This is what gender-bender activists are constantly reassuring us will not happen if only society dissolves the last vestiges of gender separation. But Seattle is learning that it has bitten off more than it can chew:

“As far as policy to protect everyone, Seattle Parks spokesman David Takami says they’re still working on the issue. Right now, there’s no specific protocol for how someone should demonstrate their gender in order to access a bathroom. Employees just rely on verbal identification or physical appearance, and this man offered neither.”

So, what kind of “physical appearance” are staff looking for? Is there a stereotypical look that transgender people have that staff should be looking out for? What protocols could be implemented?

Genders fluidity or psychologizing gender or subjectifying gender can’t work for this exact reason. A person’s gender cannot just be whatever one thinks he wants it to be or feels it is, no matter how deep those feelings are. Gender as a concept fundamentally and intrinsically and inextricably depends on social context and cultural determinations. Even in cultures that acknowledge more than 2 genders, those genders were set and were not fluid in the sense that if a person felt he didn’t belong to his socially assigned gender, he could change it at will according to his personal, subjective feelings. I challenge anyone to give me a counter example from history.

This is what can be said to Muslim reformers who appeal to the classical distinction of mukhannathun in Islamic history. The technical definition of mukhannath varied across schools of thought, but it could refer to effeminate men or biological hermaphrodites, etc. These were individuals which did not fall neatly into one of the two genders, so there was a social category, a distinct gender. And this category was even recognized in fiqh. For example, people who belonged to this gender would stand behind the rows of men in congregational prayer but in front of the women.

The point is, however, that the mukhannathun were not the transgender people of today. There is a categorical difference in that the classical distinction was not purely a matter of subjective, personal affectation. The societal context played the overriding role in determining a person’s gender based on clear, objective, publicly accessible information about a person, their physical characteristics, their natural disposition, etc. And so it was for every society throughout human history.