Rectifying the injustice in our bathrooms

(Mandel Ngan/Agence France-Presse via Getty Images)

(Mandel Ngan/Agence France-Presse via Getty Images)

Commentators are missing the point of the controversy over transgender citizens and their choice of bathrooms. The federal government’s civil rights lawsuit challenging a North Carolina law requiring transgender people to use the bathrooms that align with the genders on their birth certificates directly affects very few people. After all, the percentage of the population that is transgender must be smaller than almost any other protected group. But indirectly, this principle will benefit a majority of the population. No civil rights action has had the potential for such a dramatic impact or to more visibly rectify an injustice.

Anyone who attends a public event, such as a concert or political rally, will be familiar with the scene. Men saunter casually in and out of one door, not a care in the world, knowing that even if nature calls again, they will have no problem seeking relief at a long row of urinals. The line of women, meanwhile, snakes around the ladies’ room, out the front door of the concert hall, and halfway back to Potomac. Yes, Potomac. This is an equal-opportunity injustice, affecting women of all races and social classes. As Hillary Clinton said in response to one of Donald Trump’s crudities during the debates, it simply takes them longer.

But the injustice only begins there. The women standing in line must worry whether they will get back to their seats in time for Act 2, which can cause nervous tension, which can make their discomfort even worse than a man’s in a similar predicament.

Just as affirmative action is designed to compensate for generations of inequality between whites and African Americans, rectifying this other injustice will require at least a generation of overcompensation. Urinals must be removed and toilet stalls added, until women have an opportunity to relieve themselves that is equal to men’s. That means more toilets than urinals.

You think I’m joking, and I am — sort of — but that’s only because I’m a man. For women, it’s no laughing matter.