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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Happy to be transgender?

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No, I am not happy that I am transgender.

I know folks who are okay with their being trans. The following strictly belongs to me, though almost all trans folks share some or a lot of it.

I continually get the impression that people like Matt Walsh, the blogger with whom I took exception last week, think that all of us trans women and men are happy to be this way. To quote him, we are fulfilling sexual proclivities or fetishes (or are mentally ill), the driving forces behind our living in a gender with which we were not identified at birth, which does not correspond with our DNA.

I was foolish enough to post my blog link to Walsh’s column, one among over 300 comments. Did anyone ask a question, to learn more? Did anyone demonstrate concern that this is a terrible burden? Did anyone recognize what a horrible thing it has been never to be able to escape this a single day of my life?

No, of those who commented—all of which appear to be Christians—all I got was condemnation.

There is a mindset that people get when confronted with people of whom they know nothing, and the proclivity (!) for hardening their hearts and digging in bigoted heals rears its ugly head.
• For them, all inner city African American males only care to cultivate criminal behavior.
• For them, all Muslims are terrorists.
• For them, all people out of work or on disability are lazy and only want to suck off the system.
• For them, all gays and lesbians are immoral, unethical people seeking to wickedly influence young people.
• For them, all transgender people love getting their jollies by masquerading as, to use Walsh’s term, people they are not.

Because trans-haters harden their hearts, they do not have a clue how hard people like me worked not to transition, how desperate we were to remain in the sex with which we were identified at birth, how suicide was a very real and present danger, and the many reasons we fought not to transition.
• For Christians like me, having serious concern that transitioning might be sinning, and not wanting to offend fellow Christians.
• Not wanting to upset or possibly lose a marriage.
• Fearing how bad you will freak out your children and siblings and parents and others, and losing them from your life.
• Losing a job. (I had to retire from the job of my life, and it crushed me.)
• Losing income.
• Losing housing.
• Losing your good name.
• Adding discrimination.
• Adding the serious possibility of being physically harmed.
• Adding the absolute possibility of being ridiculed, mocked, and hated.
• Adding many doctors and specialists to your life.
• Adding huge expenses.

I said to Julie last week, as I have said to her so many times, “I hate being transgender.”

If I hate being this way, then why am I transitioning? Ask a cancer patient why she undergoes chemotherapy. Our answers will sounds strikingly similar.

I am transitioning because I want to feel better, and I am feeling better. I finally do not have two people battling for my brain. For the first time in my life, the dis-ease aspect of my gender dysphoria is gone and my mind is at peace.

But the cost!

If I could just be a regular guy, how easy my life would be. If I could just be a regular gal, how easy my life would be. If I could just be regular . . .

If I had a pizza for every time, the past three years, that I said, “I don’t want to hurt anyone. I don’t want anyone to hate me.” I always spoke those two sentences together. Always in that order. Always with bitter tears. Always followed by, “But I need to be only one person. Being two people doesn’t work. I don’t care which I am—a man or a woman—just let me be only one person.”

I have never been a trouble-maker. I always was the happy-go-lucky one, the one who got along with everyone, the one who was the life of the party, the one with a quick joke, the one with a big smile for everyone.

I’m still that person, but now I can’t be that person for everyone because of the ones I’ve hurt and the ones who hate me—well, perhaps they don’t hate me, but they don’t know how to deal with me so they no longer are in my life. And I wonder how many feel the way Matt Walsh speaks, considering the likes of me a non-person, a sexual fetishist, a nut case.

I hate being transgender. I did not choose this. This is not a “lifestyle,” as detractors love to throw at us trans folks. Because of the disruption to my endocrine system, which I experienced in the womb, I am an intersex person. As I cannot alter my being Caucasian, or of German heritage, or an American, or left handed, or an Eilers, I cannot alter that I am intersex.

And, now I have to admit, I wouldn’t.

I know, that sounds like a non sequitur. It doesn’t follow that I hate being transgender but I would not change it. Here is why I would not change it.

With all of the other things of which I am made that I cannot change, I cannot arbitrarily decide to change one of them without upsetting the entire cart of my life.

To quote that great philosopher, Popeye, I yam what I yam. To change one thing would squash what I yam. And, do you want to know the neatest thing? I am tremendously, marvelously pleased with what I yam.

I cannot locate another person on earth, not in the history of the world, who can claim a more rich, more blessed life than I have experienced in my first nearly fifty-nine years. Every good thing that life has to offer, I have enjoyed. Some of the unique, challenging, wonderful things in life, which few get to enjoy, or by which they have the opportunity to grow as a person, I have enjoyed.

I sit here, often troubled at my being transgender, and ponder my life, and I am dazzled.

I am dazzled at what the Lord Jesus has done for me, has given me, through which He has blessed and strengthened me. The things He has put into my hands that I might have use of them, to mold and shape them, and utilize them to show my love for Him and to serve my neighbor in His name.

If I were not the sum total of these parts, I would not be what I yam, and I don’t know what yam that different person would be.

So, I will continue to hate that I am transgender, just as I hate that I sin daily and fall short of the mark the Lord has set for me, and I will continue to use the many gifts with which He has blessed me so that I might enjoy this marvelous gift of life, serve my family and community, and work for good in this world.

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