pastoring and writing, Joanna devotes energy to raising her three children, keeping up with her husband’s random hobbies, and playing with art supplies in her basement studio.

Find Joanna at her website | Twitter | Facebook

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