Deirdre McCloskey on the bathroom battle

I was hoping/waiting to hear what eminent economist Deirdre McCloskey, born Donald, would have to say about the transgender bathroom flap. Wish granted, thanks to Warren Coats and his blog:

Before I “passed” (surgery, working at it) I was frightened to go into a ladies’ room, but I could hardly go into a men’s room in a dress. You can imagine how dangerous that would be! I was allowed to put Female on my driver’s license in tolerant Iowa in 1995. But you are right that it is unwise in such matters if nothing much is going wrong to stir things up. I’ll bet now that Iowa has rules from the state. Then it was left to Iowans’ ample common sense. My passport F was tougher—I wept to the woman at the New Hampshire passport office, and she relented and sent my passport the day before I was boarding a flight to go to Holland to teach for a year, in January 1996. So the State Department unofficially was cool. A year later I tried to get Harvard to change my degree from Harvard College class of ’64 to the women’s college, Radcliffe. The male dean I spoke to thought not. I whined, “But the State Department had no problem giving me an F passport.” With a smile in his voice he replies, “But Harvard is older than the State Department!”

“There’s more on all this in my memoir of my transition, Crossing: A Memoir (1999 University of Chicago Press).

“The bathroom “issue” is entirely phony. It has never been a problem. Anyway, if men wanted to sneak in (they don’t), they could always have done so, with or without North Carolina’s law. How is it to be enforced? DNA testing by the TSA at every bathroom door? Anyway, your house has a unisex bathroom, I presume, and in Europe they are not entirely uncommon—after all, the stalls have doors. Etc, etc. On both sides it is just a club to beat up the other side in the silly Cultural Wars, and to make people hate and disdain each other. Adam Smith would not have approved.”

Meanwhile, Hans Bader argues that the Obama administration stands on very shaky ground both legally and prudentially in trying to impose a single nationwide set of practices by way of Title IX and funding cutoffs, aside from whether that set of practices is in fact the right one. More: Richard Epstein/Hoover, Roger Pilon/Cato, Robby Soave/Reason, Neal McCluskey (no relation)/Daily Caller, and earlier here and here on the North Carolina law.


  • Given the general differences in hygiene standards, I doubt that most women either want men using their restrooms or to use men’s restrooms. In a hurry, point and shoot sometimes means point and miss.

  • Au contraire, Wfjag, During college, my summer job was as a janitor in an office building. When cleaned the rest rooms, the men’s rooms required mopping. The ladies’ rooms required scrubbing of toilets and sinks. Plus the emergency calls from tenants about rest rooms, which occurred a couple of times a weeks were almost always about used tampons.


  • There are so many strawmen in that blog post, I hardly know where to start. Especially the word “bathrooms”. This isn’t just about bathrooms with private individual stalls. It’s also about locker rooms and showers, like in our schools. If the Obama administration had it’s way, biological males, with no surgery, hormone treatments, and without necessarily even informing their parents, should be allowed to use the girls locker rooms and showers.

    And the fear is not necessarily transgender people attacking anyone. The number of known cases is very small, because 1) the population of transgenders is incredibly small, and 2) it’s not something that police depts keep statistics on. The fear is ordinary males taking advantage of the policy, which has already happened on many occasions, so it’s not a “non issue”.

    McCloskey goes on to ask: “How is it to be enforced? DNA testing by the TSA at every bathroom door?” Well, let’s flip that around. If you allow trans people to use their preferred facilities, how is that to be enforced? Asking for proof of hormone medication? A doctor’s note? Then what?

    Trans-activists have been saying for a long time that “sex is not gender”. If your driver’s license or birth certificate denotes sex, it shoudn’t be changed. Your sex at birth is a medical fact, it’s not something that changes on a whim. And it’s beyond ludicrous to whine to Harvard, begging them to change the diploma to Radcliffe! The University you graduated from is also a fact, not an opinion subject to whim. That’s simply not a person grounded in reality.