A Cautionary Tale: The Great Bathroom Battle

This is a cautionary tale about the power of certain social movements within the United States and their ability, when allied with the liberal media, to destroy any opposition.  Please read this story carefully.

First, let me say that I am somewhat ignorant about avant-garde sexual beliefs, practices, and terminology.  When I was young, to be gay meant to be happy, and I have often regretted the loss of that original meaning.  It is perfectly acceptable for male homosexuals to appropriate the term, but I wish they had spelled it gai, a word that is pronounced the same but would have created less confusion.  Transgender is another term that came into use in the latter part of the 20th century, and only recently have I come to understand its meaning.

According to one who professes an expert knowledge of human sexuality, a transgender person is one who feels and acts as if his or her gender is different from that gender assigned at birth.  That original assignment was based on the infant’s physical (sexual) features. The awareness that one is transgender can occur at any age, and this awareness becomes one’s gender identity (or innate knowledge of who one is).  When this occurs, the person self-identifies as a transgender man or woman.  This becomes their gender identity. The expert also insists that whether or not a person is transgender has nothing to do with his or her sexual orientation.  A transgender woman (a person who has masculine physical characteristics but self-identifies as a woman) may be sexually attracted to males, females, or both, and the same is true for the transgender man. Some, but not all, transgender people undergo medical treatments to make their bodies more congruent with their gender identity.

In essence, this expert’s description of a transgender person means that a person’s sexual identity is determined by that person’s mind, not by his or her physical features (including genitalia). Perhaps more than 99% of the time a person’s physiology and his/her mind are in agreement about sexual identity, but when there is a disconnect the mind rules.

This is a concept that is somewhat difficult for many people (including me) to get their heads around.

Transgender persons evidently make up a very small percentage of the overall population, but in a nation our size there are undoubtedly hundreds of thousands of them. Many are likely concentrated in areas of the country where their sometimes unusual life styles are less likely to cause disapprobation.

Generally speaking, most American tend to regard one’s sexual preferences and behavior as a private, personal matter. Only when it spills over into the public arena does it become a concern.  In the case of transgender persons, there is growing unease about the participation of transgenders in women’s sports, but the more volatile issue has become the question of transgender access to public bathrooms.

In February 2016  the city council of Charlotte, North Carolina,  passed a series of ordinances whereby it expanded protections against discrimination to include a person’s marital status, familial status, sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. That caused no problem for most observers.  The real difficulty came when the city council also decided to rescind that part of the Charlotte City Code that stated that denial of access to public facilities on the basis of sex (gender) “shall not apply to restrooms, shower rooms, bathhouses and similar facilities which are in their nature distinctly private.”  This meant that anyone who self-identified as male or female could now access a gender restricted pubic bathroom based on his/her choice of sexual identity.

There was an immediate outpouring of anger and alarm on the part of the more conservative members of the Charlotte community.  They visualized hundreds of promiscuous teen-age males identifying themselves as females and invading the girl’s showers of every public high school in Charlotte.  Of course, their fears were overblown, but they were real.  What did the people of Charlotte know about these strange beings called transgenders? They appealed to the North Carolina state legislature for help.

Under the North Carolina Constitution, the State legislature has the power to override local ordinances.  The state legislature met in special session and acted quickly to eliminate any possible troublesome effects of the Charlotte city council’s action.  The legislature’s approach was to restrict access to gender restricted public bathrooms based on one’s gender as recorded his/her birth certificate, either the original or as amended following sex change therapy. The state legislature also took measures to prevent other state jurisdictions from passing ordinances similar to those of Charlotte. The new law prevented municipalities in North Carolina from enacting anti-discrimination policies, setting a local minimum wage, regulating child labor, or making certain regulations for city workers.  The state itself had laws and regulations effecting these areas, and the legislature appeared anxious to take control and make these laws and regulations consistent throughout the state. The state’s anti-discrimination policies were strong, but they did not specifically address discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) persons.

The LGBT community and its allies exploded with rage.  They were determined to punish North Carolina for its temerity, and full-scale war was launched against the government and people of the Tar Heel state.  The poor citizens of North Carolina never knew what hit them.  All sorts of political and economic pressure was exerted.  The liberal elite virtually declared North Carolina to be a social pariah, and not a day passed without some politician, business entity, sports figure, or entertainment celebrity slamming the state and proposing some sort of retributive action.

North Carolina had long been known as one of the more progressive southern states.  The Republicans had recently taken over the state government after more than a century on the sidelines, and the legislators had been anxious to prove their conservative bona fides.  Now, instead of praising the state for its progressivism, liberal commentators were prepared to consign it to the nethermost regions of Hell.

Commentators supporting the LGBT position made some rather absurd arguments. One person wrote to suggest that everyone carry their birth certificate when travelling through North Carolina.  Another writer posited the hypothetical case of a poor transgender person, bearded but self-identifying as a female, who is forced to use a bathroom not of his/her choice.  The same writer ridiculed an opponent’s apparently sincere concern over the possibility of a male voyeur using the cover of Charlotte’s ordinances to invade female bathrooms and showers.

North Carolina was increasingly buffeted by economic boycotts, job losses and public criticism. Sports leagues relocated games, companies canceled expansions and some tourists decided to spend their money elsewhere.  The United States Department of Justice filed a lawsuit claiming that the “bathroom bill” violated Federal anti-discrimination laws. Fiscal losses to the state were calculated to be more than 3.7 billion dollars and rising.

Even basically conservative North Carolinians began to change their minds.  Was the fight worth it?  In November 2016 a Democrat was elected governor in place of of the otherwise popular and moderate Republican who had signed the “bathroom bill”.  Two months after the new governor took office the “bathroom bill” was repealed.

The repeal was part of a compromise.  Bathroom usage restrictions were lifted, but the ban on local nondiscrimination ordinances was to continue until 2020.  Neither side was entirely happy with the resolution, and many LGBT leaders called for a continued boycott of North Carolina. Nevertheless, some of the furor went out of the fight.  The Tar Heel state continues to lick its wounds.

What lessons can social conservatives and their political allies learn from this contretemps?

First, think before you act.  The state legislature acted hastily in response to Charlotte’s ordinance.  It was an understandable visceral response to the gauntlet thrown down by Charlotte’s aggressive LGBT supporters, but was the “bathroom bill” really needed?  Were transgenders or pretended transgenders actually invading girl’s showers in Charlotte, or was this only a chimera?

If the threat had proved to be a real one, concerned citizens should have then worked with legislators on both sides of the aisle to come up with solutions acceptable to most open-minded, reasonable people.

Before final action, supporters of legislation would have been well advised to engage the media and try to enlist allies in print and television.  If the television and the print media are all against you, they have very little regard for fairness and adopt an extremely casual approach to facts.  For example, in the “bathroom” fight the reporters often made it appear that driver’s licenses were being checked when one entered a public bathroom.  Nonsense!  The police would only respond to a specific complaint, and complaints were exceedingly rare. Truth is, there probably were about the same number of bathroom or school-shower gender issues with or without the “bathroom bill”.  That number was almost zero.

Above all, in the continuing cultural wars the defenders of Judeo-Christian values must use common sense.  They should carefully pick the issues worth fighting for and ensure that there is at least some possibility of success. If the cause is right, make certain that the people are fully informed on reasons for the fight, and then move boldly.  If your cause is just, most good citizens will stand with you through the fires that are sure to come.

Put on your breastplate and strap your helmet.  The battle is on!

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