Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Transgender Bathrooms: Part 1

I'm going to walk the proverbial plank here, and post my honest thoughts about a highly volatile current issue.
Transgender Bathrooms

In order to do that I'm going to need to first set the stage with my observations about the concept of someone identifying as transgender. 

I'm a Christian: not in the raze-the-holy-land-take-all-the-loot sense; not in the our-church-has-the-right-to-tell-the-government-what-to-do sense, and not in the obnoxiously-protesting-tragedies-with-unparalleled-insensitivity sense.  I'm a Christian, in that I believe the Bible is true, Jesus died on the cross for everyone's sin, God is love, and Christians are supposed to be the shining example of that love.  

That being said, whenever I see or read or hear about transgenders I get sad.  I get sad because I honestly believe that someone who is actively turning away from their natural born gender has either been the victim of extreme psychological abuse, or is suffering with a downright harmful hormonal imbalance.  Unfortunately looking into the majority of cases, the first is more often the cause than the latter.  Here are few examples:

Let's start with the glaringly obvious Kaitlin Jenner: 
Caitlyn Jenner
Here was a man's man.  Someone who embraced his strength and physical prowess. Excelling in sports as a teenager, he went to college on a football scholarship, and transferred to track and field after a knee injury.  After winning Olympic gold in one of the more grueling races, the decathlon.  He continued to earn his place on the Wheaties box by becoming a race car driver.  No one could argue about his masculinity, that is until his second wife and daughters decided to start their own reality show.

Keeping up with the Kardashians is probably one of the most blatant displays of Bruce's psychological abuse.  As the man of the house, he was ignored, walked over, downplayed, and in every way disrespected, and all on national TV.  I don't know how any man would be able to stand up to the kind of rejection he dealt with day in and day out as his wife and daughters made millions out of his mockery.  It's only natural that a smart man like Bruce would eventually come to the conclusion that he only way to redeem himself in the eyes of the world would be to become more respected revered and honored by becoming an empowered woman.

Another recent tragedy is the suicide of Leelah Alcorn.
He grew up in a conservative, religious home. His father modeled the traditional patriarchal masculine model, and his mother was the submissive, obedient wife.  When he decided he didn't want to be a boy anymore, his parents did what most deeply religious parents would do.  They reacted strongly and attempted to force the boy into accepting his natural identity through obedience to religious observance.  Rather than treating him with love and understanding, they isolated him, punished him, and eventually pushed him over the edge into greater insanity resulting in his death.

I have to admit I'm not really sure how I would react if one of my kids rejected their God given gender.  Hypothetically I would pray a lot for them to feel loved and walk out their calling in life through whatever means God wanted.  I'm pretty sure there would be long talks with them asking them what made them reject their gender and asking them if there was a way to embrace their uniqueness without having to alter their physical form.

Here are a few, less direct, examples:

Young girls and boys are forced to display their naked bodies to their abusive peers in locker rooms. The anti-bullying information currently coming out has shown how psychologically damaging this can be. Quite honestly I don't understand how the whole locker room situation hasn't been changed yet.  How many children have to become victims before we change the system.  If it wasn't for the generally poor quality of the education available, I would still homeschool my kids just to save them from the embarrassment of the locker room.

Some are the casualties of physically abusive parents.  A little boy rejects his masculinity because the only example he has is a father who can't control his temper and a mother who is angry at him but unwilling to leave.  These scars during his developmental years will encourage him to hate his masculinity.  A little girl sees her mother being sexually and mentally abused by multiple partners, and can't understand why she has to continually be under attack. Her developing mind sees that men are more powerful and, to put it bluntly, if you can't beat them, join them.

Some instances of abuse aren't as obvious.  Take for instance a little girl who grows up in a patriarchal church and is only ever taught that the path to fulfillment is to become an obedient wife and baby maker.  A little boy hears his mother complain about the stupidity of his father.  Day after day he hears female peers and other women talk about the overall incoherence of the male sex.  What desire would these people have to grow up to become what they are taught to despise?

Then there are the children of parents who are outwardly supportive of their children's desires to embrace the intrigue of the opposite sex, but unwilling to validate their natural born state.  These parents sound socially savvy.  They make statements about not labeling their children's sexuality or talk about the difference between their natural gender verses their chosen one.  Sure it sounds nice and accepting, but what if they are really pushing their children's developing psyche into transgender roles.  What if these parents are quietly encouraging their children to reject their physical gender and hurting their child's ability to embrace their physical gender.

I would like to just give one more example from the TV show Sense8.  While I recognize that the story of Nomi Marks is fictional I think her back story in Season 1 Episode 9 is a prime example of the painful past many transgenders suffer with (Warning: this clip shows overt bullying and is a bit intense)

I hope I've explained sufficiently why transgender stories sadden me.  I wish I could heal the hurt in every one of these people.  I wish that I could go back in time and stop the abuse.  I cannot do that, however, so I am burdened with the task of being the change I wish to see in the world.  I must begin the process of re-educating those who will listen.  

To those men who would give anything not to be male anymore: please don't give up.  Being a woman isn't going to get rid of the frustrations you feel.  It's only going to change how you look on the outside.  You will still be you, and I have the utmost respect for you.  Know that there is at least one person in this world who loves you, the REAL you. The world needs people like you to show what being a true man is, and that is embracing the diversity that is masculinity.  

To those women who would give anything to be male: I get it.  No really, I do.  I was raised the only girl with a bunch of boys and there were so many times when I thought my life would be easier if I was one of them.  I understand the crap that comes with birth control and periods, and hormone swings.  It's not fun.  But there are so many benefits to being a woman, especially in this day and age.  We have never been more powerful, and have worked so hard to achieve this level of equality.  You have so much to offer the world, be empowered and be the woman that you are.  

To those religious folks who think the way to deal with the GLBT "threat" is through more Bible thumping and hatred: go back and re-read that book you claim to follow.  Read all of it, not just Leviticus and Romans, and realize that you are still a son or daughter of Adam.  You are nothing without the God of Love who rescued your sorry butt. Then, realize that these folks are your mission in life.  They need love and healing, just like you did.  Become the shining example of love and forgiveness that Jesus was.  He ministered to tax collectors and sinners, and told the pharisees that only the truly sinless could stone the adulterer.  Be like the Jesus who showed love and compassion to the woman at the well who had several ex husbands and was living with her boyfriend.

If you're not completely offended by now, please continue to Part Two, here.

Transgender Bathrooms: Part 2

So apparently there's all this uproar about the possibility that a guy might be allowed to use a women's bathroom.  On the one side there are what I like to call the fearful righteous, and on the other side are the loving illogical.  Once again I find myself smack dab in the middle.  Having seen the plethora of arguments from both sides of the issue plastered unnecessarily all over my social media page, I've finally decided to weigh in on the issue, and all I have to say is,  "What is the big deal?!?!"

For those on the fearful Christian side, who know me as your sister in Christ, this might shock you. It might cause you to doubt my spirituality.  It might cause you to question our relationship built on mutual belief in the same Bible and the same God.  I assure you my fruit has never spoken louder, nor has my friendship wavered.  I've read the same book and I understand your points perfectly.  I just choose to disagree with your response to the current cultural pendulum swing.

For those on the lovingly illogical side, who know me as a free thinker and a loving human being, you might be upset. Because you know I love people no matter what their religion, sexual orientation, or way of life, you might wonder why I'm not more offended by the law in North Carolina, or more actively arguing for love and acceptance.

Take a step back with me and let's look at this situation objectively.

To the fearful religious:  Why are you so afraid?  Does the God of the universe not care about your child?  If you truly believe that God is powerful, you will not worry about your child.  In light of history, this is really not that difficult a situation.  Imagine the fear Jewish parents in Poland dealt with as Hitler assumed control of their country.  Now that's a tricky situation, and yet God used over 500,000 Poles to help smuggle Jews out of the country.

You may argue that we still have the responsibility to try to protect our children as much as possible.  To that I say, are you teaching your children how to defend themselves?  Are they taking martial arts? Basic self defense classes? Carrying pepper spray and aware of how to actually use it?  If you truly think their greatest threat is a man pretending to be transgender raping them in a bathroom, then you better be giving them the tools to defend themselves against attack.  Consider this, what if they are just as likely to be raped by an insane lesbian?

To be clear, I'm not advocating stupidity.  I typically don't allow my 7 year old to use a public toilet by herself.  I prefer even my 13 year old to be accompanied by someone trustworthy when using a public restroom, but sometimes that's just not feasible. My girls also take martial arts and have been taught how to handle dangerous situations. Even so, I must trust that beyond my reasonable control, God can take care of them.  I'm really not worried about my girls.

Perhaps you argue that it's the Christian's duty to make sure that laws are put in place to keep the LGBT community in check.  I would argue that the best way to deal with the LGBT community is to be the light of love in their community.  Perhaps instead of wearing a WWJD lanyard to your next political rally you should read the book "In His Steps" and actively try to change the world by actually acting like Christ, not the pharisees who crucified him. To be honest, most of the laws like the one in North Carolina are the result of hateful bigotry, not true Christianity.

To the lovingly illogical: Have you really thought about this issue, or have you just been emotionally reactive to all the hype?  The only real issue here is if transgender children should be allowed to use the bathroom of their choice in schools.  That's the only area of society where any real enforcement is an issue.  Allow me to illustrate:

Last month I was happy to work at the Florida Renaissance Festival.  I finished a particularly hot tiring day and went to Taco Bell with some of my renny friends.  When I got there the place was almost empty.  I just wanted to change out of my costume and into my street clothes, but there were only single use bathrooms.  I knew my friend wanted to change as well, so I asked one of the employees if they minded if I used the men's room while my friend used the women's room.  She smiled and said that would be fine.

When I was a teenager my youth pastor's wife took a bunch of us girls to Panama City Beach.  It was took several hours to get there, and during that time we had to make several potty breaks.  I remember several times the large group of girls took over both the men's and women's bathrooms to make our stops go faster.  No one batted an eye.

I realize both of these stories center on girls using a boys bathroom, but honestly it goes both ways.  the only reason men don't typically use a women's restroom is because there aren't any urinals.  Well, that, and fear of other men questioning their masculinity.

If this is truly an important issue, the free market should correct itself quickly.  I foresee a future where most public bathrooms will be single rooms with locking doors available for male or female use at any time, with the security of not being intruded on.  Transgenders aside, I would love to see this improvement in our society.

Perhaps you argue that it's not fair that these folks are being segregated by narrow minded bigots.  Newsflash, life isn't fair, and there will ALWAYS be prejudice, segregation, and bigotry.  Making a law isn't going to stop people from abusing their fellow humans.  Even the law in North Carolina was an exercise in futility.  The only thing it does is make it a little easier for folks to justify their hatred.  What business owner is honestly going to ask people for their birth certificates?  Are they actually going to post police officers at every restroom door and ask to see every single ID before letting anyone in?  Besides, anyone who has finished transition is going to fly under the radar anyway.

The best course of action is to just let this be for now, and the angst will die off quickly.  Then we can get back to our normal lives where lesbians who looks like men can use whatever toilet they want in peace, and transgender women can walk into the bathroom unnoticed like they've always been able to do (whether or not they've realized they can).

Now schools, that's different.  I've already stated my opinion about the negative consequences of exposure to abuse via locker rooms, here.  Quite honestly the entire education system needs to be overhauled, but no one is willing to do it. Instead each year parents get angry and try to change the things they didn't like when they were there, and they keep tacking on things and taking away other things and you end up with a vomitous mass of indecision propping up a failing model.

The real problem then, isn't "should transgenders be allowed to use the bathroom of their choice," but "how can we fix the education system so children are protected not only from their peers, but from parents who aren't protecting them and adults who aren't paid enough to really care for them.