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The Colleen Francis Affair

A little bit ago I took a shot at the Radfem enthusiasts in the form of an opinion piece and then wandered over to Bugs’ blog to poke around and see what might rise out of the silt. Pure nastiness at the bottom, but nothing to be concerned about, plus I got a few nice tidbits saved for a later date by carefully choosing my words. The one surprise they hit me with was the Colleen Francis affair. Unlike other subjects I played dumb on, this one was news to me. It came up again my very own comments section by a Radfem who spoke well and raised some very salient points. It was a very refreshing turn to be quite honest.

It took a while to cull through all the online outrage and calls to war over this, but I think I finally drilled down to the facts. It wasn’t easy as the current trend in everything is go from zero to outrage in a nanosecond. I found the police report as well as news coverage. Long story short, a transgender woman in Olympia, WA was using the locker room and sauna at her school, which is fully allowable under the state civil rights protections regarding gender. The problem was that Ms Francis wasn’t terribly shy about her current male genitalia being seen, and that the facilities were also used by a girls swim team with members as young as six. Yeah, I think you can see why this became a big deal.

Many will argue that as a transgender woman, she had every right to use the facilities appropriate to her gender. I think most of the readership here would agree on that. She clearly felt that being female, yet stuck with male genitalia, she had every right to use the facility in the manner consistent with other females, including nude use of the sauna. I gave this a lot of thought, and simply can’t draw that conclusion. In fact, I have a whole list of issues with it that made me significantly annoyed with Ms Francis as I’m not super thrilled to have to speak out against one of my own. Here is my list of reasons why I think this was a terrible lapse of judgment on her part.

1. Nobody Wants To See That: Aside from perhaps an unflushed toilet after Mexican Night at the pub, a penis is the least preferable thing that one wishes to encounter with their eyes in a female space. Not only is it a huge trigger for CSA and sex crime survivors (special thanks to Sworddancewarrior for engaging in a calm, informative discussion on the matter), but it is a threatening presence in general for all women in a place of vulnerability. It’s simply not the same thing is a gross deformed leg or third nipple or something. This is the exact reason cis and trans women are bitterly resistant to using a men’s room – no one feels safe peeing or changing there. An accidental flash when changing under a towel would be a little regrettable. Sitting with open legs in a sauna is simply way wrong.

2. Really? With Kids There?: Call me an old fashioned prude, but I just don’t see any need for children of any gender to be exposed to naked adult genitalia, especially that of the opposite sex. Colleen’s identity as a woman does not change the fact that she had male genitalia on display. Yes, yes, the human body is natural and all that, but the presence of an exposed penis is edging dangerously close to the line where sex abuse begins. There is no good reason why early exposure should be argued in the looming shadow of unspeakable harm.

3. We Are Just Not There Yet: There may come a day when society at large understands the transgender condition and that many self identified women will continue to have male genitalia for a short duration, up to a lifetime if the means and physical requirements for GRS are not met. It will also be understood that even so, we pose no threat whatsoever as on hormones, the damn things blessedly don’t work anyway. Yeah, we not even close to that yet. A staggering amount of work still needs to be done before the public at large understands our circumstances. Even after they do, it’s going to require even more work to translate intellectual understanding to compassion. In the mean time, to a significant portion of the population we remain deranged, sexual fetishists, or con artists. Situations like this really don’t help.

4. Totally Screwing the Rest of Us: Yes, it’s wonderful that the state of Washington recognizes and protects transgender rights. If the enjoyment of these rights gives enough cause to question the wisdom of these provisions, generates outraged calls for repeal, and provides a good example of why other states should avoid fiascos like this, it’s just not very good for the rest of us. “So what Michelle, are you saying we should just be good little girls and mind our P’s and Q’s like second class citizens?” Yes, this is exactly what I’m saying. We all know that if a cisgender woman acts like a shithead, she’s an exception, but if a trans woman does the same thing, it’s suddenly indicative of typical trans behavior. It sucks, it’s not right, but it’s the reality of the situation. One incident is enough to give Radfem and religious extremists a pretty potent weapon aimed in our direction. We are a very minor minority and most people simply do not have dozens of first hand positive trans inclusive female space experiences to compare this against. Because of this, every incident is a really big deal.

The moral of the story here is simple. If you are trans and utilizing female segregated space, every precaution should be taken to ensure that all females present continue to feel safe and comfortable. An exposed penis is guaranteed to change that. We can debate this all day, but this simple fact remains at the end. The vast majority of us generally have no problem using female only facilities without incident and generally go unnoticed. Many of us would also rather die than have someone see our genitalia, so there is that as well. I feel very strongly that someday this will no longer be a thing, but today it is, and we need to do everything possible to bring that someday closer to the present.

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