I don’t often share my opinions of political or societal issues on the internet. Face-to-face, sure, but the internet doesn’t often allow for safe expression of opinions. Think something, no matter how innocuous or inconsequential to life’s entire whole and there will be someone waiting to tell you you’re wrong, that you’re stupid, uniformed and naive, and that you should just go and die, right now, just go, for thinking what you think.
But this is my blog, a place I’ve curated to share opinions, to share experiences, and in light of certain events taking place in our country today, it is a place that I will post this.
Last week, a story popped into my feed regarding retired, famed Red Sox pitcher, turned video game company founder, turned baseball color analyst, Curt Schilling. The story detailed an incident wherein he’d shared a post to his FaceBook page (that has since been removed) letting known his opinions regarding North Carolina’s recent passing of the HB2 law. The bill was enacted in response to, and to reverse, a Charlotte ordinance expanding the protected rights of the LGBT community. Taken from an article on The Charlotte Observer, the law states that “transgender people who have not taken surgical and legal steps to change the gender noted on their birth certificates have no legal right under state law to use public restrooms of the gender with which they identify. Cities and counties no longer can establish a different standard.”
As you might expect, and as you’ve undoubtedly seen, this has become a hot button issue. Proponents of the bill have cited one of their chief reasons for support being the necessary protection of the sanctity of the restroom. If HB2 had not been passed, men who identified as women would be able to enter women’s restrooms and potentially harm or, at the very least, make uncomfortable the women currently there. Critics have responded by stating that there is no evidence to support those claims and a group of people should not be discriminated against for an undocumented possibility.
So what are we to think?
Well, HB2 is a strange beast. Not only does it set in place its controversial “bathroom law,” but it also overrides any local ordinances set in place to prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity; this concerns things such as employment and wages earned. While the equal rights activist in my head raises a red flag at the second part in particular, that is getting significantly less attention than the first part: the bathroom law. The problem supporters of the law are presenting is that if this hadn’t gone through, if transgender individuals were allowed to use what bathroom they best identified with, then it would inevitably allow for men with nefarious intent to follow a woman inside. This has led to a number of individuals calling for the nation to “take a stand” against those seeking to repeal the law or businesses taking a stance that opposes the ruling. Probably the highest profile case in that regard belongs to Target, who, in a post on their website, said, “…we welcome transgender team members and guests to use the restroom or fitting room facility that corresponds with their gender identity.” They stated that their policy is one of inclusivity and equality–not, as they put it, of “action that enables discrimination.
When Target made this statement, the internet exploded. Post after post was written in response to the company, nearly all of whom writing being someone that was vehemently opposed to their decision. In the weeks following, more than 700,000 individuals have pledged to boycott Target over their policy; Target still stands behind their decision.
Now, as an observer, it would be easy to assume that there’s something here, that because of the support of this law’s passing, because of the boycotts of businesses that oppose it, because of the fact that a penis could freely wander into a women’s restroom and no one could say boo, there would be cause for alarm–but there isn’t, the reason being that North Carolina is not the first state to make a choice to set laws forward that discriminate or ban discrimination against members of the LGBT community.
A separate article on The Charlotte Observer says, “The entire state of Maryland and some of the largest cities in the country, including New York, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Seattle and Austin, Texas, have rules banning discrimination against transgender people in public accommodation, including bathrooms. More than 200 cities and counties also ban workplace discrimination against transgender people. A dozen state public school systems and dozens of college campuses also have ordinances banning discrimination against transgender people, including in bathrooms.” During their research, how many instances of crimes committed in women’s restrooms or locker rooms by a biological male were found? 3 over the span of 17 years, none of which happened “in cities where it would have been legal for a transgender woman to use the women’s room anyway. And none involved sexual assault or rape.”
States, schools, and businesses have refrained from discrimination against the LGBT community and nothing has happened. Reason being? Well, for one, transgender individuals are simply that–individuals. Regardless of your stance on their lifestyle or their choices, they are people–people just like you and me, and every normal member of the LGBT community is as likely to engage in sexual assault or voyeuristic activity as any other person. Why? Because they are people. In fact, the majority of rapes that occur are by heterosexual white men and “98% of males who raped boys…were heterosexual.”
The major argument, in response to that, has been that while individuals who identify as transgender may not be the risk, men masquerading as women would put both women and children in potential, significant danger. I cite the article linked a couple of paragraphs up from this to show that there is little to no credible evidence to that fact, and the following to further hammer that home: In regards to the assault of children, the National Sex Offender Public Website states that, “an estimated 60% of perpetrators of sexual abuse are known to the child but are not family members, e.g., family friends, babysitters, child care providers, neighbors. About 30% of perpetrators of child sexual abuse are family members. Only about 10% of perpetrators of child sexual abuse are strangers to the child.”
While it is a potentially frightening to think that an individual may abuse a law granting equal rights and opportunities to transgender individuals, every state who has prohibited anti-trans discrimination says that they are aware of no instances of assault or rape due to the adoption or amendments of their laws and ordinances. The opportunity is there, but is not actively taken. Why? Because perpetrators of crimes, should there ever be any, are not free from punishment.
The problem then lies not in what we should do if individuals that identify as transgender are afforded the right to enter into the bathroom with which they identify, but what happens should they not be granted that right.
The Danger. The Actual Danger
The laws and ordinances that have been set forth in regards to these issues are not just in regards to bathroom policies, but any policies granting equal rights to members of the LGBT community. By passing laws like HB2, transgender individuals who are for all intents and purposes, male, but are not listed as such on their birth certificate, will be required to visit the women’s restroom. Even if no one in the restroom has an issue with it, even if they completely understand, when that person leaves, there may very well be a husband waiting outside ready to “have a few words.” And things like this will happen. LGBT individuals will be discriminated against, they will be ridiculed and the world that we would feel is more protected and safe, would seem to them quite the opposite.
Respondents to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey have reported the prevalence of suicide attempts among trans people to be at 41%, as opposed to the 4.6% of the general population. 57% of trans people have had someone in their family shun them, 50-54% have been bullied at school, 50-59% have experienced discrimination at work, 60% have been refused treatment by healthcare providers, 64-65% have suffered physical or sexual violence at work and 63-78% at school. 57-61% have been harassed by law enforcement officers, 60-70% have suffered physical or sexual violence by law enforcement officers, and 69% have at some point experienced homelessness.
So while a law that prevents a subset of citizens from being treated equally may make us feel safe, there is significant evidence to suggest that the people we would be protecting ourselves from would be in the greatest danger. And while we may argue that laws like this are for the betterment of our society, we have to remember that there is no evidence to support that fact. When we realize that, we then have to look inward, examining ourselves and coming to terms with the true reason why we are so feverishly against ordinances that would protect a group of people from the discrimination they face–because it isn’t the danger they are causing to us, or the danger these laws are protecting us from, that is a causing concern. It is something else entirely.
We may say that it isn’t out of fear of the LGBT community, of what we may not understand, and that it is all for the good of the many that we may inconvenience the few, but I think Aunt Mommy says it best when she says, “doesn’t that argument sound a lot like George Wallace refusing to integrate schools in 1963? It’s not the black people, he said. They’re not bad. But integrating them causes all kinds of other problems. It’s disruptive to the white kids who are just trying to learn. Those poor white children, getting all inconvenienced and shit.”
There is nothing wrong with boycotting Target and agreeing with North Carolina’s ruling in this matter, but if that is the stance you choose to take, then you have to admit something first: it isn’t about the safety of you, your wife, or your children that you are worried about. Maybe you believe you are worried, but there is no evidence to substantiate your concern. What you are instead worried about is a marginalized group of society that you do not entirely understand having the same rights as you, having the opportunity to feel as safe in their own country as you do right now, which is fine–but own it, and say that instead, rather than pretending it’s all about the bathroom.
An Aside: I am a Christian, and my writing this is a result of much prayer and conviction over the matter. It is our job as Christians to love, to treat equally everyone on Earth and reject opportunities to discriminate. 1 Samuel 16:7 states,
But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
I will admit that I do not understand as much as I would like to about the LGBT community, but that doesn’t stop me from wanting to learn, and it doesn’t stop me from siding with love since that is what I am called to do, and since that is what God does for me.