The recent controversy over “transgender restrooms” is at the same time a legitimate concern for those in the transgender community who are in many cases suffering from very real societal rejection and confusion, as well as protective parents and individuals concerned that both their personal privacy and safety be protected while using public restrooms.
As with many other issues surrounding gender, sexuality, discrimination, and personal security, productive discussion on this issue has been difficult in light of rhetoric based in emotion, reaction, and misunderstanding. It is my suggestion that those who wish to speak truth to this situation must actively seek truth regarding the dynamics of this situation.
This post is not an indication of agreement or disagreement with the restroom policy itself. My purpose is to shed light on the way members of the Christian community, LGBTQ community, political community, and other concerned citizens are speaking to this issue without regard for accurate representation of data and people involved. Much of the “dialogue” has been reduced to name-calling, dirty politics, angry rhetoric, boycotts, and threats of violence.
To my concerned fellow Christians …
There are already laws in place protecting you from sexual assault in public restrooms.
Lewd acts, indecent exposure, sexual misconduct, harassment, abuse, or assault are against the law and have been for decades regardless of gender identity, sexual orientation, or restroom policy. The concern over the proverbial “creepy cross-dresser,” “peeping Tom,” or anyone else committing an inappropriate act toward another person is addressed in existing statutes that are enforced whether the H.R. 3185 Equality Act is passed or not.
While the Target controversy brought it to the spotlight, LGBTQ people have had restroom rights for years.
In at least 12 states, members of the LGBTQ community have already had this protection for between 5 and 22 years. In my own State of New Mexico, laws prohibiting the discrimination of persons using public restrooms on the basis of sexual identity and expression was passed in 2003. Where has the “outrage” been for the past 13 years?
The claim that women and children need to be protected from transgender persons is a statistical non-issue.
In fact, there are substantially more reported cases of sexual predation from cisgender persons (people who identify with their biological sex) toward members of their own families or within their circle of trust than there are of transgendered persons toward strangers in bathrooms. In addition, transgender persons have been using restrooms according to their identified gender for a long time with few, if any reported instances of sexual assault taking place in those restrooms.
Finally, in the fervor to “protect” people from transgender offenders, at least one very painful case of misidentification has already occurred.
Stats Show Assaults Don’t Happen in Bathrooms – http://www.wcnc.com/news/politics/stats-show-assaults-dont-happen-in-bathrooms/126572739
Stats Show Exactly How Many Transgender People Have Attacked You in Bathrooms – http://mic.com/articles/114066/statistics-show-exactly-how-many-times-trans-people-have-attacked-you-in-bathrooms#.Wbi5NHmbj
Consideration should be given to how this law was passed in North Carolina.
It was done in a manner that would have had conservatives up in arms had the left acted in the same manner; and rightly so. The means by which this bill was passed was exclusionary, uncivil, and did not call for open and honest debate. We cannot hope for improvement in political discourse if tactics such as this are continued. Such means to an end, whether carried out by the Right or the Left are simply wrong.
Transgender Law Makes NC Pioneer in Bigotry – http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/25/opinion/transgender-law-makes-north-carolina-pioneer-in-bigotry.html
Do not assume transgender persons are sexual predators.
When a conversation is based in fear and ignorance, the default approach to interaction is often to assume or accuse the other side of the worst possible position. Much of the heated rhetoric surrounding this issue stems from cisgender people expressing their concerns by assuming transgender people are predatory and exploitative in the expression of their sexuality. The extant data simply do not support this fear (see stats above). Just as heterosexual persons are entitled to protection from predators, so too, are persons with same-sex attraction as well as transgender persons. These folks are also entitled to be protected from false accusations and assumptions of predatory behavior. There is not a “sexual identity” exception to laws intended to protect the privacy and safety of people.
The responsibility to protect children in public spaces lies with parents and guardians regardless of the business, organization, and patronage of said establishment. Many parents are rightly concerned at the possible danger to their children implied in this discussion. However, one would be hard-pressed to find a parent, grandparent, or another responsible adult that does not monitor the potty-break of their little one by either taking the child into the restroom themselves or waiting at the door with a keen eye and ear on who comes in and out of the restroom. This was true before this conversation, and will be true as long as there are children in the care of an adult. While one can expect some measures of safety from the restroom’s owner, the ultimate responsibility for protecting children in restrooms is with adult caregivers.
Consider the way the church has harmed and wronged the LGBTQ community.
I believe it is only right and fair for Christ-followers to acknowledge the way members of the LGBTQ community have been treated on our watch. They have been vilified, ridiculed, abandoned, shamed, and attacked by the very people called by Jesus to be identified by grace and truth. According to research done for his upcoming book, Us versus Us: The Untold Story of Religion and the LGBTQ Community, Andrew Marin reveals that 86% of those in the LGBTQ community were raised in a faith community. 54% have since left those communities, but not for the reasons you might think. Only 15% left their faith communities over issues of theology, the rest left for reasons linked to being kicked out of their homes and churches, being rejected, shamed, ignored, or subjected to abuse and bullying. A staggering 40% of homeless teenagers on the streets today identify as part of the LGBTQ community.
Caleb Kaltenbach, who was raised by a lesbian mother and gay father (they divorced when he was young) marched in gay pride parades as a child. He recounts one parade when a group of Christians shouted horrible slurs and sprayed him, his mother, and other marchers with squirt guns filled with urine. Caleb is now a pastor and his parents are Christ-followers, but he has spent many years in ministry helping the church understand just how much damage has been done. Check out his book, Messy Grace: How a Pastor with Gay Parents Learned to Love Others Without Sacrificing Conviction
Try to imagine what goes through the mind of someone from the LGBTQ community when they hear you say, “I’m a Christian.” To many, they simply hear, “I hate you” or “I’m afraid of you.” The church has so much to overcome because of the evil that was done to this group of people in the name of Jesus, but there is also great hope. The Bible tells us that perfect love casts out fear and that we overcome evil with good. The truth of God’s amazing grace is still the hope of all humanity, and it’s a hope many in the LGBTQ community are open to hear and embrace. Remember the 54% of those who left the faith community? When asked if they would return if invited, a solid 76% said yes! What are we doing as the church toward folks in the LGBTQ community? Are we investing in relationships, engaging in conversation, and inviting them into our lives, homes, and churches?
I understand and agree with the concern for the church to hold fast to the historic, orthodox Christian teachings as they pertain to marriage and sexuality. It is not enough, however, to just be right. We are also called to be good; to teach what is true in a manner and from a posture that is full of grace. How we hold our beliefs is as important as what we hold as belief.
To my friends in the LGBTQ community …
I hope our relationship can model a better conversation than most are having on this!
I’ve been friends with some of you for a long time while others are new friends. I hold a traditional/historical view of marriage (between one man and one woman). I do not believe the government should have been involved in the re-definition of marriage. I understand sexual orientation and gender issues to stem from an unhealthy and inappropriate fusion of one’s identity with one’s sexuality; I believe sexuality is an insufficient, unsustainable, and inferior manner by which one’s identity is defined.
Most of you disagree with me, and still we are friends!
We love, respect, listen to, contend with, and learn from each other. For some of you, I am one of a handful of Christians, and the only pastor you personally know. While you ask me, “Why do Christians …?“ and I ask you, “Why do LGBTQ people …?” We each avoid the broad brush strokes, stereotypes, and cliché labels.
That kind of civility, respect, relationship and genuine desire for productive conversation is what this and so many other issues need. I pray that how we do this can be a source of hope and instruction to some seeking a high road of dialogue, as well as a challenge to those settling for the low road of talking points, vilification, and cheap shots.
Understand the complexity of this issue and the toll it takes on people.
I get it. The stats are clear that there’s little to fear. For a moment, however, put yourself in the shoes of the majority of women who go to the Women’s room. What do they expect to see? Other women. If you identify as a female but have male anatomical and biological function, can you imagine what goes through their mind and emotions when they see you? If you’re a man and see a person with feminine physical features in your restroom, what would go through your mind and emotions? If you had a child with you, what then? I’m not being a jerk here; I am being realistic. What if you saw someone in your restroom that did you did not expect? Any combination of curiosity, fear, defensiveness, caution, concern, and/or other protective reflexes kick in.
In the proposed H.R. 3185 Equality Act, one reads that the amendment would “Prohibit the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 from providing a claim, defense, or basis for challenging such protections.” Millions of Americans whose definition of marriage and sexuality are rooted in a historic/traditional Judeo-Christian religious ethic will understand this to be a direct threat to the free exercise of religion guaranteed by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. While lobbying for your own protection, you are attempting to strip away the protection of others based on their religious convictions. Have you considered the irony of this approach?
Perhaps some consideration for the complexity of human response and processing could be considered as you ask for people to consider the complexity of human sexuality and gender identification. Perhaps a better solution is the one suggested by a gay friend of mine, “leave the gendered restrooms alone, just add one (like the family restroom) that is not gender-specific. Sounds expensive until one considers the money that boycotts and lawsuits will cost.” He might be on to something.
Do not assume people with concerns about this matter are homophobic or bigoted.
Just as cisgender people should avoid the mistake of assuming that LGBTQ people are sexual predators and pedophiles, those in the LGBTQ community should listen to and consider the concerns and objections of those in the straight community without resorting to accusations of homophobia and bigotry.
The fear and ignorance can cut both ways. The fear of attack and retaliation that my friends in the LGBTQ community have experienced often leads to a refusal to take a step back and consider the view from the other side. I had lunch recently with a transgender woman, we’ll call “Kim.” Because she identifies as a man, she advocates for the freedom of transgender persons to use facilities consistent with their identity. However, “Kim” is also a mother of young children. This allows her to appreciate and understand the other perspectives in the conversation. “I have the vantage point of both a mama and papa bear,” she said to me, “so I get the fear. I feel it too. Sure, there is some ‘good ol’ boy’ thinking that can bring down the level of dialogue, but most of the people I talk to are not bigots. They just want to be heard and don’t want to feel an agenda is being forced on them. That’s where we are blowing it. I am often embarrassed at how intolerant the LGBTQ community can be. Nothing is gained by being just as intolerant as we accuse straights of being.” Kim believes there can be common ground on this issue, “but not until both sides tone it down and actually begin to see each other as people rather than political categories, tokens of societal breakdown, or objects of dehumanization; people loved by God and people Jesus died for.”
To all of us …
Display the same level of tolerance and respect you demand from the other side.
As Jesus put it, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” – Luke 6:31
Funny how that word from Luke’s gospel really cuts to the heart of things. How do we treat people we care about? Maybe that’s how conversations like this should begin. I think they would be a whole lot more productive.
A quick word on the Target boycott.
I understand if someone chooses to boycott Target stores over this. Just consider a couple things:
- The restroom policy was not the cashier or local store manager’s decision. Taking out your frustration on these folks is just proverbially “kicking the dog.” Don’t confront them, yell at them, or tell them how you plan to boycott. Make your case to the corporate offices. Leave the little guys alone.
- Boycotting target over this will force you to be either a hypocrite or a hermit. Keep in mind how difficult it will be to maintain consistency, considering that 407 businesses achieved a perfect score of 100 on the Corporate Equality Index, a survey distributed by the Human Rights Campaign that measures support for LGBT employees and the broader LGBT community. That high score is impossible to achieve without having trans-inclusive health-care and anti-discrimination policies that include gender identity… The link below opens a .pdf of the report, with the 407 companies listed on pages 36-45 http://hrc-assets.s3-website-us-east-1.amazonaws.com//files/assets/resources/CEI-2016-FullReport.pdf
Perhaps a better approach would be this one, from Christian blogger and mom, TraciMichele, http://www.tracimichele.com/2016/04/10-things-im-doing-instead-of-boycotting-target/
While we may not understand or agree with the way one lives out their sexuality, these are people created in God’s image and people for whom Jesus died. We are not to de-humanize people, nor fail to recognize their dignity as creations of God; just as we would desire others would see us. This is why I find it troubling that a Bill from Congress would be needed to address and recognize the equality of another human being. As Christians in the United States, we already hold to two; The Constitution and the Bible.
It is the responsibility of Christ-followers to pursue truthful information regarding issues that impact the lives of individuals. Sound-bite thinking, biased reporting, knee-jerk reactions, and the failure to understand the various facets of issues like these cause the community of faith to lead in fear and anger rather than in love; a love that rejoices in the truth.