NC HB2 – and How NC Protects Children

Yes, you actually read this right.

North Carolina has been in the news lately, due to an absurd law aimed at stigmatizing trans people (see a previous post,  Basically, the law, which includes no penalty for non-compliance, requires government to designate multi-stall bathrooms for use by only one gender as indicated on birth certificates. It also prevents cities and counties from passing non-discrimination ordinances for pretty much anything, including to require bathroom access be properly allowed. Obviously, this is problematic.

The stated reason for these laws is to protect young boys and girls from sexual predators, who, apparently, will enter a bathroom of a gender different than their birth certificate and expose themselves and/or watch the children for sexual gratification.

Note that the law doesn’t make it illegal to enter a bathroom based on your birth certificate (you may be committing trespass however, if the property owner does not approve, if your birth certificate isn’t what the state thinks it should be).

That said, it is a felony (and has been for some time) for an adult (anyone 16 or older) take indecent liberties (which includes exposing the adult’s genitals) with a child (NC § 14-202.1) – if someone is 5 years older (or more) than the child, for the purpose of arousing or gratifying sexual desire. There’s a similar law in NC § 14-202.2 that applies to children committing this against another child. One difference between the adult and child versions is that someone 16+ years old needs to be 5 years older than the victim under 16, while a child committing the similar child crime needs to only be three years older. Thus, it’s indecent liberties with a child if a 15 year old exposes themself to a 12 year old, but not if a 16 year old exposes themself to a 12 year old. Maybe that would be worth fixing if the state wasn’t so fixated on keeping transwomen out of bathrooms.  Importantly it doesn’t matter what sex the victim or the perpetrator are – same or different sex, the law still applies. And there is no exception for bathrooms or locker rooms.

So I decided to investigate a few things.  Particularly, how does North Carolina protect children and others from sexual and other acts, other than just indecent liberties.

North Carolina wisely disallows children under 14 from marrying, even if pregnant.  But if there is a pregnancy, there can be a marriage of a child to another person.  The fetus doesn’t need to actually be born, since abortion is legal in NC.

NC § 14-12.7 prohibits masks on public roads and sidewalks – intended to make some KKK activities illegal, no doubt. Fortunately NC § 14-12.11 protects the traditional Halloween costume, masquerade balls, labor union meetings (sometimes), and anyone that has the permission of the town’s board.  There is no exception for my tinted motorcycle helmet however.

NC does regulate sexual activity, perhaps to protect children along with, apparently, others, like gay men.  For instance, § 14-177 makes “crime against nature” illegal – basically any penetration (however slight) other than a penis into a vagina between two people (or any sex with an animal), consensual or not.  See here for some more details (note the link includes discussion of child sex abuse). Of course much of the activity technically illegal under state law was determined to be legal under Lawrence v. Texas, but for some inexplicable reason, NC’s legislature doesn’t want to repeal this law – they want all you straight people having oral sex to know you shouldn’t do that.

NC § 14-184 makes fornication & adultery illegal.  Basically, it’s fornication if a straight couple has sex where both are unmarried, and it’s adultery if one or both are married to someone else – but NC goes a bit further and makes all cohabitation or “bedding” together illegal if it is done “lewdly and lasciviously” – you get to figure out what that means. However, if the two people are the same sex, it’s okay under this law (I don’t think they got around to making this law gender neutral even after their homosexual sex law became invalidated).  Too bad North Carolina doesn’t have an anti-discrimination law that includes sexual orientation! But because they don’t, straight people don’t have the protections gays have, at least as far as fornicating together in bed. Oh, it’s also illegal if the fornicating/adulterating (?) couple checks into a hotel and claims to be married (NC § 14-186).

NC’s sexual obscenity statute (NC § 14-190.1) defines sexual conduct as to include the portrayal of someone naked or in undergarments being tortured. I don’t know if the Catholic Church and others who depict Christ crucified realize the sexual undertones of their portrayals – but fortunately there’s an out in the reasonableness standard, at least until there are enough people offended by that depiction to declare it obscene.

Apparently unknown to state legislators, NC § 14-190.9 makes it illegal for an adult – same sex or opposite sex – to, in a public place (which is places the public can go – most business and government bathrooms, for instance) expose their genitals to a child under 16 for “arousing or gratifying sexual desire.”  Even better than HB2 because it actually addresses the concern raised by legislators and others in passing HB2, this protects kids from all adults, and is actually targeted at the problem that legislators didn’t realize they already solved years ago.

In addition, NC § 14-196 protects us all – adult and children – from phone sex, which is illegal in NC (also computer sex, if done using a computer modem – I personally think that would hurt, but obviously I don’t have the mind of a legislator in North Carolina).

So, certainly, North Carolina seems to have found all sorts of strange ways to protect us from gay sex, wearing the wrong motorcycle helmet, marrying at 14 (unless pregnant or making pregnant!), telling hotel clerks you’re married when you aren’t, and phone sex.

Perhaps they would be better off trying to make bathrooms actually safe. You know, safe not just from imagined predators, but safe for trans people – including trans kids. You start that process by not giving state approval to bigotry.

Why I’m Annoyed at the Right Wing

I grew up conservative, and I still believe in personal freedom and for government to know where they money is coming from when they create our budgets.

But the right wing in America seems to have lost track of these core values of conservatism. Here’s what I mean:

  • They support small government. That means government should stay out of things like the environment and banking regulation (things that impact innocent people if big corporations get them wrong), but should be intimately involved – literally – in people’s personal lives. Do you have anal or oral sex? Are you gay? Etc – even when no innocent parties are hurt (or, indeed, impacted at all) by these actions. Doesn’t sound like small government.
  • They want to promote wealth, because wealth building in turn promotes job creation through investment. But the biggest wealth-creating institution – marriage – in the US should be closed off to 10% of the population, according to these “conservatives.”
  • They claim that too much money is spent on social programs. Yet, when you say, “We can eliminate over 50% of spending in one set of social programs,” they don’t want to do that! Why? Because they don’t want to use effective programs to prevent unwanted pregnancy, like government funded birth control (which pays for itself many times over in social spending savings). They can’t stomach the idea of sex without life-devestating consequences.
  • Likewise, they claim to be pro-life, while being pro-death-penalty, restricting access to social safety nets, and, most significantly, restricting access to comprehensive sex education and birth control – two things that are directly linked to reduced abortions.
  • They believe in religious freedom, except when it comes to religions that want to do something they don’t like. Like marrying gays.

Seriously, if there is one thing I can’t stand, it’s hypocrites. And there seems to be plenty of them in the right wing today.

So, You Are an LGB Ally – How T is Different

Are you an LGB (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual) ally?  Or maybe you are L, G, or B.

Think you know T (trans)?  Maybe you do, maybe you don’t.

A lot of pain is caused by people assuming that being a trans ally is just like being an LGB ally (or an L, G, or B yourself).  But it’s not – there are key differences that too often are ignored.

Here’s some differences:

Acceptance for Some Trans People is About Invisibility

For much of the LGB community, the desire is to be who you are, wherever you want to be: to be able to bring a loved one with you to the company picnic, to be able to get legal recognition of your relationship, or to be protected from discrimination when people see you as you are.

For some T people, this is the same – particularly for people who identify as non-binary.  They want the right to be accepted as they are, without having to confirm to an inappropriate category.

But, equally, many want to be recognized as the binary gender they identify as. They don’t want to be asked if they are trans, they don’t want to go to a trans-pride rally, and they don’t want to be outed. It’s not that they aren’t proud of who they are, but rather that they know who they are. It isn’t a third category. It’s one of two categories already recognized.

You want to respect a transsexual who identifies as a woman? It’s simple: treat her as a woman. Not a transwoman, but a woman.  And treat yourself the same way – treat yourself as a woman (or a man), not a ciswoman or a cisman – that still creates a distinction when someone else just wants to be part of the same group you are in.  Treat this person like any other person. Obviously, that doesn’t apply to someone who considers themselves non-binary. But many trans people do consider themselves binary.

That leads into…

Not All Trans People are Non-Binary

Just as not all LGB people are bi, not all trans people are binary. It’s insulting to a gay to insist that he’s “really” bi. In the same way, it’s insulting to insist a trans person who identifies binary is really non-binary!

So, you don’t create bathrooms that are “male”, “female”, and “trans.” You don’t ask someone if they are “male,” “female,” or “trans”, as that creates a difficulty for a binary trans person – are they a man or a trans person? And are you really wanting to know about chromosomes and genitals (male, female) or gender, anyhow?  What you do is consider things like single-user bathrooms that everyone can use and forms that provide a blank rather than a checkbox for sex or gender.  But you don’t create a “trans” choice that may make some people feel pressured to identify essentially as a third-gender. At the same time, you recognize that some people are non-binary and you provide that option as well – just do so in a way that doesn’t pressure a trans person.

Trans is Not the Future Civil Rights. It’s the past too.

Remember Stonewall, where the gays rose up against oppressive laws and police? Go back and read about it again, and read why people were prosecuted. In general, it was for crossdressing.

When people promote an employment non-discrimination act that throws T people to the curb, they are denying the heritage and the people that helped fight for (and win) rights for gays. Nobody that does this, no matter how much of an ally they are for LGB people, is a T ally.

Trans People are at Higher Risk

Trans people face higher risks of violence, homelessness, and unemployment than LGB people. Trans people are more likely to be kicked out of their home, have their identity used against them in child custody cases, and lose connections to former friends when they come out.

While sadly many LGB people have also faced these things, it’s important to be careful about saying you can relate. It’s generally best to not compare sufferings.

Trans People are Discriminated Against by LGB Groups

Just because a place claims to be LGB friendly, doesn’t mean it is T friendly. This is particularly true for transwomen. The Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival comes to mind – they welcome lesbian women, so long as they weren’t born with a penis, complete with justification about how women can’t feel safe if there is a “man” there (typically referring to a transwoman that way) – very discriminatory BS. I’ve heard stories from transwomen about being excluded from lesbian-friendly survivor support groups, dating sites, social events, etc. I know others that have been discriminated against in some Metropolitan Community Churches (one of the first “gay friendly” denominations). Just because an event is LGB friendly doesn’t mean a T person is going to be welcome.

It’s also important to remember, despite this blog mostly drawing a distinction between LGB and T, things aren’t quite this simple. Plenty of T people are L, G, or B.

Trans and LGB People Have the Same Problem, But it’s not Recognized

Trans people face discrimination and violence because they don’t fit someone else’s idea of the gender role they should live. (edit: of course it’s due to prejudice ultimately – that prejudice is based on the idea that people should fit certain gender expectations of prejudiced people)

LGB people are similar. But this is one that a lot of LGB people get upset about when it’s mentioned. Part of this is because a lot of gay people have been insulted and told they are like women, while a lot of lesbians are insulted by being told they are like men – when obviously this isn’t true. Gay men are just as “man” as straight men. The same goes for lesbian women – they are just as “woman” as a straight woman. So it is understandable there would be a gut reaction. But the issue is still there: The reason a gay man is discriminated against is because of the gender role they are living. They are living, as a man, but not following the stereotype properly – they are attracted to other men, after all. That’s where their lived gender role (that of a man) fails to fit the stereotype of what others believe a man should be.

It is because of this that trans people have long recognized that the LGB movement is about gender roles, just as the T movement is about gender roles. Not the idea that gender roles must be dismantled (although obviously some people believe they should be), but rather that one should be able to live as they identify, even when someone else doesn’t like that choice based on stereotypes and expectations.

Some T People will Always be Clocked

If I see a non-trans man at Wal-Mart, who is alone, I have no idea if he is gay (barring a T shirt that says, “I’M GAY!”). Yet that man can very well might be living as a gay man, openly.

However, some T people, aren’t fortunately enough to be able to live as they are without people knowing they are trans. They simply never get seen as a human being apart from being trans. They are always trans, to everyone, all the time. They are always on-guard, and even completely innocuous things, like going to Wal-Mart, can become an ordeal. It can be hard to just leave the house.

So It’s Just Not the Same

The summary is simple: Trans people have desires and overlap with the LGB community, but also have concerns unique to their community.

God Doesn’t Make Mistakes

As a Christian, I want to start this by saying:

No Shit.

Of course God doesn’t make mistakes (Oh, I dare someone to find the Bible passage that condemns me for saying “shit”).

But let me backtrack a bit…I’m going to write this from a Christian perspective, but I think it will be accessible to all who want to confront this particular form of intolerance.

I was reading a news story about a trans person, and made the mistake of reading the comments, where you typically find the trolls, immature assholes, and people just generally enjoying destroying what others build.  In one of the comments came the standard “Christian” reply to someone who says they are trans, along with plenty of mis-gendering, since somehow Jesus would want us to do that. Apparently.

“God doesn’t make mistakes.”

In this context, what is meant is, “If you live your life as who you claim to be, you are turning your back on the person God made you to be. You are not accepting His perfect plan for your life.”

I can translate this because I had (and still have) contact with fundamentalist circles. I thought this way. So I know why others do. I also know why it is bullshit.

God may not make mistakes, and God’s actions may be perfect – but it’s obvious and evident that the world (and the people in it) are not perfect. There are the obvious ethical problems in the people of this world, all of whom are part of God’s creation even when not acting in accord with God’s heart. Then there are the bad things that happen to good people. Sometimes a good church or hospital or orphan home or whatever else catches fire and burns down, sometimes killing people. That isn’t God’s actions, that’s a bad thing that happens. Sometimes we have floods and storms that kill not just the bad, but also the good people. And to say these things are good is not only ignorant, but horrible.

But there’s also another class of things – sometimes we learn about who we are and we choose to live authentically. Truth and God are never opposed to each other. And me, living as my true self, whatever that means, is not opposed to God.  Nor is someone else living according to their true self.

Of course this is the sticking point: What is truth? I’m not going to try to answer that here. Others far smarter than I have tried. But I will say this: others far smarter than you have tried too.

People can and do change things God created all the time.

  • We dig holes in the ground and pull out the coal. God didn’t make a mistake putting the coal in the ground, where we have to mess with it rather than on the surface where we wouldn’t need to bother to dig it up.
  • Most people (although it is not without controversy) feel that surgery to correct cleft palate is appropriate and proper. Even though “God doesn’t make mistakes.”
  • If someone has a defective organ, we may transplant a working one. Even though the malfunctioning organ was part of God’s creation.
  • We go to school to learn, even though God didn’t endow us with all knowledge at birth. For some reason we don’t think we need to remain ignorant. Heck, we go to Bible Study for the same reason!

Now, if you are going to claim that if God creates something one way, that people have to stay that way, that’s fine to impose on yourself. But it’s abuse to impose on someone else, since not only would you need to impose it on trans people, but also on the infant born with the treatable medical condition. God may not make mistakes, but there are still plenty of problems in the world and it’s okay to do good and try to fix them.

But, gender is something different. Too many Christians think that a few Bible verses they read as anti-gay say something about defining who is man and who is woman (sure, it talks about crushed stones and such, but it never actually tells us how to determine male or female). Of course this is where we get into the controversy.  Plenty of people have discussed what is wrong with the anti-gay interpretation of a handful of Bible verses, so I won’t get into that. But that’s the root of the problem: the root of the problem is the importance some see in gender roles, and the importance of enforcing them rigidly. That’s why someone who believes women and men should both manage a family together (rather than one having authority over the other) are a threat to too many – despite other versus making it clear that Christ draws no distinction between men and women.

You see, the idea that men and women each have distinct, rigid, unchangeable roles is essential in this mindset to fighting the gay.  “The gay” think that these roles may not be quite so rigid or fixed or distinct – two fathers can raise a child, just as two mothers can, just as a mother and a father can.  And truth – scientific studies, measuring outcomes – agree.  And this is a problem, because, if true, it clashes against the spoken reason for the anti-gay bigotry – that every child needs a mom and a dad.  If that goes away, then we are left with just raw hatred of “the gay.”  And that doesn’t sound very loving anymore.

So, it’s important to enforce gender roles. Trans people (and, typically, intersexed people as well) are basically the collateral damage of this need to enforce gender roles – or, rather, gender stereotypes. If I can’t look to see if someone has a penis to decide whether or not they are a leader, how could I possibly know if they can lead a family?!  (Yes, that’s sarcasm, besides it’s not what is actually done – what is actually done is people make a guess about whether someone has a penis and then enforce gender roles on that basis)

But what if, just if, it might be possible that God created people with female brains and male genitals – and also the converse.  Could God do such a thing?  Of course.  And there are a lot more possibilities than the binary, too.  God can do anything, right?  And before we put God into that box, just maybe we should make sure we know what we are talking about when we start condemning people – particularly for something that the Bible is remarkably silent about. Just maybe we need to error on the side of grace. It would be most unfortunate indeed if we failed to recognize what God did create right in front of us. Even more so, it would be fighting God if we tried to keep one of God’s children from living the true and authentic life God has for them.

But some people know as much as God. Ask them. And chances are they’ll tell you that “God doesn’t make mistakes” which is nice and all, but too often just a cover for lack of intellectual rigor and an excess of uninformed bigotry.

You Want To Talk Bathrooms?

If you listen to the right wing, their opposition to every LGBT protection law that includes gender identity comes down to bathrooms.

In California, AB1266 recently became law.  This law basically made it explicit: trans people have rights, even if they are children, and that includes the right to be treated as a member of the gender they identify as.

What gets lost in the discussion of the law is that this law didn’t change the law!  Seriously.  It was already California law that you not discriminate, and there has been plenty of case law in other areas establishing that treating a transwoman as a man (for example) is sex discrimination, both federally (this is a positive recent change) and within California law.

What it did do is end a bunch of legal bickering that occurred in more conservative districts whenever a trans person wanted rights in schools.  It made it easy for the bigots to figure out the law – they didn’t need to think anymore, which apparently is good for bigots.  Now they have no excuse and no legal arguments over what the law actually says.  So it did do something, even if it wasn’t necessary: it made it harder for districts to waste time in court while being an asshole to a trans student.

That’s probably why it was supported by so many people.  According to the bill’s Senate Floor Analysis, it was supported by Equality California, Gender Spectrum, GSA Network, National Center for Lesbian Rights, Transgender Law Center, American Civil Liberties Union of California, Anti-Defamation League, Bay Area Youth Summit, California Communities United Institute, California Federation of Teachers, California LGBT Health & Human Services Network, California State PTA, California Teachers Association, Child & Adolescent Gender Center, Family Equality Council, GLSEN, GLSEN Orange County, HonorPAC, L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center, Labor/Community Strategy Center, LAUSD, LGBT Community Center of the Desert, Los Angeles Gender Center, MALDEF, National Association of Social Workers, CA Chapter National Gay & Lesbian Task Force Action Fund, North County LGBTQ Resource Center, Our Family Coalition, Pacific Pride Foundation, Public Advocates Inc., Public Counsel, Restorative Schools Vision Project, San Diego Cooperative Charter School, San Diego LGBT Community Center, San Francisco Unified School District, The Center Long Beach, The Center OC, The Trevor Project, and Youth Justice Coalition.

Yes, that’s a lot of support.  Who opposed it?  You would think that if this created problems in schools, at least one education-related organization would oppose it.  So let’s see…who opposed it officially?  It’s a short list:

  • California Catholic Conference
  • Capitol Resource Institute
  • Concerned Women for America
  • Traditional Values Coalition

I had to look up “Capitol Resource Institute” (CRI) to find out who they were.  They are a right-wing Christian lobbying group, who opposes gay marriage, LGBT rights, and other “left” causes like public money funding public schools (rather than vouchers, which of course CRI supports). They are also working with the creators of California’s hateful Proposition 8 to come up with a ballot initiative to remove rights from trans students.

The others are also right wing Christian groups.

Not one educational organization was willing to officially oppose the bill.  That should tell you something: restating existing law is hardly the end of the world as we know it.

So, what is the opposition?  The guys trying to appear to be sane according to a Huffington Post article that quotes an AP story, say,

In an interview with the Associated Press, Donnelly said that his sons, aged 13 and 16, are “horrified” at the prospect of using the same bathrooms as peers who were born female.

Yes, I’m sure that Donnelly’s kids have no idea that vaginas exist.  After all, I suspect Donnelly believes in saving sex for marriage – you shouldn’t know anything about it until then, after all.

But, more significantly, the opposition is always about bathrooms.

Except it’s not about bathrooms.  It’s about basic dignity.  It’s about being treated as who you are.  And it applies to far more than bathrooms – it ensures that a girl is treated as a girl in all aspects by the school.  That’s what it’s about.  It’s not about seeing penises or vaginas.

But, if they want to talk bathrooms, let’s talk bathrooms.

One California Representative opposes the recent law because it invades the privacy of the other 98% of students.  For instance, he says:

Some of my most pressing questions are: What are the long-term repercussions of this measure? Will some kids be too embarrassed to use the bathroom or locker rooms, knowing that a member of the opposite sex could enter any time? Could this create unneeded anxiety with students, creating a massive learning distraction? Will creating gender neutral facilities increase the likelihood of a sexual assault on campus?

Let’s look at that.  Let’s start talking about kids not being able to use the bathroom.  Let’s talk about the 7% – a large part of that “98%” he talks about – who have trouble using public facilities due to Paruresis, a medical condition commonly known as “shy bladder.”  According to the International Paruresis Association, restrooms could be designed better.  To give people privacy.  Then this 7% could pee in peace.

But it’s not just that 7%.  We have gay people in our society.  Really.  And it’s 10% of the population.  The California legislature concerned about the privacy rights of the 98% is also concerned that somehow transgender students will be attracted to the students in the bathroom they are using, but not the bathroom that doesn’t match their gender.  Apparently he doesn’t realize that not all trans people are gay.  Heck, most aren’t.  Duh.  But 10% of the population is gay, and is using showers and facilities.  They might even be attracted to someone.  Rick Santorum was definitely worried about this when Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was being repealed.  So we have to worry about that 10% too.

Of course it’s not just gays – there are those pesky bisexuals.  46% of the male population, according to a Kinsey study on behavior (not attraction) or reaction (you can guess what that means) of men to men and women, showed they were at least somewhat bisexual.  That’s an older study, but I suspect men in the 1940s and 1950s were even less likely to tell a researcher about their bisexuality than it would today.  Now, most of this 46% doesn’t identify as bisexual, but does that matter to the right wing?  Probably not.  And plenty of other studies have confirmed Kinsey’s studies, although it is important to distinguish between differing definitions of bisexuality (as an aside, Kinsey disliked that term). And would they want a bisexual student peeing in a urinal next to their boy? My guess is no. So they must be excluded.

So let’s see… 98% of the population needs privacy from trans people.  Of that 98%, 7% of them can’t urinate with others in their space or sound area.  So that’s .98 multiplied by .93 which yields 91% of the population doesn’t need bathroom design changes if trans people aren’t allowed in any bathroom.  If we take that 91% and multiply it by 90% (let’s exclude the 10% of gays from bathrooms, so nobody worries about the gay guy checking them out), we find out that 81% of the population is now okay.  But, remember, 46% is bi.  So 54% (the non-Bi chunk) of 81% is 43%.

43% of the population would be just fine if trans students, people with paruresis, bisexual attractions or behavior, or gays were banned from restrooms.  Of course that would require us to ban 57% from the bathroom.  Or at least build bathrooms, showers, and other environments that are accessible to the majority (the 57%).

You know what meets the needs of both the 43% and the 57%?  Private facilities.  Seriously.

But of course none of the legislators or right wing lobbying groups talk about making facilities private.  No, they just talk about excluding people. Even though 57% of people is a lot of people not peeing if they have their way.

It’s time the 57% get their rights back.

Defending Marriage of Cousins and 14 Year Olds

The right wing in the USA is defending us against gays marrying. And also the threat of trans kids not being accepted by their schools (see the actions of the National Association of Marriage).

But there’s a few things they don’t campaign against.

14 year old marriage, for instance.

There is no minimum marriage age in Maine. There is a requirement for people under 16 years old (who could be marrying a person of any age) to go through a court hearing, but, in theory, a 6 year old could marry in Maine. This is not unusual – several states have similar laws.

Or, until recently, Kansas. Now you have to be 15. This was enacted after a 14 year old from Nebraska was married to an adult, also from Nebraska, in the jurisdiction of Kansas.

Lots of states let 16 year olds get married. Ohio may have one of the strangest – the age is 18 for men, but 16 for girls (with consent of parents). That’s not the strange part – lots of states have had different ages for males and females. The strange part is the section about how a Juvenile Court can give consent for the 16 year old girl:

3101.04 Consent by juvenile court.
When the juvenile court files a consent to marriage pursuant to the juvenile rules, the probate court may thereupon issue a license, notwithstanding either or both the contracting parties for the marital relation are under the minimum age prescribed in section 3101.01 of the Revised Code. The license shall not issue until section 3101.05 of the Revised Code has been complied with, and until such child has been born, or it is found beyond doubt by the juvenile court that the minor female is pregnant and intends to have the child.

Yes, that’s right. She should be pregnant and not intending to abort. Thank you, Ohio, for letting children marry, but only when they don’t believe in abortion. Abortion is wrong, after all, but it’s not wrong for a kid to marry (yes, that’s sarcasm).

As I said, age based on sex is not unusual. But New Hampshire has this gem:

RHA 457:4 Marriageable. – No male below the age of 14 years and no female below the age of 13 years shall be capable of contracting a valid marriage that is entered into by one male and one female, and all marriages contracted by such persons shall be null and void. No male below the age of 18 and no female below the age of 18 shall be capable of contracting a valid marriage between persons of the same gender, and all marriages contracted by such persons shall be null and void.

Yes, they write in 13 for girls and 14 for boys. But only if they aren’t gay (same sex marriage is legal in NH, but only for adults). If they are gay, they need to wait until they are 18. Because 13 year old girls having gay sex is wrong. Straight sex? I guess that must be okay in New Hampshire. To be fair, 13 and 14 year olds referenced above would need a court hearing.

(yes, they mean sex, not gender above, as these are typically confused in statutes – I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t let a 17 year old transman marry a woman)

Interestingly, 13 year olds getting married (as long as they aren’t gay!) doesn’t seem to bother the likes of the National Association of Marriage. Go figure.

Nor is cousin marriage. In 2010, the Governor of Hawaii was famously quoted saying,

For those people who want to makes this into a civil rights issue, and of course those in favor of the bill, they see it as a civil rights issue. And I understand them drawing that conclusion. But people on the other side would point out, well, we don’t allow other people to marry even — it’s not a civil right for them. First cousins couldn’t marry, or a brother and a sister and that sort of thing.

Just one problem – Hawaii does allow first cousins to marry.

Apparently, poly-bi people are set in Hawaii too. Hawaii doesn’t prohibit a man from marrying a woman, even if he’s married to a man in another state – here’s the restrictions on multiple marriage:

The man does not at the time have any lawful wife living and that the woman does not at the time have any lawful husband living

Remember Arizona? Cousins can marry. If they are old.  From statute title 25, section 101.B:

Notwithstanding subsection A, first cousins may marry if both are sixty-five years of age or older or if one or both first cousins are under sixty-five years of age, upon approval of any superior court judge in the state if proof has been presented to the judge that one of the cousins is unable to reproduce.

So a 64 year old woman who has had a hysterectomy couldn’t marry her 64 year old first-cousin. But if the man was 65, she could, with court approval. We’re worried about kids after all – if no kids are involved, cousins can marry. Unless they are gay and thus the two can’t both be biological parents of the same kid.

And, Maine? They let cousins marry, if they have genetic counseling. If they aren’t gay.  See 19A 701 B:

Notwithstanding paragraph A, a man may marry the daughter of his father’s brother or sister or the daughter of his mother’s brother or sister, and a woman may marry the son of her father’s brother or sister or the son of her mother’s brother or sister as long as, pursuant to sections 651 and 652, the man or woman provides the physician’s certificate of genetic counseling.

There is no such exception for gays.

Of course, in general, the idea of cousin marriage overall is not unusual. In fact, 20 states allow cousin marriage without any requirement of sterility or court permission.

These child marriages and cousin marriages will be recognized everywhere in the USA except possibly Arizona and Utah. Of course a same-sex marriage from other states isn’t recognized in 48 states. The actual number is much smaller, generally only in states that themselves allow same-sex marriage licenses.

Meanwhile, the right wing is protecting us from gay marriage. For the Children. But it’s okay with them, apparently, to recognize child marriage. Or cousin marriage. Or any of the other things that the right wing uses as an argument against gay marriage.

Maybe, just maybe, we should focus on fixing the mess of marriage laws in the USA, and strive for at least a semblance of consistency within a state (if heterosexual cousins can get married, why not gays? If a 13 year old girl can get married, why not a 13 year old boy – note that I will go on record as definitely not supporting either 13 year old being married!).


Reflections on My Hate…and that of Ole Miss


In 1998, when I was a student at the University of Wyoming, a gay college student – Matthew Shepard – was brutally murdered in an anti-gay hate crime.

candleMatthew did nothing to provoke the attack, as police reports and trial evidence makes clear.

At the time, I was opposed to “legalizing the gay lifestyle” and believed I was right – because “God” told me so.

I am ashamed of that part of my life.

So I’ve thought a lot about Matthew Shepard’s death. Even when I was an anti-gay college student, I could recognize that Matthew shouldn’t have died. I had a lot of things wrong in my belief, but I understood that he was human and should have lived.

Matthew was killed as a result of people who couldn’t accept a world with a gay person in it. They took matters into their own hands, causing an unimaginable amount of pain – and the death – of someone just trying to live an authentic life.

That brings me to the present: on Tuesday, the theater department at University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) put on a production of The Laramie Project, a play about the community and the response to Matthew Shepard’s death. It is very well written and accurate.

Now, this play has been performed thousands of times in many different venues. What happened at Ole Miss was different.

Students not only disrespected the performance, but actually shouted anti-gay slurs at the performers (among other things), apparently encouraged by some football players.

The next few days will tell us not only about the football players and other students, but about whether or not the administration will accept this behavior or use this as a teaching moment. I thought we learned something from the Matthew Shepard murder as a society. Apparently not everyone has learned it. And for that reason, I am glad that The Laramie Project is playing at Ole Miss. It’s message clearly needs to be heard on that campus.

I will say that people can change their views. I did. I’m ashamed of what my views were when Matthew died. But people can grow and learn – if they listen. And, right now, a few Ole Miss students need to listen.

Why The Christian Backlash Against Trans People?

As a Christian, and someone who was in some fundamentalist circles, I think I can answer this. It’s kind of puzzling to watch the hatred against trans people. Oh, we all know that some Christians interpret some verses as God’s prohibition against homosexuality (of course not all Christians do). When you think the Bible literally says that God will punish gays, of course you would think being gay is wrong. Now, I’m not going to argue against this here, although I clearly disagree with those who see God hating homosexuality (I used to believe that hogwash; then I learned to actually think and read and judge independent of what I was “supposed” to believe according to some leader; I also started voting non-Republican sometimes, as I also couldn’t find the 11th Commandment, Thou Shall Vote Republican, in the Bible either).

But I know the language and I thought like these people still think.  So I think I have some insight that non-Christians might lack in understanding the double-talk and coded language surrounding gays and trans people.

Display in Gamarelli shop window of Papal vestments. (Licensed CC-Attribution-Generic 2.0. Creator was Anthony M.)

That lacy garment is not a woman’s dress!  This display in Gamarelli shop window of Papal vestments. (Licensed CC-Attribution-Generic 2.0. Creator was Anthony M.)

The question that comes to mind is: so, what’s the issue with trans people? The verses about gays don’t talk about trans people. At best, you can find something about cross-dressers in Deuteronomy 22:5: “A woman must not wear men’s clothing, nor a man wear women’s clothing, for the Lord your God detests anyone who does this” (NIV).  But, this verse isn’t what you’ll hear quoted by Christians who object to trans people.  After all, Jesus fulfilled the law (which includes Deuteronomy) so we are no longer bound by it, but are now bound by the new covenant. Yes, that’s a bunch of coded language, but it basically means Christians can ignore the parts of the old testament we don’t like (yes, it’s more complex than that, but I’m simplifying as I don’t think I’ve heard this much used against trans people, because it is old, not new, testament).  Besides, I’d have to ask about the picture to the right – and see what the pope wears. It sure looks similar in style to some of the clothing I’ve seen very conservative Christian women wear! And certainly if you wore that type of clothes out of context, people would think “dress”, not “papal vestment!”

As I’ve mentioned, this isn’t the problem people seem to have with trans people. It’s not because God “despises” trans people (most Christians would say God loves trans people, even if they themselves think the trans person is going to hell and committing a huge sin). Perhaps this is because of what comes just afew sentences later in Deuteronomy 22 – the section around verses 20 and 21 in particular:

If, however, the charge is true and no proof of the young woman’s virginity can be found, 21 she shall be brought to the door of her father’s house and there the men of her town shall stone her to death. She has done an outrageous thing in Israel by being promiscuous while still in her father’s house. You must purge the evil from among you.

Nevermind that good ‘ol Mom & Dad are supposed to know if she’s a virgin and have the proof – go look at verses 13 through 15 for how that was to be done:

If a man takes a wife and, after sleeping with her, dislikes her and slanders her and gives her a bad name, saying, “I married this woman, but when I approached her, I did not find proof of her virginity,” then the young woman’s father and mother shall bring to the town elders at the gate proof that she was a virgin.

This “proof” was a bloody cloth. I don’t know any Christians who keep bloody cloth as proof of virginity of their daughter at time of marriage. Or, thankfully, any that will stone their daughter (although I know plenty that will shame a woman – and never mind that there are ways that the hymen could be broken or stretched beyond consensual intercourse). Also nevermind that heterosexual intercourse (particularly with a man who is gentile and who listens to the woman) won’t necessarily cause bleeding even if a woman still has a supposedly “intact” hymen (you did get your sex ed somewhere other than porn or Texas, so you know this, I hope…and you know that a hymen may stretch, not rip, if the man is not rough [see this video])? Never let a little science get into the way of obsessing over virginity! Besides, who says the blood actually has to come from the hymen to make the sheet bloody (it appears that some women actually cut themselves to bleed on the sheets to provide this proof)? Regardless, this is a ritual I’ve not seen encouraged by the modern Church in general, so I’m not surprised the part right before it – about clothing choice – is also similarly dismissed. Oh, and the fact that 80% of unmarried Christians age 18 to 29 have had sex (that means it’s probably much higher by the late 20s than 80%) probably doesn’t hurt in getting people to ignore this.

So, what’s the issue?

It’s gays. Yep, gays. Now I can hear it now, “trans is not gay!” Of course it isn’t (and, yes, I know that a trans person can be gay).

In the last few years, same-sex marriage has become legal in much of the United States and elsewhere. The US federal government recognizes it, as of this summer. And that’s a good thing. So what does it have to do with trans people?

It’s simple: it’s the argument against gay marriage. There are religious arguments against gay marriage, but most people know that someone who doesn’t follow their faith isn’t going to put a lot of stock in these arguments, so they turn to what they think is a secular argument. This is where we get to the doozy: men and women are different and complimentary. This is the key to understanding the Christian backlash against trans people.

You see, you’ll hear statements like “every child needs a mom and a dad.” This is apparently the less-noticably-bigoted way to say “a kid needs straight parents.” It’s also exceptionally offensive not only to gay and lesbian parents, but also to widowed and divorced parents. But this argument persists – the idea is simple: moms (women) bring one set of gifts to a family, and dads (men) bring a completely different, but just as necessary, set of gifts. If you have two moms, you have the maternal, but you’ll be hurt in life by not having the paternal. And, likewise, having two dads will leave you missing the maternal.

Of course this is hogwash. But it is the kind of “common sense” hogwash that people use to hide bigotry. “Oh, I’m not saying gays can’t be good parents. I’m just saying that a man can’t provide what a woman can and visa-versa. You need both.”

Obviously this type of thing is also exceptionally sexist – what things can’t a man provide? Sometimes, these are very generally described, or, more often, not described at all. After all, not every family with a mom and dad has a man earning money and a woman cooking food. And plenty of men can be nurturing, kind, emotional, and all sorts of other things supposedly only women do. And plenty of women can protect, provide, and guide their child – despite these being supposedly manly tasks.

But, regardless of problems, this is the view. God made women to do women things. God made men to do men things. It was ordained by God (in their eyes).

So, where does a trans person fit in? First, they might identify as neither man or woman – that is, non-binary. But God’s plan, in the eyes of some Christian, requires rigid separation of roles. And, if you are arguing that gays can’t provide everything a child would need without a woman, you can’t believe that a gender lines aren’t fixed or rigid and absolute. You have to believe they are rigid and absolute. A gay dad couldn’t cross over and be nurturing (note that I don’t buy this, and I don’t find anything non masculine about being nurturing). To some Christians, the dad isn’t supposed to do these things. He’s supposed to do “man” things. So that leaves a gap. A non-binary person could, in theory, do both “man” and “woman” things. We can’t have that, because then if one was in a relationship they wouldn’t need anyone else to raise a kid . Supposedly.

That may not yet make sense, so let me talk about the binary, transsexual person. That is, someone who identifies as a binary gender. The very existence of this person means a few things: first, it means we might have women that look like men (as do most transwomen before they express a feminine gender identity, as most are raised as boys and then men). After all, someone might be a woman inside, but might be living as a man. How would we know it’s not a lesbian relationship if this person married a woman (just joking here – the Christians I’m talking about don’t think that deeply)?  No, rather, the problem is that, to them, there is no longer any way of objectively verifying someone’s gender – instead you have to ask. This causes too many questions, and questions in a path they don’t want to go down. For instance, if someone could marry heterosexually as a man, but then gets divorced and transitions to a woman, should she marry a man or a woman? Did she suddenly lose all the “man” skills and gain all the “woman” skills? Or did she have the woman skills all along, but lacked the man skills – and, if so, did she, before transition…well, the questions go on. And this challenges beliefs. It turns out you start thinking about what are gender roles and where did they come from. And that starts you questioning this fixed, rigid roles.

Again, however, it’s not that complicated to these people. Trans people, like gays, challenge the ideas of gender. They challenge the idea that there are certain things that are man-only and certain things that are woman-only. Gays do it by being attracted to a guy (in some Christians’ eyes, this is something only women should do). Lesbians do it by being attracted to a woman (again, something some think only men should do). And if they raise kids or otherwise participate in society, somehow the important stuff gets done. Even the stuff that someone might think is “womanly” like cooking or nurturing. And the stuff someone might think is “manly” like protection and providing.

Trans people challenges these thoughts by essentially saying, “You don’t know who I am, you just know who you thought I was. And you have to take my word for who I am.” And, to someone who is already transphobic and thinks being trans is just a random choice, this sounds like, “I can be a man or I can be a woman.” Of course intersex and non-binary people also cause this problem.

But much of it traces back to this idea that men and women have different roles in the family, and thus a feeling of justification in opposing gay rights (see, I care about the children). And back from there to just plain sexism. And, yes, it’s as ugly as it seems.


The Connection Between Military Service and Trans People

320px-Marine_RPD_machine_gunA recent study (focused on the USA) talked about, among other things, how trans people were more than twice as likely to have served in the military than non-trans people.  It talked about a lot of other things, only some of which I will talk about here, as some of it is truly horrible – the likelihood of being a rape victim, for instance, is particularly high among closeted trans people serving in the military.

Today’s policy in the US armed forces is that someone with gender identity disorder is mentally ill and thus should be discharged as unfit for duty.  The same goes for intersex soldiers.  Being open about your gender identity, even after the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT), is not acceptable and will get you kicked out.  There is no apparent plans to change that.

Of course it doesn’t have to be that way – Canada has allowed trans people to serve, and even provided SRS (sex reassignment surgery) under the military health coverage.  So does Israel.  And the best speech ever by a military officer about treating people decently (specifically after a sex scandal) was written by the Australian General’s speech writer, a transgender Lt. Colonel.

But, back to the study…the study found there are tons more military veterans among the trans community than among the non-trans community.  Why?  They cited an earlier study which found many trans people, particularly transwomen (that is, people who initially had an “M” on their birth certificate but are women), undergo what the researchers described as a “flight into hypermasculinity.”  I believe, based on stories I know of transsexual people, that this is both real and common, and have a thoughts as to why.  First, this “flight” usually seems to occur in early adulthood.  This is a time of tons of changes, such as brain maturation, physical maturation, and leaving home (for many).  People are trying to find themselves, trying to figure out where they belong.  To find acceptance and peace, obviously it would be easier if one were living according to society’s expectations on gender.  So people try.  I think this is one reason why so many transwomen have done very masculine things in their teen and early adult lives, whether it’s being the high school football star, being part of the hyper-masculine Seal Team 6, or a motorcycle racer.  Now, I’m not saying women can’t do these things, but they are traditionally very masculine jobs.

I think the flight into hyper-masculinity may be similar to a may man who has internalized prejudice and marries a woman – only to have a broken marriage years later.  It doesn’t turn out to work.  He’s still gay.  And, likewise, the transwoman is still a woman.  Yet, there is an attraction for both the gay man and the trans woman – if only they could live as society expects, life would be much, much easier (and likely better).  They can’t, because they aren’t what society expects, and trying to live that life leads to death.

It’s unfortunate that the Veteran’s Affairs (VA) health system (the medical system that provides medical care for veterans in the US) leaves transgender people out in several ways.  Now, it’s not all bad – overall, the official policies of the VA are actually relatively decent compared to most health care.  But there are three big gotcha’s in the policy and implementation.  First, good policy, alone, is insufficient if people providing care don’t get it.  And that’s sure to happen in a health system as large as the VA.  It’s inexcusable to treat a veteran in need of medical care in a way that humiliates or demeans, but sadly it does happen.  Second, the policy itself prohibits sex reassignment surgery.  The VA, like many health care providers, consider this surgery to be primarily cosmetic, while at the same time recognizing that gender dysphoria is real (and has a surgical cure, for transsexuals, particularly transsexual women).  In addition to these two problems, the third is a problem of access – many trans people are discharged non-favorably from the military, in which case they may not qualify for VA health benefits, even if they otherwise qualify (for instance, an honorably discharged veteran who served in combat within 5 years would qualify for a time).  For instance, cross dressing is against military justice code, and can cause a dishonorable discharge – which results in no veterans’ benefits.

So, the next time you hear news of gay veterans, think of the transgender military members – there’s plenty of them and they are, sadly, at risk of dishonorable discharge or worse (suicide is very common among trans people trying to live as a gender they are not).  And then, when discharged, think how the system we’ve set up to ensure our veterans are healthy and can adjust back into society fails someone on this most personal and important aspect of their being.  We have work to do.

Sex Change in Iran

Quick, second to Thailand, what country performs the most sex reassignment surgeries?  Answer: the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Flag_of_Iran.svgA few days ago, I wrote just a bit about Be Like Others, a documentary about transgender people in Iran.  I was sort of expecting to hear how Iran sees trans people, and that certainly was a part of the documentary.  But, more disturbingly, was how Iran sees gay people.

In the USA, when someone’s kid comes out as transgender to mom and dad, a frequent comment is, “Are you sure you’re not just gay?”  Being gay is more acceptable than being trans.  In Iran, the question is to gay kids: “Are you sure you aren’t trans?”

Certainly, there’s an element of “same but different” in homosexuality and transsexuality – in both cases, people are violating gender roles.  In the one, they are violating the gender role for who they are supposed to love.  In the other, for who they believe they are.  In both cases, the problem boils down to “not living as someone of your presumed gender should live.”

It turns out that some Muslims believe being trans is acceptable – not necessarily wonderful, but not mortal sin either.  Homosexuality on the other hand remains the mortal sin.  In fact, Ayatollah Khomeini, prior to receiving political power, in 1967 declared that sex changes were acceptable.  Stonewall in the USA didn’t happen until 1969, two years later.  For people not well versed on LGBT history, while gays and lesbians were targeted by police in Stonewall, the worst of the targeting was directed towards males wearing makeup (effeminate gays) and both women and men who wore the “wrong” gender’s clothing.

So, back to Iran.  What do you do in a country that doesn’t have gay people (something the Iranian president said when being questioned about the execution of two gay men – for being gay) if you are gay?  It turns out that what can keep you alive is to change your sex.  At least you can survive then, albeit not likely as someone who will enjoy their life.

Nobody knows how many gender reassignment operations are being done on gay (not trans) people in Iran, but it’s a significant percentage of the surgeries.  Nor do trans people have a choice in having the surgery – if it’s recommended, they are expected to have it.  And it’s recommended if the person is trans.  Period.  That said, in 2004, one organization estimated the rate of forced or coerced operations done on gays was around 45%.  Nearly half.

So maybe trans people have a slightly easier time in Iran than in some other countries.  They are fully legally recognized in their new gender, so marriage is not an issue – so long as they are heterosexual (that is, attracted to the sex opposite their reassigned sex).  But it’s hardly a welcoming country, even for people who really are transsexual and not gay.  But it’s even worse for gays.

From a western perspective it’s a strange situation.  Is it more accepting or less accepting than other countries?  I don’t know.  But it’s certainly not where we need to be as a world.