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Editorial: Gender bender

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The struggle for human rights ennobled by the sacrifice of men like the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., South Africa's Nelson Mandela has come to this. The American Civil Liberties Union is bringing suit against a Jackson Heights landlord who refuses to let men wearing dresses use the ladies room in his office building.

The problem began when a tenant, the Hispanic AIDS Forum, began serving clients that are classified as "transgendered individuals."

Transgendered people live much of their lives in the gender opposite their anatomical birth sex, dressing and assuming characteristics of the other gender. They are not to be confused with the average cross dresser who could be a heterosexual man who happens to like to wear something a little frilly now and then.

When the Hispanic AIDS Forum began allowing clients to use the restroom that corresponded to the gender of their preference rather than the restroom that corresponded to the anatomy of their birth, they lost their lease. The city's human rights law is vague when it comes to transgender issues. It is clearly illegal to discriminate against anyone based on his or her sexual preference. Normally this applies to housing and employment matters. It is not clear whether the law protects the rights of men wearing dresses to use the ladies room.

In essence the ACLU is arguing that any man who "identifies" as a woman has the right to use the ladies room. The civil liberties lawyers say that a man wearing a dress entering a men's room might be subject to ridicule and even violence. Imagine for a moment that two men are standing shoulder to shoulder at the urinals and one is wearing a dress and singing "I am woman watch me roar." It could get ugly.

The landlord is concerned that women with more traditional values may not be comfortable sitting in the stall next to a person who is obviously a man wearing a dress. There is a reason why most public institutions have separate men's and ladies restrooms. Not the least of which, of course, is security.

If the ACLU succeeds in its action against this landlord, it will be setting a dangerous precedent. If a landlord can be forced to allow men - we are speaking in the most restrictive anatomical terms - to use the ladies room, then every public building, including restaurants, theaters and ballparks, may be forced to allow patrons to use the bathroom that corresponds to the gender of their preference. At the healthclubs, a man who feels like woman could demand the right to use the woman's locker room and vice-versa.

This is nuts.

Transgendered people have the right to assume the characteristics and gender of the opposite sex. But they must also respect the rights of men and women to use traditionally gender-specific facilities.

Organizations that cater to large numbers of transgendered clients should open offices in buildings where they can build their own private restrooms that are not gender specific. Those who demand tolerance of others should also being willing to demonstrate a little tolerance.

Once again the ACLU has gone to the furthest reaches of the fringe to champion the questionable rights of a vague minority with no respect for the feelings, rights and values of the larger society.

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