After our camping trip was cut short by a freak winter storm, we decided to go check out Chapel Hill and Durham, North Carolina, where the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and Duke University are located, respectively. UNC was chartered in 1789 and began accepting students in 1795, making it the oldest public university in the United States. (I would have guessed the University of Virginia, but UNC is actually decades older.) Duke was founded in 1838 (though it moved to the Durham campus much later).
Both of these are prestigious universities that offer educations comparable to the Ivy League. We were eager to see their campuses because we considered both of them options for our daughter to apply to eventually. My father-in-law attended Duke University for his PhD, so our family is very familiar with the school.
We stayed at the Carolina Inn, a somewhat posh hotel that is part of the UNC campus. The hotel was the definition of Southern charm, inside and out. And it definitely beat sleeping in a tent in frigid weather.
Anyway, this two-day trip proved to be quite the education on the state of woke culture. Longtime readers know that I tend to think the culture wars are soul-sucking manufactured bullshit. I am existentially exhausted with them and wish they’d go away. Watching people on the far-left and the far-right feud has become sort of like watching monkeys in the zoo tossing their poo at each other because that’s what decades of abject boredom does to an organism. In this case, the boredom that comes with being Aggressively Online.
I think most Americans grok that these groups will only become more and more extreme because they operate in intellectual silos. In a rigid, ideologically homogenous environment, you can only distinguish yourself from your peers by being more radical than the other radicals. It’s a negative reinforcement loop for which our country has become a captive audience. And the Chapel Hill community is an ideologically homogenous environment to the point of feeling like a giant cult. It’s a shame what politics has done to what used to be a quaint and enjoyable place.
I saw a lot of behavior around campus that I honestly could not invent if I tried. The thing that stuck out the most to me, however, was the prevalence of “gender-neutral” bathrooms.
Now I do not mean unisex bathrooms, where you have individual bathrooms that anyone could use – which I have no problem with at all. I am talking about Ally McBeal bathrooms, with several stalls and urinals on the wall that are utilized by the entire gender spectrum, if you will.
This made visiting the campus with a 10-year-old girl rather frustrating. They legitimately expected me to take a young girl into a bathroom where an adult man is at the urinal with his schlong hanging out. In the name of equity or diversity or something. It was downright disgusting. I wouldn’t want to do it myself, but with a kid? Absolutely not. And I think any adult who believes this sort of scenario is acceptable should probably be on a government watchlist.
This was not one place there that was run by an activist, either. It was the hot new trend at places all around the university. It’s what they are doing now.
Observing these polarizing shifts in what are ultimately questions of sexual morality is starting to feel like a bad psychedelic trip. You’d think they could not come up with anything more insane than whatever their previous fetish was, but nope, they can and will concoct some fresh new hell to shove down your throat.
Not that long ago, college campuses (and mainstream media personalities that covered campus culture) were obsessed with sexual violence on campus. If you recall, Duke was even the subject of an infamous hoax involving a fictitious gang rape. My own alma mater (Baylor University in Texas) watched its top-ranked football program completely disintegrate over rape claims and an alleged cover-up. The news made it sound like if you were a woman in college, it was practically a statistical certainty that you would be sexually assaulted at some point. There were endless debates about Title IX and who should be responsible for providing due process.
Now it’s like there is zero concern for the safety of women on and around campus. (And girls, as both these universities offer pre-college programs.) You are expected to share spaces where you will be partially naked and vulnerable with men you don’t know. The physical security of women and girls rapidly became less important than the perceived dignity of people with non-traditional understandings of gender. And I suspect an unspoken component of these arrangements is the thrill of pissing off the trads. That kind of juvenile trolling is also now more important than safety concerns.
Sign on Ally McBeal bathroom:
This, at a different location, seems to be some kind of attempt to create unisex bathrooms. I’m not sure.
It’s like a trigger warning for places to pee, I guess. I have never been so relieved to return to “normal” South Florida.
After we came back, I started researching the gender-neutral bathroom phenomenon. Apparently there is a big push in some places to do this in K-12 public schools as well. From the number of very recent articles about gender-neutral bathrooms on Google, it would not surprise me at all if this will turn into this election cycle’s pet fabricated outrage. Gendered bathrooms are for fascists!
Here’s a piece from the Los Angeles Times on the effort to have gender-neutral bathrooms and gender-neutral locker rooms in Long Beach public schools. Their response to safety issues: (1) you’re a bigot for even taking issue with this, and (2) everyone knows sexual assault and harassment are illegal, so your fears are unfounded. (Now do guns, lol.) Administrators quietly put them in place and had to back off after parents lost their minds:
I’ve spent the last two weeks reporting on a Long Beach high school’s plan to build a gender-neutral locker room. I assumed this would be a straightforward story about how school facilities’ design is moving in the direction of inclusivity. Instead, I ended up writing about the project being paused after a small group of community members spoke out against it, and what that has to do with an unprecedented wave of legislation that seeks to restrict the rights of transgender youth.
High school students in Long Beach began advocating for multi-stall, all-gender restrooms in 2018. These teens took on the emotionally exhausting task of recounting their experiences of being bullied in bathrooms to school leaders, educators and parents. Many times, their only option was to use the bathroom in the nurse’s office, which was stigmatizing and unintentionally outed students who had not yet shared their gender identities with their classmates. Some kids opted not to go to the bathroom at all, making it hard to concentrate in class — and in some cases leading to urinary tract infections.
The district listened. By January 2020, Long Beach Unified had quietly opened multi-stall bathrooms at three high schools. There was little to no opposition at the time and no press. The district now requires all new school construction to include gender-neutral facilities.
Enter the new aquatics center at Wilson High School, the first facility to be built since this shift. The district conducted focus groups on locker room design with 60 students. Participants, regardless of gender identity, consistently described feeling uncomfortable in the communal showers and changing areas. Many brought up body image and bullying.
Wilson High’s locker room design reflects this feedback. Each stall includes a shower, changing area, bench and storage nook. The partitions between each stall would extend nearly to the ceiling and floor, and waist-high lockers would allow for coaches to easily supervise the space.
Community members began speaking out against the project at Board of Education meetings in early December, just after the right-wing website Breitbart published a piece decrying the plan. Fewer than 20 people publicly voiced opposition to the locker rooms (to learn more about their arguments, I encourage you to read the story). That was still enough for the district to pause the plan while it gathered more input.
I spoke with Christopher Covington, an organizer at Genders & Sexualities Alliance Network who has worked closely with Long Beach students around this issue. It’s likely that many people who oppose gender-neutral bathrooms and locker rooms don’t know a trans person personally, they said.
“They don’t understand the challenges young trans people face on school campuses, and how creating a facility like this could potentially support them,” Covington told me.
Consider, for example, what it’s like to be a transgender boy in high school. Maybe he’s yet to transition or come out. One day, he chooses to use the restroom that aligns with his gender identity because using the girls’ restroom is emotionally distressing. It’s in this kind of situation where many gender-diverse students are harassed, questioned and — in the worst cases — physically harmed, said Carla Peña, manager of professional development at Gender Spectrum, an organization that works to create gender-inclusive environments for kids and teens.
In 2013, California became the first in the U.S. to enshrine into law the right of transgender students to choose bathroom and locker rooms that match their gender identity. Three years later, the state required all single-occupancy public toilets to be gender-neutral by spring 2017. Although advocates say that this was a step in the right direction, many schools complied with the law by letting students use the bathroom in the nurse’s office, which inevitably singled them out.
Peña estimates that maybe a quarter of high schools nationwide have some sort of gender-neutral bathroom option — and that’s being generous, she said. Most of those are of the nurse’s bathroom variety. In 2019, a national survey by the education organization GLSEN found that 45% of LGBTQ+ students avoided using gender-segregated school bathrooms and 44% avoided locker rooms because they felt unsafe or uncomfortable.
Multi-stall, inclusive facilities remove these barriers, Peña said: “If I’m not worried about getting my basic needs met, or whether or not using the bathroom will out me, I have less anxiety and more energy to be present and learn.”
According to advocates, inclusive facilities benefit all pupils, regardless of gender identity. “We know that the availability of spaces at schools make students overall feel safer,” said Joel Jemino, youth services manager at the Long Beach LGBTQ Center. “It’s a clear message from the school that this is a place where they are included, that — no matter what — they have a right to safety.”
Such bathrooms and locker rooms also serve students with physical disabilities who have caretakers of a different gender. And they teach young people the importance of respecting people in all of their identities, how to share spaces with others, and privacy and boundaries.
Teens seem to get this. School leaders in Long Beach told me that students overwhelmingly support the locker room plan. “They’re like, ‘Why wouldn’t we be doing this?’ ” said Tiffany Brown, the district’s deputy superintendent. The opposition is almost solely led by adults.
The most commonly voiced concern these days against communal, all-gender bathrooms is that students — particularly girls — will be harassed or assaulted by the opposite sex. This belief has roots in the historical argument that trans people are the ones to be feared in bathrooms, advocates told me. But that’s a perspective that wouldn’t be well-received in a politically progressive and LGBTQ-friendly city like Long Beach.
At the end of the day, the safety issue is a moot point, said Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen, executive director of National Center for Transgender Equality. If students are being harassed in bathrooms, that’s a school-climate issue, not a gender issue.
“Harassment is still illegal in a gender-neutral facility,” he said. “Protections and norms around acceptable behavior still apply.”
The article is somewhat amusing because it unwittingly speaks to the slippery-slopeness of woke causes. You give and inch and they’ll take a mile. You’ll be considered an enlightened progressive when you give an inch, but you will be back to being a bigot when you are shocked by the mile. Repeat ad nauseam.
This stuff is so insane, you really have to wonder who is cooking it up. My on-going theory has been that all the woke stuff started when Planned Parenthood replaced labor unions as the big money behind Democratic machine politics. Unions were interested in banal topics like wages and workplace safety. But Planned Parenthood was necessarily invested in identity politics. So they blew up the “party of the working class” in favor of branding Americans with phobias and ism’s. They are completely dependent on keeping metro areas batshit crazy with increasingly bizarre purity tests, as they have no natural constituency anymore.
As the number of abortions being performed annually has plummeted for a litany of reasons, Planned Parenthood moved into offering hormone therapies, etc. Now they are using the political machine they have purchased to try to make gender issues a bona fide marketplace. There is big money behind convincing a generation to question something as basic as their gender. Hormones, surgeries, psychiatric therapy, new school construction (after locker room focus groups!), new curricula. With enough of an authoritarian push, it’s a promising cash cow.
The only problem is American parents.