Bathroom liberty for all

Enough arguing. Enough posturing. Enough beating up each other. It’s time for a resolution which serves all. In this essay, I propose the solution.

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I care about the needs and rights of our trans youth, but I also care equally about the needs and rights of our youth who have been sexually assaulted. And our youth who are socially awkward or overly shy. And our youth whose family or religious upbringing is more strict than the general culture’s. And any other category one might imagine, and let us imagine them so that we understand that all youth potentially have serious challenges in the many facets of social life.

Regarding our nation’s youth, President Obama’s administration last week brought the bathroom debate to the entire nation. While no new law was fashioned, plenty of excitement was created.

Attorney General Loretta Lynch said, “There is no room in our schools for discrimination of any kind, including discrimination against transgender students on the basis of their sex. This guidance gives administrators, teachers and parents the tools they need to protect transgender students from peer harassment and to identify and address unjust school policies.”

One reaction to this informed me that both the Fourteen Amendment and the Civil Rights Act provide for the full rights of all Americans, which would mean that all people are allowed to use the bathroom which is right for them.

These bathroom concerns are only about discrimination, right?

Not so fast.

As a transgender person, I long to be protected, I desire full civil rights, and I appreciate every privilege the average American enjoys. Equally, I strive to care for all persons affected by any situation.

I long for this to be the attitude of every American.

Life provides us with countless opportunities to practice the Golden Rule, to treat others the way we want them to treat us. Sadly, this flies in the face of our selfish nature, which wants the other guy to think of my needs first.

And so we hear the trans community screaming for its rights, while forgetting the needs of others. And so we hear from every other sector screaming for its rights, while not giving a hoot about trans people.

Some equate these days with those of African Americans’ fight for their deserved rights. Where I find many comparisons, this is not entirely the same. The similarities end when there are honest sensitivities.

When whites got the heebie-jeebies over things like using the same water fountain or dining at tables next to blacks, their anxieties, fears, even hatred, were borne of prejudice, of deep-seated biases which were not based on facts. Thus, they were dishonest.

In the bathroom debate, there certainly are dishonest feelings, prejudices held by many. They are heard plenty. Once again last week, the popular blogger, Matt Walsh, wrote on the topic and he continues to refer to us as “transgendered”—always in quotes, as if we are not real—and calls us “confused.” The conservative The Federalist posted this piece in light of last week’s government letter to schools: “Obama Threatens Schools: Let Men in Little Girls’ Room or Else.” The readers of both of these have added their “hear, hear” affirmations.

There are plenty of people who are transphobic. There also are plenty of people who have honest concerns, real sensitivities, even true fears, which have nothing to do with trans folks.

As I have been debating this heavily, I have been given a lesson in not having grown up female, a person who never was abused just because she was there. I have heard from several women who have been sexually assaulted. It is not uncommon for these women to carry a phobia for spaces where they might be prone to a man who has harmful desires.

I checked several sources for statistics. I find these two numbers to be accurate and eye-opening:
• Nearly 1 in 5 women have experienced a completed or attempted rape.
• Nearly 1 in 2 women have experienced some form of sexual violence.

This simply is unacceptable.

I really am not a fan of comparing numbers, but many are, so here goes: The number of women who have been sexually assaulted or had sexual violence carried out against them dwarfs the number of transgender people. While this shall not be cause for any lessening of the concerns for we trans folks, I take very seriously how many others are holding cards at this table.

We trans folks are far from the only people who long for peace and comfort in using our desired restrooms.

Since the government’s letter focused on schools, I will now do that. School culture varies by size and type of school, size of town, area of the nation. This is not a one-size-fits-all situation because we do not live in a one-size-fits-all world.

Many school districts have been dealing with this issue for years. I have read some marvelous success stories where concerned people, with helpful spirits, acted wisely and resolved their issues. For the most part, you and I were never aware of these because they were handled discreetly.

As with the need to remember the adult women who are vulnerable, how much more children? Too many children have been sexually, physically, or emotionally abused by adults and peers. But, a child need never have been sexually hurt to experience honest anxiety over these bathroom issues. Children do not have the benefit of maturity, of experience. If they are very young, they might know little about the sexes. If they are teens, they very possibly experience plenty of awkwardness regarding their changing body, sex, the opposite sex, and peers. Add into the mix those who are socially awkward, reared in stricter homes and churches, or are just plain shy. And one never knows when terribly challenging gender identity issues are brewing, or a young person already identities outside of the male/female standard.

I was so shy in high school, with my own gender identity issues always simmering under the surface, that I never once used a regular restroom while in high school.

I loathe the forcing of anything on anyone when concerns are honest. I find the concerns of parents, of women, of children to be genuine.

The cry we hear is “children’s safety.” “Safety” is more than concern for things physical. “Safety” includes emotional well-being.

Last week, a friend wrote, “How come Americans always argue with each other instead of working together to find solutions?” I believe I have fallen upon a solution when I remembered the Americans With Disabilities Act.

When this act was made law, it put the vast majority of American stores, schools, hospitals, churches, and workplaces into the spot of having to change or add to bathrooms, not to mention some entrances, sidewalks, and parking places. This law cost many establishments a lot of money to come into compliance.

But they did it.

And the USA is better for it.

And the number of people with disabilities who use these bathrooms, these good parking places that often remain empty, these . . . is how many? It doesn’t matter. Americans with disabilities matter, and so the law was wise and just and necessary.

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Plenty of other countries already have figured out what we are arguing, but if we must do things The American Way then let us commission some creative designers, builders, and architects to draw up plans to make our bathrooms and locker rooms safe for all, with privacy levels which meets everyone’s needs and standards that span the spectrum of public places.

As several have said, all of the hullabaloo around bathrooms have been a solution in search of a problem. What had been a non-issue to almost the entire population now is being talked about as much as The Donald and The Hillary. Now that it is this huge issue, it must be addressed.

Echoing the Americans With Disabilities Act, I call for the Bathroom Liberty for All Act, which would address both restrooms and locker rooms, and set standards for every setting as affected by the Disabilities Act.

Every American deserves to know that wherever he, she, or they might be, the law is the same, so they don’t have to question whether there is a safe place or what the law is in that place, so their expectations are always the same, just as with disabled Americans.

What do we do in the interim? Well, what did we do for our Americans with disabilities before we made the many required updates?

Until we can sort this out and remodel our bathrooms and locker rooms, let us be honest with our concerns and fair with our neighbor. Drop the propaganda pieces. Stop the shock videos. Cite statistics accurately. Cease with unfairly portraying trans folks AND care for the weak and vulnerable and sensitive of every age and situation in life.

I promise that I will practice the Golden Rule toward you. Will you promise the same toward me?

Let us make into law the Bathroom Liberty for All Act. Let us do it now. Let us quell all concerns so that we can move on and once again provide all Americans what our great land of freedom has always offered.

Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

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To a concerned mother

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Yesterday, on a Facebook thread regarding transgender folks and bathrooms, a newer friend of mine posted the following, which I have abridged only for length.

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As you know Gina, I am new to the understanding of the transgender world as far as understanding what all you go through. Because of you and others I have reached out to for real life experiences and what a transgender person goes through I am looking at this bathroom issue from both sides.

Seventeen years ago I went out with my mother-in-law for lunch with my newborn. I got up from the table and went to a family bathroom to breast feed my baby. I didn’t want others to be uncomfortable with me feeding my baby in the most natural, healthy way.

As a victim of assault as a young teenager, I am still very sensitive of potential danger. I have raised three girls and have done everything in my power to keep them safe, as I would have with boys. While I have said to you before with the school situation that brought me to you for understanding and information, I don’t want anyone to be put at risk for any harm for being their true self. While I don’t fear someone whom is transgender, I don’t agree with the gender specific areas being open for anyone male or female to enter them, Those out to cause harm to another are always looking for easy prey and I believe this makes it easier for them.

Most areas have family restrooms for many reasons, fathers out with their young daughters, etc., to give them a safe place to do their business without sending them into a bathroom alone or taking their daughter into a men’s bathroom where they stand against the wall. Am I being insensitive by wanting the gender specific areas to remain and the family/gender neutral areas to be single occupancy? For the potential of being a little safer I have a hard time believing that I am.

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Dear friend ~

You betcha you are on guard for your children, just as I was with my four kids.

I totally understand the desire for privacy, such as you describe, and those who have experienced terrible personal assaults as you have. I admire you for not wanting to make others uncomfortable, and feel the same way about myself.

One never knows the history or current mind-set of the many strangers which might be encountered at any given time. Everyone has baggage, and some folks out in the world have great personal struggles, fears, concerns, and needs which are impossible to see simply by observing the person.

One also hopes that people will simply not be paranoid. Yes, our guard goes up in the situations and aftermaths you describe. Even so, that does not make the risk go up, only the sense of risk. I am reminded of a friend who is extremely afraid of bridges. With her one time as she drove over one, she kept saying, “It’s only a bridge. It’s only a bridge.” The danger for her was no greater than for anyone else crossing that span. It wasn’t the bridge that needed mending, but her perception of it.

When you say, “I don’t agree with the gender specific areas being open for anyone male or female to enter them,” what does this mean? Look at my profile picture. Am I male or female? The fact is, I am intersex. Who gets to decide which one, male or female, rules me? Are my hormones, which tell me I am female, to take second to my body, which is male? Who decides?

Which bathroom should I use? If I go into the men’s room, I am going to face trouble, or laughter, or worse. I truly fear being beaten in a men’s room when presenting as a female.

I, and all my trans women friends, use the women’s rooms, we do so the same as all women do, and we blend in. Rarely do trans women go out in public who are dressed, as one keeps hearing from those against us, as “a man in a dress,” with five o’clock shadow, ill-fitting wigs, and clothes and makeup that are not appropriate to the location. No, we blend in because we want and need to blend in. We are just regular people, who dress and act like regular people.

I personally am okay with there being special bathrooms open to anyone who wants a personal space—where a dad can take a daughter, where a trans person can feel more comfortable, whatever the situation. Let’s have men’s rooms, women’s rooms, and unisex rooms everywhere. I would gladly use them equally for MY comfort, though I navigate women’s restrooms just fine. But, you have those trans folks who don’t want to be singled out because the singling out is a signal that “freaks need to be kept separate.” And, when that is the reason, I stand in opposition to the haters and shoulder-to-shoulder with my trans friends.

I don’t see you as insensitive. Perhaps, you have been hearing some of the scare tactics and they have played on your mind, and you are more sensitive because of the situations you described. Look up the statistics. You will find extremely few instances of trans people sexually assaulting others. No, the rapists and pedophiles are almost always males, who purport to be heterosexual, who blend in with society as regular-looking guys, who often are married and have kids, who don’t have to stoop to dressing as women because they already know how to make their opportunities. THESE are the ones who are predators.

The argument is always brought up about children in bathrooms who would be at risk of men dressed as women who are out to harm them. But, what about boys in men’s rooms and the male predators that have always been out there? The present situation is ignored and scenarios are created that are highly unlikely.

The people who are against us have set up a false argument in order to scare people. They should be ashamed of themselves.

We trans folks might actually be better behaving in public than the general population for the sole purpose that we do not want trouble, because, if we wind up in trouble, our problems are going to be multiplied because we are trans. So, we shop and eat out and do everything else with very good behavior. We use restrooms quietly, get in and out, because we just want to pee and get safely back to living.

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For people out in the public to be a little safer, transgender people are not the issue. We never have been. We are not now. We are being unfairly picked on by those who hate us. This really is no different than when, fifty years ago, whites were disgusted at the thought of sitting next to a person of color, or attending the same school, or sharing a seat on a bus or the same water fountain. Those whites could not imagine black people being equal to their bigoted idea of who they were in American society.

Many people think that, because I am transgender, I am less than them. I am mentally ill. I am a kook. A freak. They are superior for no more of a reason than they supposedly have their act together. They are not weaklings as I am. They are not perverts, sexual fetishists, trying to be someone they are not.

Their shit doesn’t stink.

It is the same mind-set that so many whites had for blacks, and one which many whites still have for blacks—I’ve heard it plenty in my lifetime—and for anyone who doesn’t meet their personal standard, and I am not even going to get into the hatred many have for Muslims, Jews, and others not like these bigots. Because we transgender folks finally have a voice in American society, we now are the whipping girl and boy for the prejudiced class which believes it is superior.

We are a threat to their sense of what is “normal.” They are either too lazy, or too prejudiced, or too bent on whatever their ideology is to learn why we are transgender and what kind of people we are.

They are people who do not want to learn that people like me are just as upstanding as the most upstanding, just as much of a contributor to good in the USA as the best of contributors, highly educated, very successful, hardworking blue collar laborers, health care workers, teachers, serving in the armed forces, faithful spouses, caring parents and grandparents, good neighbors, volunteers, loyal friends—in every way people which make our neighborhoods and towns and churches and schools and workplaces—and the USA—better for our being in them.

What we need is balance. We need calm. We need people speaking with care and listening with patience. We need everyone, on every side of any serious issue, to have compassion for their fellow man. We need honest discussion, not lies and scare tactics.

When we do things right, we can do this successfully for the good of the USA. When we don’t, well, we have good people like you who are properly concerned about what is going on around them, and yet needlessly concerned about things which will never be a problem for them.

Peace,
Gina

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To Matt Walsh

Dear Matt~

A few years ago, a conservative Christian friend of mine recommended a column on your blog. I am a conservative Christian—indeed, I am a recently-retired Missouri Synod Lutheran minister—so I read it. I found myself agreeing with what I read, you educated me on the topic, and I thought you reasoned things out well. I made your blog a regular stop on my daily Internet route.

It wasn’t too long before you wrote about transgender people. Ouch! Not only did you find transgender folks mentally ill, you belittled them. Wait, not “them.” “Us.” I am a transgender person, a genetic male who is transitioning to be as female as possible so that I have relief from as dreadful a condition as there is on earth, gender dysphoria.

Despite your offending me with your wisecracking ways, I kept reading your blog. On many issues, we are in agreement. On some, we are not. Because you are so widely followed, I find your blog one I need to read in my ongoing effort to be an informed person, across the board.

We arrive at your piece which was published on April 6, entitled, “No, Gays and ‘Transgenders’ Are Not Being Bullied. They Are The Bullies.” I have extracted several quotes, with my reactions to them.

You wrote “For the most part, these people are free to do what they want and be who they are—or, in the case of “transgenders,” (sic, here and in each usage) who they aren’t.”

You regularly use rude comments—“who they aren’t”—to show where you are in sharp disagreement with others, needlessly causing offense. You make yourself look bad both as a writer and a Christian. You put up walls which hinder peaceful, productive discussion, unless you are happy preaching to the choir, saying things which will get your core readers calling out, “Yeah, Matt! You tell them!” and ensuring the tens of thousands of shares on Facebook that I know if my blog posts were that popular surely would stroke my ego.

When you say that we “transgenders” live as who we are not, you make me curious whether you know what intersex conditions are. There are people born with malformed-, ambiguous-, and both male and female genitals. Even the very traditional church body in which I was a pastor recognizes these as folks who may choose in which gender they will find comfort living.

Then there are chromosomal intersex conditions. To use but one as an example, there is an androgen insensitivity syndrome in which females have male chromosomes. Well, no, I suppose you would say, they must be males. But, wait. They have the anatomy of a female. So, they are females, right? Yes, they are. But, truly, they are intersex. They didn’t choose to be this way. It happened to them in the womb.

Androgen is a hormone. Part of the endocrine system. It’s real stuff. The way blood is real stuff. And flesh.

You need hormones to be a living, breathing human. When, in the mid ‘50s, my mom was pregnant with me, doctors prescribed an artificial estrogen, diethylstilbestrol, to women who were prone to miscarry, and my mom had two miscarriages right before carrying me. Let me ask you, Matt: Does it make sense that, to introduce extra estrogen into the system of a woman who was pregnant with a male, that his endocrine system might be affected? In fact, I have several signs in my body that I’m not mentally ill, but have a real, physical intersex condition, such as how long it took me to finally go through puberty and that I never developed an Adam’s apple. I’m even left handed, and studies are finding that lefthandedness is caused by, you guessed it, disruption to the endocrine system as the fetus is forming (which helps understand why only 10% of people are left handed and not closer to a 50/50 split).

By being on hormone replacement therapy (HRT), I no longer feel wrong about myself. You know, Matt, it’s as if I actually have a physical malady. That I’m not crazy. Not confused. HRT has worked as medicine in me, as aspirin does for a person with a body ache or depression medication for one who is bipolar. (Perhaps, I shouldn’t use bipolar as an example. You might reject that as a real thing, as you showed that time in your column on ADHD, which you ridiculed on a par with us “transgenders.”)

Back to you: “Whether they like it or not, many women are not comfortable unchanging or using the toilet in the same room as penis-bearing males.”

Let’s keep locker rooms and bathrooms separate. I have written about both, and you can read on my blog that I am sensitive to locker room situations. But, in bathrooms, unless there is some highly unusual situation, no one in a women’s restroom removes clothes outside of the stall. I used men’s restrooms the first fifty-seven years of my life and never once saw a penis. Maybe I just wasn’t trying. Or, maybe, it’s because people don’t expose their genitals in restrooms.

I now use women’s restrooms. Without incidence. I behave in the restroom, as do all of my trans friends.

Matt, how about if we not be guilty of setting up straw men which we can easily knock down? Write about real concerns. Don’t incite the masses with stuff that never happens in bathrooms.

Let’s hear from you again: “The ‘transgenders’ are being told merely to respect the privacy of females who only feel comfortable changing and using the bathroom around other females, and males who only feel comfortable using the facilities in a room set aside specifically for males.”

Hey, Matt, check out my profile picture. Can you imagine me using the men’s room? How comfortable would males be with me in their bathrooms? And are you going to defend me when I do and I get the snot beat out of me for being in the wrong bathroom?

Back to you: “Yes, it might make a ‘transgender’ uncomfortable to use the bathroom around other members of his sex, just as it makes him uncomfortable to be in his own skin and in possession of his own organs. But either gays and ‘transgenders’—a small minority of people who share a common sexual proclivity, fetish, or mental illness—must be made slightly uncomfortable for a few moments, or a vast majority of their fellow citizens must be deprived of something that is theirs, has been theirs, and should reasonably continue to be theirs.”

By writing “sexual proclivity, fetish, or mental illness,” you demonstrate that you have no idea what you are talking about. Since you are so widely read, and thousands share your essays across the Internet, should you not be responsible and learn the subjects on which you write?

More thoughts from you: “No matter where you stand on homosexuality or ‘transgenderism’ it’s entirely clear which group should be told to suck it up, buttercup, and go along with the program. Indeed, it demonstrates the fantastic selfishness rampant in this community that they think the majority ought to be forced to bend and contort and submit and bow and sacrifice their First Amendment rights just so that they, the homosexuals and ‘transgenders,’ might avoid a minor inconvenience.”

The Americans With Disabilities Act impacted virtually every American. Business owners had to put in special bathroom stalls, ramps, and the like. Towns and businesses had to alter sidewalks and change parking lots and add signs. Drivers had to concede the best parking spots. What a bunch of selfish people those “handicaps” are! They are a small minority, yet they make us, the majority, bow to their “needs.” Bunchajerks.

Of course, I do not feel that way. Folks with disabilities need appropriate help and protection. Lots of people do, when they are in situations which many find burdensome. You know, like being transgender through no fault of your own.

One final thought from you: “[C]onsidering how Christians and conservatives are constantly lectured for their alleged lack of ‘compassion’ and ‘tolerance’ and so on, I think it must be noted that these laws would not be needed if compassion and tolerance, along with humility and prudence, were traits commonly found in the ‘LGBT community.’ It is the seemingly total lack of kindness, magnanimity, and rationality displayed by many in their camp that necessitates this sort of legislation.”

I agree, Matt, that we LGBT folks sometimes make things worse by the way in which we go about things; the very way we do not like people acting out and speaking against us, we are guilty of doing.

I have grown to understand it and have sympathy for it, even as I do not agree with it. When people are not recognized or respected, when they are put down and oppressed, if they do not get vocal they will not be heard. And, because when they get vocal they get shouted down, they shout louder in order to be heard. It happens in friendships. It happens in marriages. It happens in the civil rights arena.

Because all of the LGBT+ are legal ways to live, each deserves the same protections as any American, regardless of creed, culture, or color. I get it—there are growing pains involved, just as we experienced in the 1960s and the civil rights of African Americans. That should be our teacher: This challenging thing can be accomplished, and done properly, when people speak peacefully and respectfully, and strive together for the good of the entire USA.

Matt, when I read your pieces in which you crack wise and disrespect people (I noticed that “transgenders” was always in quotes, signaling that you believe we are not “real”), I recall 1 Peter 3:15: “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” You have shown me, on many occasions, that you know how to “give the reason for the hope that you have.” Now, how about if you remember this equally important exhortation from the Lord: “But do this with gentleness and respect.”

How about if you humble yourself, my brother in Christ. Work to win people over, instead of running them over. Learn about the topics which you excoriate. Treat people the way you want to be treated (Matthew 7:12).

We have to do better, to shine the light of Christ in the world. Please, Matt, shed light, don’t light fires. No unbeliever will ever desire Christ by your beating him or her over the head with your Bible, and isn’t that our ultimate goal, to work with the Holy Spirit that people might know Christ by faith and enjoy the gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation, and not to condemn them to hell?

Please, tell me it is. Please, Matthew, fight the good fight of the faith in a manner befitting a child of God.

The Lord be with you.
Gina Eilers