The resistance to transgenderism and unisex toilets – both from Germaine Greer here and with North Carolina lawmakers – reveals a paternalistic arrogance and threatens to deny physical reality and human dignity, writes Michael Bradley.
When I arrived at Sydney University in 1983 and found that the main student union bar had unisex toilets, it pretty much blew my mind.
The concept of the two genders incidentally discovering each other’s sanitary procedures was not something I had ever contemplated. Imagine my surprise later on when I learned that humanity is not neatly divided into two genders at all.
That’s the journey we’re on, like it or not. As the language has progressed from “gay” to LGBTQIA – lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersexual and asexual – we’ve all been confronted by the challenge to our traditional understandings of what it actually means to be human.
People respond to this challenge in infinitely varied ways, influenced by their own life experiences, what they’ve been taught and what they believe.
Obviously, if you have a problem accepting homosexuality as a valid way of being, then you’re more likely to really struggle with the less well-understood concepts of transgender or intersex status; and more likely to look askance at the suggestion that the male/female bifurcation – whether in relation to identity or sexuality – is not on solid ground.
The confusion this generates is understandable. As Q&A host Tony Jones said to Germaine Greer this week while she was making her second attempt to explain her position on transgenderism: “I thought you were digging yourself out of this hole, and now I wonder if you’ve just shovelled it back in.” Greer’s response – “I belong in this hole” – pretty much sums it up. These questions aren’t easy.