I’ve found life difficult over the last couple of weeks. There’s so much stuff happening in the world that’s either weird or unbelievable that I don’t just feel like a misfit—I feel more like an Alien.
Take the American state of North Carolina, for example. They’ve just passed a law which requires transgender people to use the bathroom (they mean loo) which corresponds to the gender of their birth certificate. (I know. You thought that was the law; always had been the law. Well, they changed it and now they’ve changed it back again.) Of course there’ve been protests. It would have been more surprising if there hadn’t been. What I do find weird is the fact that companies like Apple, Pay Pal, and Deutsche Bank have also waded in, in protest. Perhaps Apple’s involvement with North Carolina’s trans people explains their first drop in profits. They should go back to doing what they do well, their core business, and stop messing about with unreality. The State’s Anglican bishops have also joined the fray, though I can’t help feeling they’d be better respected if they were rather more vocal about the persecution of Christians across the world. After all, the thought of losing your home or your livelihood, let alone your life, is of rather greater importance than a bit of embarrassment about where you pee.
I don’t have any problem with transgender people any more than I have a problem with my gay and lesbian friends. Nor can anyone, surely, get het up about a woman like the brilliant travel writer Jan Morris, who, as James Morris, was one of the team on the first successful ascent of Everest. The thought that she would be forced to go into a Gents in North Carolina is grotesque. However, I can see that people, particularly women with children, might be uncomfortable sharing a facility with an obvious male who merely thinks, believes, supposes or hopes that he is the opposite of what his chromosomes say. One commentator has likened the arguments opposing transgendered lavatories to the arguments against civil rights in the 50s. She says she was there. So was I, and it isn’t the same thing at all. The fact that someone can even think there was any similarity just adds to my feeling of mis-fittedness!
I think all this bathroom stuff is getting totally out of proportion, to say nothing of becoming boringly repetitive. I’ve lived in America and I love America but I don’t think they’re doing themselves any favours at the moment. Sadly, they do often seem to be blinkered about the rest of the world. Recently, I read that China is to build 30,000 or so new toilets (bathrooms for my US readers) at important historical sites, for the benefit of tourists. I’m not too fussy; I can usually cope with what’s on offer. I remember French toilettes in the early 50s; I can remember in India in the 70s being graciously handed two tiny pieces of paper before squeezing into a minute tin shack with a hole in the floor. However, one particular Chinese loo, encountered in the 80s, always comes to mind when I hear about Bathroom bills. In a long narrow room a long narrow plank with 28 holes carved in it had been placed above a ditch through which water was supposed to flow. There were no doors, no panels between the “holes”, certainly no bathtubs and, mercifully, no men.
Something else that’s bugging my alien sense is ‘whatever’ but that can wait till the weekend. I shall now go and see what the hail storms have done to my struggling lettuces. Hail stones and slugs—those are realities.