Tuesday, March 26, 2013

This looks like a situation that calls for civil obedience

Hey, I can use the blog for the moment (before I was able to log in, see for sure that I really was logged in, and do absolutely nothing else.)

So here's what I wanted to talk about basically the... how is it that no word comes to mind that covers peeing and pooping?  Toilets in Arizona.  The bill, if passed, would cover public restrooms, bathrooms, showers, baths, dressing rooms and locker rooms, but for the sake of simplicity I want to limit this to access to toilets in public.

The bill, if passed, would make it illegal to access a public restroom if the sex recorded on one's birth certificate didn't match the sign on the door.  Basically.  Heard about it via Ana Mardoll but has since shown up elsewhere (for example on Fred Clark's blog.)

Now the only way to legally enforce such a law would be to require everyone, on attempting to gain access to a restroom, to furnish their birth certificate or a legally recognized copy to show that their birth certificate matches the sign on the door.  If someone didn't do that they'd be detained pending confirmation that they weren't trying to gain access to the birth certificate-not-matching-restroom.  It would have to be done to everyone because of the whole "equal protection" thing.

Laws like this are not made to be legally enforced and they are not intended to take equal protection into account.  They're made to fuck with people the lawmakers don't like.  Only two types of people -- make that three, no one expects the Spanish Inquisition.

The types of people who will be inconvenienced include:
1: People who don't look the way someone thinks a man or woman should look and thus has the cops called on them.
2: People who are trans, and out, but would rather use the correct restroom than the legal one.  Since they're out it's very easy for someone who doesn't like them to call the cops on them as soon as they enter a correct but, under the bill, illegal restroom.
3: People who are transitioned and use the legal restroom.  (Seriously, imagine seeing this woman in the men's restroom, would your first thought be, "Yup, she's in the right room"?  Be honest.)
4: Anyone who isn't comfortable/isn't safe in a situation where a restroom has someone not of the restroom's designated gender in it (and that very much includes the person not of the designated gender) because the bill, if passed and followed, will legally require men to use the women's restroom and women to use the men's one simply because their birth certificate disagrees with their gender.
5: Other people I forgot to mention.  Probably.

In reality enforcement of the law would be on the basis of, "You look funny to me, I'm calling the cops," except in cases where it seriously is as transphobic as, "I know you're trans, I'm calling the cops as soon as you step inside a restroom."

But besides pointing out that the bill manages to be both stupid and evil (so often we're left wondering which, here we can answer, "Both,") what can be done against it?  Well hopefully pointing it out, again and again, everywhere, until anyone who supports it is simultaneously laughed out of the room and not trusted in any capacity that requires basic moral reasoning, will stop it from ever becoming law.

But if it does become law I think an effective protest strategy would be civil obedience.  No, I didn't leave out the first three letters of the second word.  Obedience.

A lot has been written about civil disobedience.  When it works, when it doesn't.  When, where, and how it should be used.  That's not what I'm talking about here.  What I'm talking about is obeying the law, if it becomes law, as written.  Not as intended which is a way to harass anyone who doesn't fit into the lawmaker's idea of proper gender roles, but as written.

No one, with no caveats about how much they may look or act the part, can legally use the restroom labeled as for different sex than listed on their birth certificate.  And since it's tied to birth certificate, not actual sex, drop your pants(/skirt/shorts/dress/kilt/whatever) for show and tell isn't enough.  It needs to be on the document, and the only way to know that it's on the document is to have the document available and read it.

So imagine the law passed and a concerned citizen was worried it wasn't being properly enforced in the Capitol Complex (sounds like a psychiatric condition, I say as someone with multiple psychiatric conditions) in Phoenix, Arizona.  (For those, like me, who don't know such things without looking them up, that's where the Arizona Legislature meets.)  So that citizen goes to the entrances to the restrooms there and requests to see the birth certificate of anyone seeking entrance and, if the person attempts to enter without furnishing such citizen calls security (the Capitol Complex must have security) because the person using the restroom appears to be breaking the law.

That concerned citizen might get kicked out of the building in a hurry, but that would just serve to make other citizens even more concerned that the laws are being broken in that building because the person was only trying to make sure the law was obeyed, and using legal means to do it, so why was the person kicked out?  What criminal activity were they trying to hide?

Only one way to find out: another concerned citizen must step up to take the place of the first one.  And if the second one is kicked out a third one must step up, and so on.  This probably falls under the category of being an asshole, but it's not against the law.  In fact, it would be obeying the law, because a law of this nature can only function if ordinary citizens call security/the cops when someone appears to be breaking it, and since anyone who doesn't show their birth certificate to enter the restroom appears to be breaking it, stopping the members of the Arizona State Legislature from being able to access toilets without first showing their birth certificates isn't civil disobedience, it's civil obedience.  Obeying the law to the letter.

And if the bill becomes a law I think that might be an effective form of protest because I think that after a certain amount of time of that happening non-stop the legislators would get sick of it and want to be able to get to the damn toilets without having to show their papers first.

Of course, that's just how it looks from this angle, and even though I'm closer to Arizona than usual, I'm still far away so this might not be the best angle on Arizona.


  1. I think there's an anti-poverty component as well: richer people are more likely not to need to use public toilets. (Unless they're Republican politicians on the cruise, of course, but that's a separate issue. Honest.)

  2. White mutiny! Hahahaha, I LOVE it!

  3. This bill is hideously awful, but beyond that, something about it is just so inherently gross to me. I can't understand why someone is so damn concerned about another person's genitals.

    In terms of the proposed idea, I'm definitely for it. I would try to make sure to do it exactly when the legislature would be breaking between sessions though, to maximize number of actual legislative members and minimize number of tourists. After all, it never specifies when it should be enforced...