PLEASE have an opinion, but PLEASE make it an educated one.
You will very rarely find me in the middle of a political conversation, let alone feeling so deeply that I HAVE to stop what I am doing and write about an issue. But here goes ...
If you've been online for any reason this past week, you've seen the raging 'Target Boycott' debate over which bathrooms transgender men and women should or should not be allowed to use, under which circumstances, and why.
What has been driving me absolutely bonker-doodles-batty is reading and hearing things from people I know are intelligent, warm-hearted individuals, stating they are sick of hearing about it and arguing in ways that are unintentionally, yet absolutely, bigoted and homophobic.
Today it hit me that a good deal of their frustration may be due to the way the issues have been explained in vague, confusing terms social media posts and snippets.
In the confusion over what's being proposed, where and by whom, people are arguing for or against baseless fears and fragmented sound bites — rather than for or against the real possibilities at play.
Here are the 5 most common questions/arguments I have seen, along with some basic facts to clear things up:
1. "Why do they need to talk about it all over the place? Just go to the bathroom you want to, do your business, and leave me out of it!"
These debates didn't start because someone in the transgender community decided they want a gold seal of approval to use bathrooms they were already using. The first court cases around transgender people's use of bathroom were filed because rights that had already been granted were wrongly taken away.
Doe v. Regional School Unit 26 (2014), involved a transgender girl referred to as Susan Doe. Susan was born male and began to identify as female at 2-years-old. By fourth grade she was fully identifying as female, and the school enacted a plan to accommodate her by allowing her to use the girls' bathrooms. This was working fine until "a male student followed her into the girls’ bathroom and claimed that he too was entitled to use it. School officials ended Susan’s use of the girls’ bathroom and required her to use a single-stall unisex staff bathroom instead."
Her parents' filed suit, and the court concluded that the school had violated the Maine Human Rights Act by denying, as their decision to respond to the boy's complaint rather than Susan's well-being "constituted discrimination based on her status as a transgender girl."
There are more cases on record, and, in fact, "18 states (CA, CO, CT, DE, HI, IL, IO, ME, MA, MD, MN, NJ, NV, NM, OR, RI, VT, WA) and the District of Columbia have employment laws that explicitly protect employees on the basis of gender identity," which includes protecting their right to use the restroom in which they feel most comfortable.
These rulings were made without the massive drama seen now — and with NO reports of negative or criminal incidents occurring as a result.
But more on that in #3.
2. "Why are bathrooms such a big deal anyway? Are we really that pampered that we are going to argue about toilets now?"
We are all leading really busy lives — sometimes so busy we fly right past obvious connections we later smack ourselves in the head for as we think, "Ohhhh, yeah! Right!"
No, I was not alive during the civil rights movement of the 1960s, yet the stories of battles over segregated bathrooms was certainly top of mind when this current debate began to rage.
Really, once you have that moment of, "Ohhhh, yeah! Right!" — I feel like this whole thing should be a closed book.
Clearly it isn't, but just needed to throw that in there.
3. "I don't care what transgender people do as long as they leave me out of it. I don't want to have to hear about what they do."
Transgender people are not running through the streets or posting on social media about their desire to use the gender appropriate bathroom for themselves because they just feel like you should know about it.
This issue has come to the media's attention because others are trying to enforce that they NOT be allowed to do so, thereby violating their civil rights.
You may not have known about the case mentioned in above. I didn't. That's because the family did not litigate out of a desire out to brag about their lifestyle. They simply wanted the freedom to use restrooms safely and comfortably, as we all do.
The issue is growing increasingly louder because of the the more recent legislation proposed (in South Carolina and in several other states), passed into law (in North Carolina) and failed but likely to resurface (in Tennessee and Virgina), as well as because of the abhorrent boycott against Target, who openly said: "We believe that everyone — every team member, every guest, and every community — deserves to be protected from discrimination, and treated equally. Consistent with this belief, Target supports the Federal Equality Act, which provides protections to LGBT individuals, and opposes action that enables discrimination."
One of the favorite behaviors of any abuser is to silence their victim. "Sit still and don't complain while I do what I am going to do to you anyway."
You have every right to feel what you feel, but it is unconscionable to ask people to stay silent in the face of discrimination.
4. "I feel for them and I understand they may be inconvenienced, but I am worried that innocent children will be harmed if they are allowed to use any bathroom they want."
Laws enforcing non-discrimination against transgender men and women as regards bathrooms have already been in effect in many states for years now.
None of these states have reported an increase in violence against children in restrooms, nor an insurgence of pedophiles disguising themselves as transgender women to gain access to and assault children.
Hopefully that will provide you with some comfort if you were concerned.
Unfortunately, transgender people continue to face a uniquely high degree of harassment across the board. According to Lambda Legal, "53% of 6,450 transgender people reported being harassed or disrespected in a place of public accommodation in a recent survey conducted by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force."
5. "Just let everybody pee wherever they want to do. Why do we have to debate this? Just make every bathroom everywhere unisex and be done."
It's a lovely idea. Sure. But there are serious financial and logistical complications that would accompany a mass restructuring of all bathroom facilities in the United States into unisex appropriate conditions. I cannot begin to fathom the cost, the nightmare of management and enforcement, the layers of red tape and paperwork within OSHA, or whatever other mighty mountains would need to move to make this work.
Does that truly seem easier than allowing someone to simply use the bathroom of the gender with which they identify, as opposed to of the gender listed on their impossible-to-change birth certificate?
I say this in all sincerity: I can understand if the idea of transgender people makes you feel uncomfortable.
I personally do not believe that feeling uncomfortable with something you haven't been exposed to makes you a bad person.
What none of us are allowed to do is to discriminate against others based on our feelings of discomfort or fear.
If you want to feel safe about this, read up on the facts. It can be scary to face a belief you've held that was wrong.
But things becomes a whole lot less scary once you do.