WASHINGTON — As I find myself happily on the far side of middle age, I had assumed that I was now exempt from at least some of the cultural battles roaring through American society. How wrong I was. I recently found myself, despite my utter insouciance toward gender politics, suddenly hauled onto the battlefield, notwithstanding I am a full-bodied adult male somewhat advanced in years. Let me explain.
Several times a week, I play handball at a local public court, which necessitates dressing in the men's locker room. I have been robing and disrobing there for years without event -- off with my street clothes; on with my handball attire, including gloves; and onto the courts. Whoosh. Let the game begin. There is no problem with gender at the courts, or with Title IX. The only problem I have ever encountered is one of the players occasionally disputing the score. But the gender wars may have intruded upon our happy competition. We may have to hire lawyers, and maybe even a surgeon.
Recently, after finishing a match, I found myself the last player to leave the locker room and the only man in the locker room. I was unlacing my shoes when I looked up to see a large -- not to say fat — woman peering down at me. In the men's locker room. I had seen her earlier leaving the nearby women's locker room. So I concluded that she was confused. I told her she had entered the men's room. She was, shall we say, blase. I raised my voice and repeated my injunction. She hesitated and then proceeded toward me with her finger raised to her lips. She was urging me to quiet down. I did the opposite, ordering her to "get the hell out." She vamoosed.
What she was doing in the men's locker room remains an open question. She might have been, as I have said, confused. On the other hand, my wife, who as a former federal prosecutor prosecuted sex crimes for years, insists the girl was rather unromantically suggesting a sexual transaction for cold cash. This would be out of the question for me. I am a renowned hypochondriac. As for my opinion of what she was up to, I believe she was a pioneer in the latest civil rights controversy. She was an activist in the transgender movement. All she wanted to do was open the men's locker room to transgender individuals, which the Obama administration apparently also favored. Now, President Donald Trump has through executive decree closed this option down.
Well, I for one agree with the editors of the Wall Street Journal, who said, "Transgendered students deserve respect, but restroom policy should be determined by localities, not federal diktat." So far as I know, transgender individuals can use private bathrooms at my local handball courts. In public schools, they can use the private bathrooms in the nurse's office. As a general proposition, that handful of forlorn students who believe they are of a gender that was not identified at their birth, or maybe even identified erroneously at their birth, has less drastic alternatives to disrupting an entire classroom or school. There is the nurse's bathroom.
Yet the claims of transgender individuals have lately been given precedence over the claims of the, I guess you would say, gendered majority. So now, public bathrooms and locker rooms are battlegrounds for this war. What has heretofore been a noncontroversial transaction, a mundane transaction, viz. going to the bathroom or suiting up for sport, has become grounds for controversy and even social upheaval.
Allow me to put the transgender movement into historical context. The revolutionary spirit has been experienced through the centuries. It swept the advocates of democracy at the expense of the ancient regime. It swept the middle class and the impoverished at the expense of the aristocracy. More recently, it freed the underclass, the racially oppressed, the feminists and the gays. Now, it is the transgender individuals' turn. Moreover, Americans can be very proud that their country is the first, and quite possibly the only, nation on Earth to host a revolutionary struggle that takes place in the bathroom.
Still, could there not be a more sensible, less disruptive reform for this tiny minority of human beings? Set aside a toilet and a locker or two for them at any institution where they exist. The majority has rights, too. Why should a whole locker room be discomfited to appease, well, in my case, a big fat woman who seemed to be lost?