You could be forgiven for thinking that the most fiercely contested territory in America right now is the bathroom. On Monday, the Supreme Court is expected to announce whether it will hear G.G. v. Gloucester School Board, which turns on the question of whether Gavin Grimm, a 16-year-old transgender boy, may use the men’s room.
But there’s another theater for the clash of values — gender inclusiveness versus bodily privacy — raised by transgender rights, and it may be even more charged. I mean the locker room. Most restrooms have enclosed stalls. Locker rooms are open, at least in older schools built on the assumption that students of the same sex would un-self-consciously disrobe. In these spaces, bodies stand revealed to other bodies.
Imagine the following scenario. Two teenagers have to change for gym. Both wear the skinny jeans and Converse sneakers that make up the quasi-uniform of the American middle-schooler. But one was born with a girl’s body, the other with a boy’s. The second has asked the school to consider her a girl, and the school has agreed to do so. But the girl-born-a-girl (the cisgender girl, to use the preferred term) does not want to strip in front of the transgender girl or have that person strip in front of her. Meanwhile, the transgender girl does not want to be banished from the common area like some sort of freak. The standoff will end only when one retreats to a stall to change in private. Which one will it be?