Change the Bathrooms, Not the Law

•May 19, 2016 • Leave a Comment

If you have been keeping up with the news lately, you have seen a lot of talk about bathrooms; in particular, exactly which bathrooms transgender individuals can and cannot use.  North Carolina passed a law, “House Bill 2,” commonly called the bathroom law that, among other things, makes it illegal for a person to use a bathroom that does not match the gender listed on the person’s birth certificate.  President Obama declared that this law violates constitutionally protected rights of transgender individuals and has said the federal government will sue the state over the law.  President Obama took the conversation even further and issued a directive on the subject, declaring that public schools across the country must allow students to use the restroom that matches the gender the students identify with or the schools may suffer drastic funding cuts from the federal government.  The conversation surrounding this very issue has been going on for sometime, it just now seems to be being a major topic across many, many levels.

Which bathroom should people that do not identify as a male or female or who’s gender identity does not match what they were born with use in the world of binary “Male” or “Female” bathrooms?  That is the question.

But I really don’t think that should be the question.

Let’s take a look at the world that we came from and get to the world we are in.  Bathrooms being separated was a concept introduced in a time when the ideas of “gender spectrum” or “transgender” were probably barely even whispers in common conversation.  Many people, including the medical world, even saw these notions as mental disorders rather than things that simply are – both ideas have been in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, essentially the book doctors use to catalogue and share knowledge on mental diseases and disorders.  Practically no one predicted that there would come a time when a separation of male/female, boys/girls, man/woman would not be second nature.

Here we are, though, when those things are not quite second nature, and the question is, “Which bathroom should these people be using?”  This question has gotten us where, exactly – gender neutral bathrooms (which are themselves awkward and raise questions), uncomfortable people everywhere, forced outtings of transgender people, and laws that the federal government says violate civil rights.

That does not seem like a productive place to be.

How about this for a question: “Does out bathroom system really make sense anymore given the world we now live in?  I believe the answer to this question is a resounding “No” and that it is time to make the bathrooms fit the world and not the other way around.

Here is what I propose: Restrooms really do not have to be that different.   Sinks are basically in the same place with all the same amenities.  Instead of stalls where you can see the person’s feet that is in the stall, stalls are fully enclosed spaces with barriers going from floor to ceiling with fully locking doors.  And the big change – restrooms are just restrooms and they are no longer divided by male and female.  People simply walk in, go to an open stall, use the restroom in privacy, walk out, wash their hands (hopefully), and carry on the day.  Heck, there can even be a stand-alone bathroom for anyone who does not feel comfortable being in the same space as anyone else.  Essentially, two restrooms with multiple stalls that are all enclosed and a single private bathroom – remarkably similar to what we already have in most places (Male, Female, stand-alone unisex bathroom).

This would certainly alleviate any bathroom issues regarding who can and cannot use certain restrooms.  It may even help solve other problems, such as when two people of different genders need to go into a bathroom together, such as with a parent and a child or a parent and an elderly family member.

I guess the question, then, is would this system keep in place all of the things that divided restrooms do?

Actually, a different question to help answer that one: What does the division really do?  I always imagine the answer to this question coming from the father of a daughter who is speaking about how he does not want his little girl being exposed to guys’ genitals in the restroom; I suppose that would be a valid concern if bathrooms really were places where guys just walked around with their junk hanging out but they’re not.  Another answer I imagine from the same father is that he does not want boys being able to look in on his little girl using the restroom; this would not be a concern assuming the stalls really are set up as I described above.

Another rationale for what the division does is that it simply keeps men and women apart from each other while they do the disgusting act of using the restroom; I hope that our civilized society of today would be willing to cope with the act of using the restroom as simply a part of life rather than a taboo subject.

Because no criminal ever disregards this sign

Finally, I guess keeping the genders separated creates a safe air because we believe that crimes will be committed if all people are allowed to use the restroom in the same space; I personally look at this idea in the same light that we typically think about burglars: locks keep honest people out and the dishonest people will find a way.  By this, I mean I do not think that the rules of “men not being allowed in the women’s restroom” and vise-versa have ever stopped a criminal from committing a bathroom crime if the criminal was determined; further, I do not think that allowing men and women to be in a bathroom together will suddenly empower would-be criminals who were simply deterred by the bathroom separation rules (because I do not think that criminals were ever deterred by these rules in the first place).

So to answer the first question regarding if my proposed system would keep in place all of the things that divided restrooms do, I guess the answer is that it keeps in place all of the things that actually serve a purpose in the world today.  One big change would be that urinals would be non-conducive to this system and that would probably go away – this would make me, personally, terribly sad, but it is a sacrifice I would be willing to make.

I recognize that this idea does not fully apply to all cases where restrooms are present, in particular locker rooms, but I am just trying to address public restrooms right now, not solve every issue facing this facet of humanity and the law.

The idea of all people, regardless of how they identify, using the restroom in the same space may seem like a radical idea.  However, I just don’t think it is.  I think we are at a point in our society where it is just not a huge deal if a female farts in the stall next to a male who is urinating who is next to the transgender individual who is changing.  With floor to ceiling walls enclosing all of the stalls, no one would really know any differently.

I say it is time we start changing the world to fit who we are as a society rather than trying to cram who we are as a society into a world that was not created to fit our present world.  And I don’t think this stops at bathrooms.  I think we need to start rethinking much of how our society runs and start trying to build new systems that coincide with who we are rather than continuing to rely on systems that were built for a society that no longer exists.  We are square pegs and instead of jamming ourselves into round holes (and every other shape), let’s just make new, square holes.

Building Our Ethos, Part 2 – 1.14.16

•January 15, 2016 • Leave a Comment

happy_dinosaurs_by_bapity88-d31ikebAs per my post from about a week ago, this is going to be a continuation of my thoughts on what a society looks like where people make the “right” choices.

I do want to make a caveat though – in thinking about what I am after, I am not necessarily after a society where everyone makes the right choice; rather I am after a society that is governed by the “right” set of rules and values.

I have some more particular questions about what this society looks like, but for now, I want to establish some base assumptions about this society that will, hopefully, allow for an easier discussion of particular areas.  More assumptions will come eventually – these are simply the assumptions required for my first question.

Assumption 1: Everyone has a means for acquiring basic needs.  As to what “means” entails here, I am assuming it would either be via a job or government support.  A definition will need to be defined as to what “basic needs” encompasses.

Assumption 2: The intrinsic goal of every person is to prosper and to be happy, as the basic goal of “surviving” should be covered by assumption number 1.

Assumption 3: People have freedom to do as they like, but there is a proper justice system in place to prevent people from infringing on the basic rights and freedoms of others.  A definition for that proper justice system would ideally be established in these discussions, but that may be an impossible task.

I personally believe these assumptions are reasonable in a society guided by proper values and virtues.  With these assumptions in mind, a question comes to mind that I have been thinking about for some time.  If people have freedom, it is safe to assume that people will inevitably make poor choices.  If those poor choices lead to suffering, is that acceptable?  Is any level of personal suffering as a result of personal choices acceptable in a society guided by proper virtues and values?

Until next time.

… In Search of Wisdom

 

 

 

Building Our Ethos, Part 1 – 1.6.16

•January 7, 2016 • 1 Comment
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Captain Kirk, a man who always did what he believed was right. The OG captain.

Since humans first had the ability to comprehend the idea of morality, I suspect people have struggled with trying to decipher right from wrong.

“Doing the right thing.”

The “right” thing has led to many terrible events and tragedies over the year.  I am sure that most people who commit atrocious crimes and violence do so because they believe they are doing the right thing.  An odd place to find this very thing is in Gundam OO – a small boy murders his own parents because he believes it will help him finally be ready to fulfill what he sees as his mission.

You would think the “right” thing would not lead to violence and bloodshed.  Or even hateful words.  I will not go as far as to say the “right” thing should not cause “pain” because, often times, the “right” thing is often very difficult and painful.

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Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle from, “Start With Why”

A reoccurring theme on this blog is my drive to find the why of a situation; the higher overarching idea that drives something.  It is not enough to examine a large issue from the standpoint of a few isolated events in hopes of finding a solution; an issue has to be judged as a series of decisions and events to determine what consistencies and trends exist.  It may be helpful to look at those individual instances to see what has worked and what has not, but there must be some sort of overarching mission or values that bind those successes together.  Think of an organizational mission and how the actions of the organizations should be reflections of that mission.

Let us pretend for a moment that we live in a society where, as human beings, we actually are all committed to making the “right” choices.

What does that society look like?  How are people treated?  More importantly, what does that ethos look like?  What ethos did we build for ourselves that would have gotten us there?

I do not ask this question looking for a religious answer or a meta-physical answer.  I ask the question with practicallity – what would the ethos of that society be?

Over the next few posts, I plan on examining what that world could look like.  I’m no Pope, just a man trying to make sense of the world.  I may quickly run into a wall, always being chased by the ideas of relativity and societal norms.  Ultimately, I may have to construct a society then decide what the overarching principles are.  Some may say that that is cheating, but hey, it’s my thought process.

What would actually be the ethos that we, as a society and as humanity, would have to build to be a group of people making the “right” choices?

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Overpaid and Overvalued – 12.22.15

•December 23, 2015 • Leave a Comment

gold-coins-201Income inequality has been a hot-button topic for the last decade or so (probably longer, that’s just as long as I have been hearing about it).  As of October 2015, the top 1% of the world now officially owns half of the word’s wealth.  That is an obscene amount of money for a very small number of people.  Over 70% of the world’s population lives on less than $10,000 a year.  Clearly, we got probs.

No – I’m not about to go on an income distribution kick.  I really just want to take a minute and rant about how idiotic I think it is that entertainers, particularly athletes and movie industry stars, get paid so damn much.

Let’s put some numbers on the table here.  A survey in May 2014 showed the following mean salaries per year for each position (in no particular order):

Top Executives = $122,060
Purchasing Managers = $111,810
Postmasters = $67,000
Loan Officers = $73,670
Grade School Teachers = $55,510

Now, let’s look at athletes.  Each of these numbers are average annual salaries for athletes of that particular sport:

lebronBasketball = $5.15 Million
Baseball = $3.2 Million
Hockey = $2.4 Million
Football = $1.9 Million
Soccer = $0.16 Million (aka, $160,000) – Hell, that looks like a regular job!

Actors and actresses?  It’s not quite as simple to find “average professional actors/actresses” numbers, but it’s safe to say that we can think of many, many actors and actress that make more money in one movie than most of us ever will in our lives.

Something about this disparity just really, really bothers me. A teacher, someone who is charged with educating and caring for the next generation of human beings, is paid $55,510 per year.  An actor, who makes a two-hour long movie for pure entertainment purposes, is paid $100,000,000.

From a strictly business perspective, this all makes sense in that entertainers get paid that much because they can.  Cam Newton, for instance, is the present candidate for the NFL MVP.  He is arguably the best quarterback in the NFL and there is no one else who can do what he can do.  He plays well and wins games and makes money for the organizations.  He gets paid more because he brings in more money than anyone else, plain and simple.  But, my God, the man plays football for a living.  Is that occupation really deserving of so much income?  The same argument can be made for Tom Cruise – he can make $60 Million for one movie because the movie will eventually make $500 Million.

If money talks, it is clear that we, as a people, value entertainment and the people that can do it far more than most other professions.  If the world was going to end and you had to buy passage into a vault to survive, I suppose the world would be very, very entertained in the vault because it’s basically guaranteed it’s going to have a hefty amount of entertainers.

1024px-colosseum_in_rome_italy_-_april_2007Personally, I think these numbers are outrageous.  And we pay so much for movie and sporting event tickets we just feed the machine.  Then again, I guess we have always been up for the grandeur of entertainment.

… In Search of Wisdom

 

 

In Search of Wisdom – 12.21.15

•December 22, 2015 • Leave a Comment

452830868_0f1406ba87_bTonight, rather than a typical social commentary on something I saw or heard today, I wanted to take a moment to think about this blog as a whole and make sure anyone reading out there knows what it’s about.

I really enjoy thinking.  There is just so much sense to be made in the world and I never want to get to a point where I stop pondering everything life has to offer.  Different people, different cultures, different thoughts – I place a lot of stock into diverse experiences, and I want to discover all I can by integrating everything I can learn and think about.

One particular lesson I learned from grad school was that writing is probably the best way for me to hash out exactly what it is I think about a particular topic.  I can fumble through thoughts in my head and talk through sentences out loud, but to truly feel like I have a firm understanding of a topic, I need to be able to create sensible and logical writings about the topic that anyone would be able to read, understand, and follow.

With this blog, I try to do just that.  I try to make sense of what I see and hear in my everyday life.  My goal is to always present information as logically and as thoroughly as possible, and to do so by looking at every angle I can think of.

While I enjoy my own writing and thinking, I also want to hear what you have to say.  If you want to comment, disagree, and engage in discussion, definitely feel free to do so!  I welcome the opportunity to hear what others think so that I can continue to grow as an individual.  It has been a great adventure thus far and it has encompassed a few years already.

I only hope to keep pressing onward in the journey.

… In Search of Wisdom

An Ironic Parallel – 12.20.15

•December 21, 2015 • Leave a Comment

longwood-university-virginiaWorking on a college campus, an unfortunate reality of my job is that I sometimes have to work with sexual assault cases – never pleasant, and always murky.  Rarely is it ever a case of a forced-upon rape by a stranger (the image that comes to mind from the word “rape”); often these cases are between two people that know each other to some extent and something went too far against the wishes of one of the people involved.  We do our best to provide care and support for both parties involved –  for the survivor for obvious reasons; the assailant because this sort of accusation can have long-lasting ramifications.

Regardless of prior knowledge of one another and regardless of the situation, a person having something unwanted done is a serious crime and a violation of that person’s body.  Regardless of intent, I believe that unwanted sexual activity is an unfortunate thing that needs to be investigated and followed-up with accordingly.

When these sort of issues occur, we frequently refer victims (both male and female) to a SANE suite.  SANE stands for “Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner.”  It is a facility established to help people that are survivors of sexual assault and to provide holistic assistance to the survivors.  My department actually went and took a tour of the local one we refer students to today and learned a great deal about the location and about the services the facility provides.  There are some awesome people there just trying to make a difference in the lives of people who suffer from sexual assault-based trauma and violence.

While on the tour, a statement was made today that I found to be a rather ironic parallel.

Some setup is required…

i-heart-consent-st_3090737bMany of my colleagues will echo this statement: it is very tricky being a sexually active male in today’s college climate.  As I mentioned before, many cases that we have here on campus are between two people that knew each other prior to the sexual assault, typically a male being the assailant and a female being the survivor (I am being very hetero-normative here, but I am also just recounting the typical case here at my particular campus).  In addition to that, many cases have similar stories – the male fully believed consent was being given when, in fact, the male had only consented to more minor stuff than sex or the girl was actually too intoxicated to give consent.  Many males have tried to invoke the defense that the female was clearly enjoying what was happening and had seemingly consented to the initial phase and, based on perceived positive body language and an absence of “no,” the males continued moving forward with the sexual activity.  This thinking reflects the idea that “no” means “no” but the absence of “no” means “yes.”

This type of situation has become so prominent that California recently invoked a new rule regarding consent and sexual activity.  Even stricter than “no means no” laws, California signed into policy a “yes means yes” law.  The expectation is that both people are explicitly (as in verbally, typically speaking) agreeing to each step of sexual activity throughout the activity and that explicit consent must be acquired before either party moves forward with any sexual activity.

An excerpt from the law reads, “Lack of protest or resistance does not mean consent nor does silence mean consent.  Affirmative consent must be ongoing throughout a sexual activity and can be revoked at any time.”  In practical terms, this looks like, “Is this okay?” being asked many, many times over the course a sexual encounter.

I have my thoughts on this law, but that is not the point of the post.  I simply wanted to give context to what sort of issues we deal with on a regular basis and a view of the lens that I see these sorts of issues through.

With all of that setup, and keeping in mind the defense presented by males in many of these situations, here is what happened today.

The nurse at the SANE suite, a clearly good person who cares about her job and the people she works with, was walking us through what a standard examination looks like for people when they come into the facility.  In describing the process itself, she said (to paraphrase):

Typically, I will start by asking if the person is okay with me swabbing either their face or their hands.  It is helpful to do that for evidence collection, but also, by asking, it helps put power and control back into the person’s hands – exactly what a person who recently suffered a sexual assault needs to help recover.  After that, most of the time I will stop asking if it’s okay to swab other areas and move forward with the process because, frankly, if you ask, “Is this okay?” too many times, often that can invoke the thought, “Maybe this isn’t okay,” and we want the person to feel safe when this examination is happening.  From that point, I continue with the examination, moving forward based on what level of comfort and consent I can read based on the person’s body language and cues.  Of course, if the person asks me to stop any part of the examination, I immediately stop.

fe-ironyI found it incredibly ironic that the manner in which this nurse performed a sexual assault examination was the exact defense that people found guilty of sexual assault used to no success: consent in the beginning, body language and cues, an absence of “no” means continue.

Hidden within this irony, I found a small piece of wisdom.  People that commit violent sexual assault, the kind you think of when you think of rape, are not right in the head.  Those individuals do not think like the rest of us and their actions prove that.  Our lack of understanding of their rationale and thought process is exactly why they are so frightening.  On the other hand, individuals like the ones I have previously described (mis-perceived consent), the exact kind that I most frequently work with on a college campus, it turns out they may in fact think a bit more rationally than they are given credit for.  In fact it would seem that they think exactly like the nurse who, everyday, takes care of people who experience sexual assault.

I certainly don’t think that lets these people off the hook for what they did.  What I do think is that perhaps they deserve a little bit more understanding and compassion than what they are sometimes given.  Too often, I have seen males vilified in scenarios like this; they are viewed as “bad people” and “sexual predators” by their peers and their superiors; their lives are shattered as a result of a mistake that comes from an apparent rational, instinctive line of thought.

Considering a nurse who gives post-sexual assault examinations can rightfully present essentially the exact line of thinking as the males I have seen in the past AND do so without question in a matter-of-fact tone, maybe the guys’ thoughts were a bit more “normal” and “human” than they are sometimes given credit for.

… In Search of Wisdom

 

American Gun Ownership Part 3 – 12.15.15

•December 16, 2015 • 4 Comments

revolutionIn a recent blog post, I wanted to explore the necessity of civilian gun ownership in America (civilian, as in non-military action).  I attempted to do so by setting out all of the gun uses I could come up with and examining evidence to suggest if guns are truly needed or even effective for what those uses provide.

The four uses I determined were: shooting inanimate objects (target practice, competition), hunting (both for meat and for sport), defending (against “unlawful” actions as determined by the government), and attacking (as in uprising against “lawful” actions committed by governmental authorities).

Prima facia, I concluded the first two uses (shooting inanimate objects and hunting) are unnecessary – neither provide anything we truly need given today’s economy.  Regarding the third use, defense, after looking at articles and information available online, I concluded that guns do not effectively provide defense against “unlawful” actions as determined by the government, therefore making them not necessary for defense.

wappers_belgian_revolutionThis analysis leaves me with attempting to determine if guns are needed for attacking.  To be as clear as possible, by “attacking” I am explicitly referring to civilians taking actions against “lawful” behavior committed by governmental authorities.  Simply, I am referring to a revolution against the government.  Without a doubt, of the four uses I laid out, this is by far the most difficult to determine the necessity or effectiveness of.  As always, my goal is to think logically, find information, and piece together conclusions.

Would civilian-owned guns be effective in an anti-government uprising?

There is no where to start this argument other than at the second amendment: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

One sentence, but much to take from it.  Laws.com does a nice job of digging into full detail regarding what the statement truly means.  Simply speaking, this amendment was put in place as a safeguard against a tyrannical government, reflective of the time – America had just won its independence from a monarch across the sea who was imposing rules and laws against the will of the people. The people of America truly believed that it was their personal responsibilities to protect the lives and freedoms of the people around them. And, as the war they had just won proved, this notion was actually possible.

But is that really possible in today’s world?  Would it be possible for armed civilians to successfully fight back against the United States government if something was to be going the wrong direction?

Unfortunately, I do not think so.

f-22-rear-qtr-vapor-burnerIn whatever scenarios exist where we would actually violently revolt against the government, I always think that the wildcard would be the military.  Let’s face it: whatever side the United States military aligns with will 100% win the war.  Staples of today’s US military include The M1 Abrams, F-22 Raptors, and Nimitz-Class Aircraft Supercarriers, just to name a few of the major players.  Among others, these three items are considered to be among the most sophisticated and powerful tools of war ever created.

Among weaponry possessed by civilians in the United States, anti-tank weaponry, surface-to-air missiles, and the yet-to-be-created anti-aircraft carrier weaponry just are not on the list.  Given the destructive capabilities of all of these (not to mention basic military-grade weaponry that civilians cannot get), there is simply no way a civilian army could ever truly win a war against the US military.

It is a pleasant thought to believe the handguns, rifles, and shotguns Americans keep in safes and in their houses would be enough to actually lead some sort of revolution against the government.  However, I just do not believe that is a rational thought.  I suppose if the military splintered and it was fighting itself, maybe a few extra handguns and rifles would help; honestly, looking at what the military powers of each side would have, it just does not seem like they would.

With all of that said, I tend to think that guns would, in fact, not be effective at leading a revolt against the government and, therefore, not be needed for civilians to attack.  While the second amendment does give a seemingly unalienable right to people owning and carrying firearms for the purpose of needing to be able to defend their freedom and their rights, it just seems to me to be a relic of an older time that is simply not applicable to today’s technology and society.

Putting everything together, after thinking about these four uses for guns (competition/marksmanship, hunting, defending, attacking) and concluding (two prima facia, one based on research, and one based on deductive reasoning) that guns may not be necessary or effective for accomplishing the goals of each use, I guess I am, in fact, making the suggestion that guns simply are not necessary for American society.

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Final Thoughts

This post certainly became fairly anti-gun, but that was not the initial intent.  As always, my goal is to think, research, deduce, and conclude.  More than anything, I just hope that people take some time to think about gun ownership and what it really means to them.  I suppose one take-away from my thoughts could be that every person needs to be trained routinely on how to shoot a gun and every adult should be issues military-grade weaponry of all sorts to be capable of doing their duty of protecting the rights of the state.  Personally, I do not find that take-away to be a very good one.

While I have not done empirical research on this, I tend to think that guns represent more than just weapons to a lot of people.  Any rational person would agree that the sum of the civilian-owned weapons would not hold a candle to the weaponry of the United States military, and yet I suspect that same person would be willing to go on record stating that the second amendment is absolutely crucial to enable people to not let the government force them around.  To a lot of people, weapons are symbolic of freedom, self-reliance, and our history.  However, I do not believe that symbolism, alone, makes them necessary for our country to thrive and flourish.

I believe that guns do not effectively accomplish the roles they were originally designed to fill when in the hands of the everyday American civilians.  And, if that is the case with guns in today’s society, that’s okay.  Like people, countries and cultures change.  If we didn’t change, a lot of things would never have come to be the way they are today.  Maybe it is time we truly examine what is working for us and what is working against us and grow accordingly, as we have always done.

… In Search of Wisdom