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Beware of beards in women's bathrooms

Andrew Halcro

bosom_buddies_verticleOPINION: It has been nothing more than a coldly calculated conspiracy by Hollywood liberals to keep a heterosexual brother ignorant. In short; my delicate sensibilities about men, fashion and motive have been shattered.

The current public debate over the proposed ordinance sponsored by Anchorage Assembly members to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation has spawned one argument that is a direct assault on existing beliefs perpetrated by the entertainment industry about men who dress in women's clothes.

Opponents of the ordinance claim that it would give carte blanche to men to dress as dames to patronize women's restrooms.

The problem with this argument is that it undermines some of the most memorable and, dare I say, lovable, cross-dressing characters portrayed on our TV boxes and movie screens over the last 30 years. Characters that were driven to dress like divas not for deviancy, but for economic and non-threatening personal reasons.

Army Corporal Max Klinger from M*A*S*H was a guy who looked great in mink stoll and pumps while carrying a rifle. Klinger didn't have designs on the ladies room; he was angling for a Section-8 discharge to go home to his wife in Toledo.

Or what about Buffy and Hildegard (aka Tom Hanks and Peter Scolari) in their 1980s situation comedy Bosom Buddies -- a story about two young New York advertising executives forced into skirts and wigs in order to qualify for an affordable apartment in the Susan B. Anthony Hotel. These guys weren't perverts; they were just a couple of industrious capitalists trying to make it in the Big Apple.

And who can forget two of the big screen's most famous cross-dressers? There was Dustin Hoffman's memorable Oscar-winning Tootsie character, who dressed in drag to land an acting job, along with Robin William's character, Mrs. Doubtfire, who dressed in drag in order to spend more time with his children during a painful divorce.

But all of these cinematic narratives were apparently just a ruse, nothing more than an attempt to lull us into a feeling that a man dressed as a woman was as harmless as Dame Edna. As it turns out, the argument is being made that cross-dressers have a more sinister motive.

So what about the legitimacy of the argument that passing the anti-discrimination ordinance would create bad actors by creating a free pass for any man to step from ladies clothing and step over to the ladies room?

First off, who would blame them? Aside from the possibility of encountering a respected moral authority like former Idaho Sen. Larry Craig, men's public restrooms prove that most guys have very poor washroom habits, if not to say very poor aim. Anyone who has visited the inside of a public men's restroom absent a hazardous materials suit knows they're disgusting enough to make even the most manly man consider donning some Donna Karan in hopes of finding a cleaner environment behind door number two.


But seriously, there appears to be little evidence showing that men dressing as women to gain access to women's bathroom facilities have become a problem in the more than 140 counties and cities, along with 20 U.S. states, that have laws on the books banning discrimination based on sexual orientation. The concern about bad actors appears unfounded.

In fact, men dressed as men, or sometimes not dressed at all, appear to be the main scourges plaguing women's restrooms. From a Massachusetts man caught shooting heroin in the women's restroom to a Michigan man caught naked to a Pennsylvania man caught setting up cameras in the women's restroom, there seems to be a preponderance of men dressed liked men causing most of the perversion in women's bathrooms.

Ironically, when I hear the current argument I can't help but remember the words of Hoffman's character Michael Dorsey in "Tootsie" -- "I don't like the way the horizontal lines make me look to hippy, and cut me across the bust." For some reason I just can't imagine Anchorage men are queuing up, ready to shave their legs and slip on skirts just so they can push through the door marked "Ladies."

Aside from the fact that there is no evidence that problems of bad bathroom behavior exist anywhere in the country with similar legislation on the books, let's not be naïve. If any man wanted to dress as a woman and patronize the ladies room, he certainly wouldn't be waiting for the Anchorage Assembly to pass an ordinance.

Andrew Halcro is president of Avis/Alaska, his family business. Halcro served in the Alaska House of Representatives from 1999 to 2003. He ran for governor in 2006 as an independent. He and Democrat Tony Knowles lost to a woman named Sarah Palin. He is currently taking a break from his blog, AndrewHalcro.com.