In the struggle between orthodoxy and progressiveness my personal views are a hodgepodge that focus on equal opportunity and protection under the law. Egalitarian societies should neither handicap nor benefit one segment of a population at the expense of another. There are numerous examples when the balance of freedom and liberty is pointedly skewed against a minority. When this is the case it is our duty as citizens to speak out against inequity and champion those who struggle against an oppressive or tyrannical system.
It seems obvious that the LGBTQ community represents a minority that has been denied both equal protection and basic equal rights since prior to the founding of the United States of America. Beatings, deaths, denial of security clearances, unequal access to housing, arrest on the street for activities done in the privacy of their own homes and the ever present fear of being fired from a job for “being queer” are just a handful of examples in which the LGBTQ have been discriminated against in gross and unfair manners. Apologists who deny discrimination are both absurd and on the wrong side of the freedom pendulum. There is no law in our country that states that we have to approve or agree with all the actions of our neighbors but as we are all human beings we are all entitled to legal protection in regards to discrimination.
I am pleased to say that during my lifetime many advances have been made concerning the rights of LGBTQ to marry as well as to work and live where and how they choose. To this I say amen. Each of us is indeed entitled to, “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Regardless of the obvious need to provide equal protection and opportunity to LGBTQ there is a large minority who believes that to do so is contrary to divine decree. Many times the appeal to deny equal rights is stated baldly, perhaps accompanied by a quote from Leviticus, in which the self-righteous quote scripture and allude to a need to stone to death men who lie with men. In response I grant that feeling and spewing hatred is a free speech right but that I thank God above that we are a nation of law and not a theocracy that cherry-picks Biblical text in the hope of creating laws that deny basic civil rights to those with whom we disagree. In a civil society civil rights must trump religious bigotry.
The progression of freedom is never without consequence. When mores of western society that have existed for millennia are swept away a void or vacuum is left and nature does indeed abhor a vacuum. The dissatisfaction that many feel concerning a decree by the United States Supreme Court that effectively threw out what had been essentially a cornerstone of state ratified terrorism against LGBTQ is not just a slice of crow but rather an entire pie and has led to backlash by many who are confused and unsure what direction our country is heading. Confused and scared people seldom act in a rational and loving manner and those that are in opposition to equal rights for LGBTQ cry out that their civil rights are being denied: The right to discriminate and deny services, the right to intimidate and bully, the right to carry on as they have for hundreds upon hundreds of years. Their argument is specious. It is the argument that denied services to blacks, to Jews, to Catholics, Mormons and countless “other.”
Legal discrimination based on sexual preference is as absurd and unjust as that based on religion, race or creed and has no business being part of the United States’ legal code. “With liberty and justice for all” must mean just that, but alas the old guard has a new rallying point. The bulwark of those in opposition to LGBTQ equality is code named “bathroom,” and it is a powerful metaphor on how foully this fight for liberty is being treated; it is also nothing to sneer at.
When I first heard people supporting North Carolina’s position on gender identification and public restroom usage I thought, “Great, here we go again. Just like in the seventies when people used uni-sex bathrooms as a tool to fight the Equal Rights Amendment. Don’t we ever learn?”
I looked at the bathroom debacle as a farce, a red-herring that traditionalists were using to try and turn back the calendar to a time when discrimination against LGBTQ was both ubiquitous and legal. I envisioned trans people simply wanting to use the bathroom of their choice and being denied that right by bigots. To me the transgender bathroom boogeyman was at face value both absurd and a symbol around which a closed minded minority might rally. I laughed, I smirked, I shook my head. Then I started listening to the right and changed my mind.
Well, sort of. The right’s superficial argument is not that trans people are the issue but rather that perverts and pedophiles can use the bathroom transgender identification laws to enter women’s and girls’ locker or bathrooms and that law enforcement can’t stop them. Right or wrong this is a good argument because it makes those who argue against restricting bathroom/locker access appear foolish. Who doesn’t want to protect little girls or defenseless women from hormone crazed psychopaths hellbent on rape? And I am certain that many people who propose that argument truly believe it; not that they’re fooling me. Just because someone truly wants to protect little girls doesn’t mean that they can’t also wish for the good ol’ days when queers were in the closet and it was open season on any that dared venture out it. (And, no, I do not believe that everyone who feels strongly about overturning transgender accessibility to the bathroom of their choice is a hate filled bigot. I do, however, think that much of the concern about predatory perverts storming the girls’ bathrooms is just a polite veneer on an ancient and accepted form of bigotry.)
So where does that leave us? If we believe that LGBTQ should have equal rights under the law what should we do when confronted by a right-winger who brings up transgender bathroom segregation/integration? My first response would be not to fall for the trap. Focus on the need for equality, the long history of discrimination and the need for all citizens to have equal rights. After all, chances are pretty high that each of us has shared a bathroom with a transgender person in the past and not even known it. I advise not biting into the argument unless you know the person with whom you are having a discussion and you are confident that he’s not simply bating you because this is one area where the waters are so muddled that you might just think you were looking at a toilet.
Oh, and to all the transgender folks out there? I hope you just keep using the bathroom that you think is appropriate because here in the good old USA we also have a right to privacy.