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, http://crimeagainstnature.org/2016/03/24/north-carolina-cant-even-do-the-wrong-thing-right/).  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.

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.

Kansas License to Discriminate…Against Women Drivers

Kansas Representative Charles Macheers (R), Right-wing Extremist

Kansas Representative Charles Macheers (R), Right-wing Extremist

The Kansas House of Representatives just passed Rep. Charles Macheer’s HB 2453 on Tuesday, by a nearly 2 to 1 margin. This bill, as has been widely reported, is basically an attempt to allow discrimination against people on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, as long as the person doing the discrimination feels it their religious duty to be an ass. Secular discrimination would remain illegal. Seriously. So the lesson here is, if you want to be an ass, it’s best to be a religious ass. Rep. Charles Macheers – and in fact the Kansas House of Representatives – has your back. But that’s not all. Like the State of Oklahoma, Kansas can’t even do the wrong thing right. In 2010, one house of the Oklahoma legislature, in attempting to prevent hate-crime laws from being applied in cases of LGBT victims screwed up – they passed a bill that left gays protected, but stripped rights from victims of religiously and racially motivated hate crimes. Kansas, meanwhile, apparently means explicitly legalize religiously motivated hate, albeit not in the context of violent crime (as the hate crime law applied), but “just” in things like employment and government services. Jesus is pleased, I’m sure. For instance, HB 2453 reads, in part:

Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no individual or religious entity shall be required by any governmental entity to do any of the following, if it would be contrary to the sincerely held religious beliefs of the individual or religious entity regarding sex or gender:

(a) Provide any services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges; provide counseling, adoption, foster care and other social services; or provide employment or employment benefits, related to, or related to the celebration of, any marriage, domestic partnership, civil union or similar arrangement;

(b) solemnize any marriage, domestic partnership, civil union or similar arrangement; or

(c) treat any marriage, domestic partnership, civil union or similar arrangement as valid.

While parts (b) and (c) are pretty awful, (a) is astonishing. Let me make this a bit more clear, because (a) has the clarity we have grown to expect from the anti-LGBT lobby.  Here’s what (a) allows, at least when there isn’t a Federal law that would trump it:

  • A DMV worker who feels that their religion doesn’t allow women to drive (like some in Saudi Arabia) could refuse to help the 50% of DMV “customers” who enter the local DMV.  In small towns, this person might be the only one on-staff at times. Besides lightening their own workload, the person would receive protection from the State taking any personnel action against them.
  • A woman showing up at a male doctor’s office could be refused care by the male doctor if a woman doctor is available or if she isn’t accompanied by the appropriate male relative. After all, again, some in Saudi Arabia believe this for religious reasons. All it takes is a sincere belief…
  • A Christian who believes “women should always be under the authority of a man” could refuse to hire women into any supervisory role.

It’s a lot broader than these examples but that should be sufficient. Note that I don’t believe all Muslims or Christians are anti-woman, but, sadly, some are. Others are decent human beings. Sadly the decent human beings don’t seem to be making the laws in Kansas.

Of course one could also believe that the anti-woman provisions of this law just might not be an accident. After all, the religious right (by all accounts the true sponsor of this law) doesn’t just think homosexuality is wrong or that transgender people are “living in sin,” but they also believe something very interesting:

Every child needs a mom and a dad” (warning: that link contains a lot of B.S., but demonstrates the view of those who use this argument in opposing marriage equality).

What exactly does “every child needs a mom and a dad” mean if it doesn’t mean that there are some things which are either only done, or only should be done, by one sex or the other? I suspect dad is to be the leader, while mom is to be homemaker. This proposed Kansas law would help accomplish that.

 

Dude, Your Racism is Showing

There’s something missing in all this discussion of Duck Dynasty. There’s something missing from the response by National Organization for Marriage, the American Family Association, and Ted Cruz (up-and-coming Republican star and current US Senator) to the suspension of Phil Robertson from his TV show on A&E. Even Sarah Palin and Louisina Governor Jindal have spoken out against the suspension of Phil Robertson.

If you listen to these people, the suspension of a media personality from a television network is something straight out of a totalitarian regime. It’s political correctness and silencing of dissent. All for just speaking the “Christian” view of gays.

There’s a bunch wrong with the responses. I’ll start with the lessor problems first. The very people and organizations criticizing A&E for suspending someone that works for them is now wrong. Yet these are the people that believe religious people should be able to violate any law they disagree with, to not serve blacks, gays, or anyone else they don’t like – the right to refuse service and all. But let’s ignore that, as it’s a nuanced subject that the right wing doesn’t understand – they don’t understand the history of discrimination which created the Civil Rights Act and other non-discrimination laws.

So, let’s move onto other problems. It goes without saying, it seems, that the Christian view of gays is that they are going to hell, should be stopped by society, and are acting out of choice. But of course that’s only the views of some Christians, but hardly a defining doctrine of Christianity, no matter how much the loud bigots want to make it one. Plenty of other churches have moved past this bigotry, just as they moved past other bigotries in the past. Christianity isn’t one thing, and you should always be suspicious of anyone who claims a major religion is united in belief – particularly about a social issue that society remains divided on.

And I will say that Phil’s remarks on gay people were plenty deshabille, wrong, and just plain ignorant. If ignorance passes for speech that lobby groups and politicians are seeking to protect, we are in trouble. But I’m not going to repeat those remarks – they are easy to find through Google.

And, finally, the last minor point, before I get to the meat of what I want to say, is that being suspended from A&E is not a violation of anyone’s free speech rights. Phil can continue to speak his ignorant mind. And A&E can choose to suspend him. This is not a conflict – in fact, A&E is exercising a form of speech as well, by showing opposition to Phil, as any citizen or group of citizens is allowed to do. Free speech was never intended to be speech without consequences. It was protected from government interference, not private organizations choosing to not employ the speaker. Nobody I’ve seen is seriously calling for Phil to be sanctioned by the government or to be jailed or otherwise deprived of his freedom.

But, no, that’s not the meat.

Here’s the meat of my concern: All this right-wing chest thumping about freedom of speech and religious persecution is ignoring something else that was said. None of these people are shouting from the rooftops that Phil’s ignorant and racist statements about blacks are okay, or that A&E should employ someone speaking racist shit.

Yet, racist shit is exactly what Phil said – in addition to the aforementioned anti-gay shit. During the same event where he faced criticism (rightfully) for his ignorant views of gays, he said some ignorant things about blacks – despite, by his own admission, living during a time period and around the very people discriminated against. He said,

I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person. Not once. Where we lived was all farmers. The blacks worked for the farmers. I hoed cotton with them. I’m with the blacks, because we’re white trash. We’re going across the field…. They’re singing and happy. I never heard one of them, one black person, say, ‘I tell you what: These doggone white people’—not a word!… Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues.

That is from the same article about his interview with GQ – read it for yourself here.

There’s a lot wrong with this in just a few words. Perhaps that’s why the NAACP has spoken out against Phil’s statements! No, not perhaps. You bet that’s why they did. Rightfully.

I’m wondering what is meant by “pre-entitlement.” Perhaps he means, “Pre-Civil Rights Act of 1967.” That’s the one that said Blacks didn’t need to sit at the back of the bus (or get kicked off entirely, at the driver’s whim). Or that Blacks could drink from the same water fountain. Or that blacks could vote. Perhaps he means “Pre-Brown v. Board of Education” and the entitlement to a decent education. Perhaps he means the time before people of all races were entitled to vote. Or perhaps before they were entitled to marry someone of another race.

And, even more concerning: Why are people not calling these right wing groups out on their support of racism? It’s bad that they are saying anti-gay shit. And they should be called out for that. But supporting racists is also worthy of being called out on. It’s every bit as offensive to discount the discrimination faced by blacks as the discrimination faced by LGBT people.

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” — Martin Luther King, Jr.

Remember Stonewall, Police Abuse, and Presumption of Guilt

NYCD Police Department Patch

NYCD Police Department Patch

In the 1969 Stonewall Inn riots, in NYC, it is commonly known that the NYC gay community stood up and said, “This is not okay.” They stood up to both the police department, who used humiliating and abusive tactics, and also against the laws of the time which were designed to punish homosexuality.

What isn’t as commonly known is that this may have been less about gay rights than about trans rights. While it was true that gay men (and sometimes women) were arrested for pursuing relationships, it was just as often – if not more often – about the gender expectations, specifically clothing, worn. It was easier to arrest someone for cross-dressing.

Lesbians and FTMs wearing “male” clothing (various ordinances required a certain number of supposedly gender-appropriate clothing) or males wearing women’s clothing were in violation of the law. Of course an officer would verify your sex matched your gender expression in exactly the way you would expect a non-enlightened officer to do so.

Stonewall was frequented by drag queens and transvestites among many others. So it isn’t surprising that when the raid began in the early morning of the June 28, 1969, with these clothing verifications taking place, people got upset. While this was hardly an unusual occurrence, people had finally had enough. And the drag queens were right out in front. As were the other groups. That’s probably one of the things that made Stonewall so significant: it wasn’t just one group of people who faced abuse (such as trans people). It was many, and involved intersectionality between gender, sexual orientation, and poverty.

So, you would think the home of Stonewall would have progressed, and that other departments would have policies and procedures that take this into account. And somewhat, they do. There are policies in most major police departments that call for the fair treatment of trans victims and suspects, albeit often not as progressive as we might want to see.

Earlier this year, the NYPD was accused of profiling trans people who happened to be carrying condoms – something perfectly legal and done by many law abiding citizens every day. Yet, this was seen as proof – because the person was trans or otherwise appeared to be a member of some group the police officer believed to be associated with prostitution (blacks, for instance) – that the person was out looking for someone to pay for sex. And when it came time to stop the city’s “Stop and Frisk” program (where people are frisked based on officer intuition and bias), which disproportionally affects innocent trans people and LGBT people of color, the mayor vetoed the change.

 

Of course NYC isn’t the only place that treats LGBT, and particularly T people, badly, although NYC of all places should have the resources to not only understand the profiling issues, but to go further and lead the nation in what positive policing should look like.

But let’s look at some of the other incidents in America. In California, a police officer is accused of raping a transwoman. While on duty. From the Gay Star News article,

According to the complaint, the officer pulled up to the victim and demanded to know what she was doing. He then ordered her to lean into the driver’s side window of his police car.

When she leaned forward, the officer groped her and asked if she was ‘a nasty shemale’.

After she responded that she was transsexual, the uniformed officer allegedly lead her to a secluded area and attacked her.

A condom which was reportedly used by the attacker was kept by the victim to use as evidence, and has been handed over to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

It’s not just rape (and the above case was not the only recent rape of a trans person by a police officer in the US).  It’s also how we treat people locked up.  From a story on trans immigration detainees in Women’s E-News:

“I don’t think it is difficult to gauge the level of risk for transgender detainees,” said Keren Zwick, the managing attorney for the National Immigrant Justice Center’s LGBT Immigrant Rights Initiative and Adult Detention Project. “I have never met a transgender detainee who hasn’t experienced some kind of sexual harassment, at the very minimum, or being propositioned for sex or being called names. Never once.”

Now much of this is not committed by officers, although officers certainly should be watching detainees.  But the article cited above also talks about harassment and abuse by immigration officers, including threats of solitary confinement for continuing to take medication, retaliation for reporting abuse, and even being forced to drink semen by an officer.

Something’s not right here. This is happening too often.

The statistics back this up too – in the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs’ report on LGBT Hate Violence in 2012, they found that trans victims of violence were 3.32 times more likely to face violence from police than non-trans (but LGB) people.  In Injustice at Every Turn, a survey of trans people, 22% of trans people reported harassment by police – that is, nearly 1 in 4 trans people say that police have harassed them. It’s more than 1 in 3 when trans people of color are surveyed.  6% reported physical assault by police and 2% reported sexual assault.  As a result, 46% said they feel uncomfortable seeking police assistance. Imagine that.

After all, who wants to be laughed at when they report a crime? Who wants to be the subject of officer chit-chat about what weird freak the officer had to deal with that way? Even more significant, different is often seen as dangerous to an officer – and the police response may be quite disproportionate to the need – multiple officers with backup, for instance, when a victim is reporting a crime (and there is no evidence of active violence). Why do the officers need backup when they don’t for other situations? Simply because the person is trans. Thus they must be dangerous – at least in some officers’ heads.

We need to expect more from our professional police.  Does your department have good policies? Will it treat trans people with respect, and take their complaints seriously? It’s worth finding out.

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.

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 Tradition of Fixed Gender

A recent Fox News article about a proposed California law to protect trans students from discrimination is what one would expect from Fox – transphobic and ignorant of science, while finding obscure hate groups to provide “counterpoint” to a fictitious argument.

As someone who finds history – particularly history of gender, sex, and orientation – to be fascinating and much more interesting than much of what I was taught in school (or should I say “what they tried to teach me in school?”), I found one statement pretty humorous:

“For a millennium, sex has meant male or female,” she said. “What they are saying is now you can change that.”

The person quoted is Andrea Lafferty, the non-traditional head (many “traditional” churches still ban women from leadership, after all) of the Traditional Values Coalition of California, an obscure anti-gay group that has been designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center not because of their anti-gay stance, but rather because of the known and verifiable lies they use to promote their cause  of hate.  Any responsible journalist would recognize that this may not be the best source for a quote, unless you are talking about how absurd some groups in America are when it comes to hating gays (and, to these groups, gays and trans people are exactly the same).  But I digress.  She claims that for a millennium (that would be roughly 914 A.D. until now) that sex has meant male and female.

Apparently intersexed people don’t exist.  These are people who, at birth, have ambiguous genitals or other sex characteristics.  For instance, someone with some cells that have XX chromosomes (female) and someone who has XY chromosomes (male) would be intersexed (and, yes, these people do exist).  Sex determination is hard – so hard that most reputable, scientifically based groups (such as most sports organizations) have acknowledged that someones we just can’t know if someone is more male or more female – they are ambiguous, and no test can make it clear (in those cases most sports organizations fall back to the person’s legal recognition).

That of course is not new.  Focus on the Family seems to imply that intersexed people shouldn’t marry, by saying:

From [some previously quoted Bible passages] we see that Christians are called to understand that God readily seeks to strengthen and encourage those who find themselves unable to marry and participate in genderedness and sexual expression as ordained in the created order.

The context of this is about why you can dismiss intersexed people as a challenge to Biblical ideas of male and female (note that not all Bible scholars agree that the Bible says everyone is fully male or fully female and cannot change).  They go on to say that the person should live their assigned gender identity, never mind the possibility of error at birth.  So, Focus on the Family’s solution is to just ignore intersexed people when it comes to discussion about gender, and that they live single lives rather than complicate the situation for Focus’s followers.  Oh, elsewhere they tell us that intersexed people – unlike the rest of us – are a result of the fall of man, and thus are basically the fruit of sin.

So ignoring or insulting intersexed people is hardly new for some groups that claim to be acting in the name of Christ.  So it is no big surprise when the Traditional Values Coalition’s (TLC) executive director ignores those.  At least those who have existed in the last 1,000 years or so.

But back to the rest of her point – that, ignoring intersexed people, sex has meant male and female for a 1,000 years.  Of course we should differentiate sex and gender, with sex being biological and gender being identity – and I’ll ignore the common sense that says someone who identifies as a woman and is known to be a woman should use the women’s room, or the common sense that a non-discrimination law for students affects far more than bathrooms.  Or that this is needed because of the tremendously high suicide rate of trans youth.  I’m going to ignore that and just focus on how sex has meant male and female for 1,000 years.

Looking at that, most trans people would say, for the most part, it still does.  Most trans people don’t seek a third category (some do, and this of course should be respected).  The very idea of gender identity disorder (the current DSM-IV diagnosis for a transsexual) is someone that is unhappy with the biology of their body – and there are of course medically recognized treatments, consisting of things like hormones and surgery, for this diagnosis.  And most of these people would consider themselves to be male or female after transition.  No surprise there (except possibly to the TVC).

I suspect the literal reading (a mode of Bible study these people are fond of!) is not what the Executive Director intended, however.  I suspect she’s arguing that sex is fixed, and can’t be changed.  And, further, that people should live in the gender role that matches society’s expectation for their sex.

So, let’s look at some history.

Let’s take Queen Christina of Sweden in the 1600s.  That’s within 1,000 years.  After she abdicated the throne, she traveled as Count Dohna, a man.  There’s some evidence she may have been intersexed, and also may have been bisexual.  During her life, many observed she (unfortuantely I don’t know which pronoun she would prefer) did many things as a man would.  Want a real mindblower?  Her body is in the Vatican crypts.

Queen Christina of Sweden on horseback, as painted by Sebastien Bourdon in 1653

Queen Christina of Sweden on horseback, as painted by Sebastien Bourdon in 1653

Or the many Native Americans who lived as what we might see as transgender or transsexual lives.  That is, a person born with male sex organs who lived, worked, married, and dressed as a woman, often married to a man.  Or vise-versa.  Or those that lived as neither man or woman.  That mostly stopped as the USA was colonized and Christianity (and European interpretations of Christianity) were brought into the culture.  This was certainly within 1,000 years.

Or we can look at Islam and Mohammed, who lived a few hundred years before the last 1,000 years.  The Quran references “Mukhannathun” who would generally be considered transwomen today.  Within the last 1,000 years, other writings have confirmed this view.  There is controversy about whether trans people are committing sin in Islam, but regardless of that controversy, clearly gender was not always black and white.

Or we can look at USA court cases.  Such as M.T. v. J.T. in NJ (1976), which affirmed that a post-operative trans person was in fact a different sex than their birth.  It’s for this reason that most US states allow reissuance of a birth certificate after a sex reassignment procedure.  Clearly sex is not fixed in the eyes of the law.  We can look at more recent legal decisions such as the federal In re Jose Mauricio LOVO-Lara (2005), where a post-operative trans person was recognized as a female for immigration purposes.

There are literally thousands of examples I could cite, but the above is sufficient: sex was never recognized as completely black and white, one way or the other, and unchangeable.

Of course then we get to the heart of the issue and the real transphobia in the Fox article.  The heart is the idea that trans people aren’t really the gender they claim to be, that they really are whatever was put on their birth certificate at birth.  That’s what’s really at issue, beyond all the talk of bathrooms and religious discrimination and love for the product of Adam’s sin.  It’s about whether or not a person’s gender can be legally recognized.  Some, who have nothing in the fight except hate, say no.  They say that they outnumber trans people, so trans people should lose.  Fortunately, our country’s founders were smart enough to not quite let majority rule at their whim – and this hateful group very likely lacks even that majority.  Even the rights of one are worth protecting.  Scared your kid might have to use the bathroom with a trans person?  I hate to tell you this, but they almost certainly already have.  And so have you.  Beyond that reality, trans people are not sexually assaulting kids in bathrooms.  No, rather than that, the trans kids are being assaulted in the bathroom.  So, if you really care about kids, as you claim, why don’t you start by figuring out why someone would think it’s okay to beat someone up because you think they dress wrong, talk wrong, act wrong, or pee wrong.  But, no, the solution from the right wing is to allow schools to exclude and neglect trans people, to appease people who think they are living a life of sin, who want a trans person to be punished for the mistaken idea that somehow you can punish the trans out of someone.

One thing is for sure, though: trans people aren’t a new part of society.  This is hardly a new idea to any serious student of history (you know, the kind that doesn’t just read stuff that reinforces their views and ignores all other sources).  Maybe it’s new to some bigoted right-wing hate group administrators, but it’s not new to the world.  I didn’t even mention the Asian or African cultures that lived for thousands of years (and often still do) with third gender members of their communities.  Or the women who dressed and acted as men to fight for the USA (or other nations).  Or the many other people who didn’t meet everyone’s gender expectations.

Send a Backwards Thinking Sheriff a Copy of Lawrence v. Texas!

UPDATE: The EBRSO put out this statement on Facebook:

The Sheriff’s office apologizes that the way these investigations were handled made it appear that we were targeting the gay community. That was not our intent. The Sheriff’s Office also apologizes to anyone that was unintentionally harmed or offended by the actions of our investigations. While sections of La. R.S. 14:89, Crimes Against Nature, have not been removed from the Louisiana law code, they have been deemed unenforceable and unconstitutional. The Sheriff’s Office will not use these unconstitutional sections of the law in future cases. We are committed to working with all branches of our government, as well as the LGBT community, to find acceptable ways to keep our community safe.

This is still problematic – unless these men are trying to pick up children, gay guys trying to hook up in a park might violate your moral sensibilities, but it’s not a danger to your community.  So you don’t need to find an acceptable way to keep the community safe (which I read as “we’ll find another way to prosecute gays”).

Original Message:

The East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office, following their slogan of “doing more with less,” is arresting (that is, handcuffing, booking, fingerprinting, photographing, publishing names) of men under the unconstitutional Louisiana sodomy law.  Read about it here and here.

I’m going to send the good Sheriff a copy of the Lawrence v Texas ruling. If you have a few minutes, you can do this too.

The mailing address, if you also want to send a copy – I’d love to see them get hundreds of copies of the ruling (I’m thinking postal mail is ideal):

East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office
100 St.Ferdinand St.
Baton Rouge, LA 70802

You can get a PDF copy of the Lawrence v. Texas ruling (that declared sodomy illegal) at: http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/pdf/02-102P.ZO

Will you help?  Let’s make a statement about what we think of the Sheriff’s unconstitutional acts.