One of the best episode tropes in eighties/ nineties action cartoons was when the various traditionally solitary evil villains decided to join forces to try and upset the plans of whatever brand of heroes were currently on Cheez TV (martial arts turtles from New York, various yassified cars, magical japanese schoolgirls). I remember in an episode of Captain Planet, all the bad guys, whose only real connection came from a sincere love of littering, got together to try and create their own rival, a Captain Pollution.
Speaking of evil and inefficient, let’s talk about the toilet police. Like cartoon villain supergroups, it’s somewhat impressive how many different weirdos have come together to try and repeal LGBTIQ rights around the world – attacks on drag storytimes, anti trans bills in the US, nazi-prominent terf rallies in Australia and New Zealand. So exciting, watching them rub shoulders and awkwardly try and achieve goals together. Like a university group project, but even more evil and inefficient.
On paper, it’s hard to connect these various flavours of transphobes and homophobes – some use Christianity as an excuse, some appropriate feminist language, some are self-proclaimed Nazis. But all of them, at some point or another, try to keep LGBTIQ people out of public toilets. Hence, they are the toilet police, and we mean that in a derogatory, ACAB sense of the word.
If your whole life is devoted to policing toilets, you’d spend a lot of time trying to convince everyone that toilets need police, and it’s an important and serious thing to do, rather than something obsessive and creepy and weird.
Weirdos around the country this week had what I can imagine as a similar thrill to these kinds of cartoon episodes, with eight of the higher profile anti-trans campaigners/ toilet cops in Australia gathered to speak at NSW Parliament invitation-only event hosted by Liberal Democrat John Ruddick. When it comes to deranged obsession with trans people, anyone who was anyone was there – united by a fervent belief that they’d all been victimised recently during their anti-trans campaigns, with the intent of joining powers to summon some kind of powerful Captain Transphobe (ok the second half of that sentence needs an “allegedly” somewhere).
In the rogues gallery of grifters we have committed election loser Katherine Deves, the recently expelled from the Victorian Liberal Party Moira Deeming, anti marriage-equality campaigner Kirralie Smith who just had two Apprehended Violence Order applications filed against her for harassing soccer players, and founder of a non-working trans-exclusionary app who had a Human Rights Commission complaint made against her Sall Grover. There were some other people there, with similar stories of ruining their lives by being committed anti-trans advocates.
They want you to think they’re asking important questions about women’s rights (despite overwhelming evidence that most cis women support trans people), about being censored and shut down (despite mostly just being served consequences), that they are serious professionals with grave and momentous concerns (despite being toilet police). They want to be seen as the lone voices of reason. They want the various woes and censure and outrage that their bigotry has created to be seen as proof of their importance, as a reason to take them seriously. They are desperate to be martyrs to the evils of “trans ideology” because they believe it will give them credence. They are desperately, furiously, trying to rebrand from weird little toilet cops, snooping genital inspectors, believers in the magical sanctity of the public bathroom, into something less embarrassing.
It’s part of the grift – recently, (former) Age columnist Julie Szego published a 5000 word anti-trans article on her Substack, in which she slagged off her own editor and colleagues at the paper. As a result, she was fired – traditionally, you shouldn’t insult the people commissioning your work. However, she quickly published a follow-up article called “I was sacked for writing about trans censorship”. There’s an old saying, which I think might be very apt here: if you fuck around, you find out.
Like the NSW parliament event, she’s using the consequences of her own actions as a way to try and convince people to take deranged anti-trans rhetoric seriously, to pass themselves off as something worth considering by a normal and reasonably smart person, rather than regurgitated hate-speech, rather than bathroom based conspiracy theories. And therefore it’s embarrassing that ABC’s Media Watch program has taken her entirely seriously, breathlessly endorsing the idea that she’s been silenced.
The hilarious thing is that when you boil down these “gender critical” beliefs, moving past all the obscuring language appropriated from actual feminists, past nebulous concerns about gender affirming care that don’t align with science and medicine, past satanic panic style worries about trans identity being contagious, and past regurgitated anti-lgbtq hate theories linking trans people with pedophilia or grooming, their core value is in fact, deeply ridiculous. Because it’s all about a strange panic about trans people in bathrooms, and the insane belief that they can be policed out of them.
What it all comes down to (apart from a general disgust at the existence of trans people) is a campaign to keep trans women out of women’s bathrooms, which if you think about for even a second with a serious mind, is completely impossible and ludicrous to even consider. The gender critical “concern” is that trans women will sexually assault cis women if they share the same bathroom. This ignores the simple facts that there has never been a reported case of a trans woman attacking anyone in a bathroom, trans women have been using public bathrooms since they were invented, and there’s literally nothing stopping an actual predator from entering a bathroom in the first place – if they wanted to attack, sexually assault, or harass a woman, they are not going to be deterred by a sign, or decide they need to transition into a woman to do so.
Recently, as reported to the Guardian, a nine-year-old girl competing in a school shotput competition in Canada was yelled at by an adult man, who allegedly demanded to “see a certificate” proving that she had been born a girl. The man and his wife went on to call the girl’s parents “genital mutilators and groomers”.
The competition was halted, the girl left “hysterically crying” and unable to compete, and the man banned from future elementary school athletic competitions.
It’s also worth noting that the girl was not transgender – she did have short hair, however. Short hair! Someone call 911, or the evil version of Queer Eye.
When I was nine, I looked like a sick Victorian era fancy child, and I’m sure if a toilet cop ever saw me doing shotput, they’d assume I was there to haunt them.
It’s a neat (and distressing) example of what the current toxic bloom of trans panic leads to, and it’s not an isolated event. A cis woman in Dallas had a man barge into the bathroom to check she was “peeing in the right place” – she was apparently “dressed like a man”. A video of a lesbian with short hair being confronted by a woman in a bathroom demanding that she declare if she’s a “boy or a girl” recently went viral on TikTok. There’s more examples – and if this is happening to cis people, imagine how much more panicked policing is happening to trans people? Bathrooms are a place with a very specific function (pooping, pissing, and crying during the work day) – not to be battlegrounds for the trans panic culture war.
A recent article published in the Daily Mail by a British politician became an anti-trans rallying point, with the MP supposedly meeting a trans woman in the bathroom of a pub who apparently said “I will wipe my hands on my penis”. The trans woman in question, who had just been to the vigil for murdered trans girl Brianna Ghey, had actually said “I will wipe my hands on my pants” after an innocuous discussion about the inaccessible hand dryer.
It’s not just an unfortunate symptom of anti trans panic – it’s a comprehensive example of how ridiculous, unpractical, and deeply unserious the core of anti-trans beliefs actually are. I have more respect for Doctor Blight and Hoggish Greedly’s plan to destroy the Planeteers – at least they had a much more achievable plan and actionable goals involving a huge submarine powered by nuclear waste.
“I feel honored to be speaking in NSW parliament today with these amazing & brave women,” wrote Sall Grover, CEO of the non-functioning app Giggle. “To me, the solution to the gender wars is incredibly simple: create all the unisex & trans things you want. But female-only spaces, services & sport have to stay.”
Ah yes, incredibly simple. Just create a third bathroom for trans people everywhere in the world. In every school, shopping centre, whale-watching boat, space-shuttle and workplace. If it’s so incredibly simple, then how about campaigning to make a fourth space purely for bigots to enjoy?
You have to wonder if any of these toilet police people know what happens in a bathroom, besides weeing and pooing and everyone smelling some talcum powder on a small mirror? How precisely do these people think they are going to enforce their toilet bigotry? Have a security guard on every public toilet in the world, whose job is to inspect birth certificates? Well, most trans people have birth certificates which reflect their legal gender, so that won’t work. And we’ve seen that despite claims from the Cistern Stasi that they can “always tell”, nine-year-old cisgender girls are getting picked on because of their pixie cuts, so it can’t be on sight alone. I guess that means they are seriously asking for genital inspections in public bathrooms? They are. That’s what it boils down to. We have politicians and academics and other supposedly serious people getting together to advocate for genital inspections.
Besides the fact that creating separate spaces for trans people is essentially the definition of unethical discrimination, we need to understand that there’s literally no practical way to do this (that doesn’t resort to Apartheid level segregation).
It’s a deeply unserious belief, inscrutably stupid – and while anyone who believes it, who gets hoodwinked by bathroom propaganda or spreads it for their own grift, shouldn’t be taken seriously, there is a serious reason why it’s happening. It’s not JUST because these people are idiots and crooks – it’s because the bathroom has been the strange and also weirdly effective battleground of choice for bigots throughout time. The bathroom is just a useful physical location to try and enforce transphobic gender essentialism outside of the realm of the hypothetical. It doesn’t matter that it’s ludicrous and impossible to enforce – the bathroom has been weaponised against LGBTIQ people as a way of trying to make bigotry both relatable to regular people (everybody poops) and physical, immediate, beyond the vagueness of equal rights.
Bathroom panic has been a classic attack against gay men for decades – often with the insinuated belief being that gay men are all pedophiles who loiter in bathrooms waiting for children. This is precisely equivalent to what they’re doing today with trans people, and it’s almost insulting how little they bothered to update their panic rhetoric. In the fifties in the USA, for example, pamphlets were distributed telling boys to never loiter in public bathrooms because of “homosexual child attackers”. Ah dang, the gays are stopping kids from lingering in a public bathroom, a favourite pastime of all plucky youth. In the sixties, a PSA film called “Boys Beware” (which FEELS like a pop revenge track) broadcast the chilling warning that “Public restrooms can often be a hangout for the homosexual”. Lesbians and change rooms have equally been a popular point of moral panic, even cemented in the plots of several teen films. It even happened to me at school in the nineties, with some of my schoolmates declaring to the teacher that they shouldn’t have to share a changing room with me, because I was a f*g who wanted to look at their dicks. Reader, I cannot stress how much I did not want to do that.
But it’s not even just attacks against the LGBTIQ community – bathroom panic extended to the civil rights movement in the USA, where in certain parts of the south, white racism branded black men as sexual predators specifically against white women. Integrated restrooms posed a threat, with the concern being that black men would have access to white women. There are so many more examples, but the core theme is people trying to police access to bathrooms to advance their own bigotry. It’s the same language of “concern” being used today – that opportunity equals motive.
At the heart of every toilet police is an argument for segregation. While it’s easy to laugh at how ridiculous these people are, it’s also important to remember the deeply bigoted motivation behind each member of the porcelain police.
These commode cops, these lavatory law enforcers, these powder-room pigs, are trying to gatekeep going to the bathroom in order to diminish and demean the integrity of trans identity, to remove agency and dignity from the LGBTIQ community. Politicians and media who boost their deranged views, who take them credulously should understand that they’re platforming people agitating for discrimination centred almost entirely around the concept of keeping some people out of bathrooms, for no justifiable reason. They want to be taken seriously, to create a narrative of being cancelled, of being martyred. It takes attention away from the fact that their only real argument is based around having a security guard in every school who will shoot girls with short hair if they go into the wrong bathroom. This is what needs to be remembered when the cops are given platforms at NSW parliament, appear as talking heads on SBS Insight, given front covers on the newspaper, taken seriously by members of parliament, boosted as examples of media silencing by Media Watch.
We don’t need to take them or their views seriously, and we should treat them exactly as they are: strange people obsessed with toilets.