As I find myself happily on the far side of middle age, I had assumed that I was now exempt from at least some of the cultural battles roaring through American society. How wrong I was. Recently I found myself, despite my utter insouciance to gender politics, of a sudden, hauled onto the battlefield. This notwithstanding that I am a full-bodied adult male, somewhat advanced in years. Let me explain.
Several times a week I play handball at a local public court, which necessitates my dressing in the men's locker room. I have been robing and disrobing there for years without event: off with my street clothes, on with my handball attire including gloves, and onto the courts - whoosh. Let the game begin. There is no problem with gender at the courts or with Title IX. The only problem I have ever encountered is that occasionally one or another of the players disputes the score. Yet now the gender wars may have intruded upon our happy competition. Possibly, we shall have to hire lawyers, maybe even a surgeon.
Recently after finishing a match I found myself the last player to leave the locker room. I was unlacing my shoes when I looked up to see a large, not to say fat, woman peering down at me - in the men's locker room. I had seen her earlier leaving the nearby women's locker room. Now I concluded she was confused. I told her she had entered the men's room. By the way, there was no other man in the locker room. She was, shall we say, blas. I raised my voice and repeated my injunction to her. She hesitated and then proceeded toward me with her finger raised to her lips. She was urging me to quiet down. I did the opposite; ordering her to "get the hell out." She vamoosed.
What she was doing in the men's locker room remains an open question. She might have been, as I have said, confused. On the other hand, my wife who, as a former federal prosecutor had prosecuted sex crimes for years, insists the girl was rather unromantically suggesting a sexual transaction for cold cash. This would be for me out of the question. I am a renowned hypochondriac. As for my opinion of what she was up to, I believe she was a pioneer in the latest civil rights controversy. She was an activist in the transgender movement. All she wanted to do was to open the men's locker room to the transgendered, which apparently the Obama administration also favored. Now President Donald Trump has through executive decree closed this option down.
Well, I for one agree with the editors of The Wall Street Journal that, "Transgendered students deserve respect, but restroom policy should be determined by localities, not federal diktat." So far as I know, the transgendered can use private bathrooms at my local handball courts. In public schools they can use the private bathrooms in the nurse's office. As a general proposition, that handful of forlorn students who believe they are of a gender that was not identified at their birth or maybe even identified erroneously at their birth have less drastic alternatives than to disrupt an entire classroom or school. There is the nurse's bathroom.
Yet the claims of the transgendered have been given precedence of late over the claims of the - I guess you would say - gendered majority. So now public bathrooms and locker rooms are battlegrounds for this war. What has heretofore been a noncontroversial transaction, even a mundane transaction, viz. going to the bathroom or suiting up for sport, has become grounds for controversy, even social upheaval.
Allow me to put the transgender movement into historic context. The revolutionary spirit has been experienced through the centuries. It swept in the advocates of democracy at the expense of the ancien rgime. It swept in the middle class and the impoverished at the expense of the aristocracy. More recently, it freed the underclass, the racially oppressed, the feminists, the gays. Now it is the transgendereds' turn. Moreover, Americans can be very proud that their country is the first and quite possibly the only nation on earth to host a revolutionary struggle that takes place in the bathroom.
Still could there not be a more sensible, less disruptive reform for this tiny minority of human beings? Set aside a toilet and a locker or two for them at any institution where they exist. The majority has rights, too. Why should a whole locker room be discomfited to appease - well, in my case, a big fat woman who seemed to be lost?
• R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. is editor in chief of The American Spectator. He is author of "The Death of Liberalism," published by Thomas Nelson Inc.