A Must Read: The Great American Bathroom Controversy

Quote of the Day: “Have people who identify and look and dress and act like women, forced to go into a men’s room. Have people who identify and look and act and dress like men forced to go into a ladies room. Are you nuts?” Rep. Alan Grayson speaking to Congress about the recent North Carolina law.

Climate change. Crumbling infrastructure. Dark money in politics. Health care costs. Immigration policy. Foreign policies toward China, Russia, and the Middle East. Transgender use of bathrooms.

Yes, these are all pressing issues. That is, all but one.

I’ve blogged about this in the past, marveling at how the party of Lincoln has evolved from Boardroom Republicans to Bedroom Republicans to Bathroom Republicans. And they have found a new class of citizen to discriminate against.

And I’ve laid out the facts about transgendered people.. Here’s the short of it.

So the facts are these. Gender identity is a product of both biological and social factors. It is formed very early in life, and once formed, it is difficult, if not impossible, to change. Transgendered individuals are found in virtually every society on this planet and some societies even identify transgendered persons as a unique gender.

So Republican governors are full of s#!t when they claim that this is a “local” issue. It is not. It is a global fact.

Once again I have to ask: how in the hell did America manage to put use of gender-appropriate bathrooms on the same level as all the other issues facing our country. I’ll stick my (childhood) Lutheran neck out and claim that there is no biblical support for any of that discriminatory policy. Continuing, what kind of family values condone discrimination against someone unlike yourself? And I’ve already stuck my experimental scientist neck out on the matter of the facts (above); three-year olds do not make a conscious choice to be transgendered. Below is a lot more.

A couple of days ago Rep. Alan Grayson (D, Florida), candidate for US Senate, addressed the House of Representatives about what he calls the Great American BathRoom Controversy.

Following is the full text, in italics, of Grayson’s remarks (from an email message dated May14th, 2016). Grayson’s remarks are the most cutting and impassioned that I’ve seen on this sorry topic. It’s a long speech, but please read on. I wind up at the end with an update with a local theme from this morning’s Daily Star.

“I rise today to address the Great American bathroom controversy. This is a picture, on my right, of someone who may or may not be recognizable to many Americans today. I’ll say her name; the name may be more recognizable to some. Her name is Christine Jorgensen. y or may not be recognizable to many Americans today.

Christine was born in 1926; she grew up in the Bronx like I did. She went to Columbus High School, near the public housing where I grew up in the Bronx. In fact, my father taught history at Christopher Columbus High School. I don’t know whether he taught Christine or not. But it is possible.

In 1945, Christine was drafted and served in the U.S. military. Now that may be a puzzle to some of you listening to me right now, who say, ‘I didn’t realize that women were drafted in the 1940’s.’ Well, at that time, Christine’s name was George. George Jorgensen. That’s the name she was born with. She was, in fact — on her birth certificate — male. Something she struggled with greatly all through the time she was growing up, being a male. Something she struggled with, being in the military.

And then after leaving the military service in 1951, she heard about the possibility of changing her gender, so she went to Denmark and underwent three or more surgeries, plus a very substantial amount of estrogen treatments; she came back to the United States, and then forever thereafter, after 1953, was known as Christine Jorgensen. Christine Jorgensen was “out,” she was well known in America as someone who was transgender.

I knew about her story when I was growing up in the 1960’s and 1970’s. She made no effort to hide it. She didn’t feel any shame about it. She was proud of the fact that she’d been able to take advantage of what medicine had to offer, and live the life that she felt she would have been able to have, if at the beginning, she had had the proper gender.

She had some degree of fame. Republican Vice President Spiro Agnew referred to her once in a speech to mock one of his opponents. She performed both as a singer and as an actress all through the 1950’s, through the entire 1960’s, and well into the 1970’s. She was the most famous transgendered person in America, probably to this day.

Now, I have to tell you, I don’t know exactly where she went when she “had to go.” I don’t know exactly whether she went into a men’s room or ladies room, but here’s the interesting thing: Even though this was something new under the sun, even though America never had to address this issue before, no one ever even bothered to ask. I don’t remember anybody saying, ‘Christine Jorgensen, she ought to go to the men’s room, she was born a male.’ Or for that matter, ‘Christine Jorgensen, she identifies as a female, she should go to the ladies room.’ Isn’t it odd that America in the 1950’s seems to have shown a lot more maturity than America is showing today, with our great bathroom controversy right now — where the cisgender people of America try to dictate to the transgender people of America where they can go to the bathroom. Or at least, frankly, the more bigoted among us.

We had a law pass recently in North Carolina. I’m going to go out on a limb and say it passed almost exclusively with cisgendered Republican votes. They tried to dictate to which bathroom Christine Jorgensen would have to go, if she were alive today and had to relieve herself. And amazingly enough, they decided in their ‘wisdom’, that Christine Jorgensen, if she were alive today, like all other transgender brothers and sisters, Christine Jorgensen would have to go to the bathroom she didn’t identify as, but instead, the bathroom on her birth certificate.

This is particularly ironic. There was one form of discrimination that Christine Jorgensen did face in her lifetime. She was not allowed to get married. Not allowed to get married to a man because her birth certificate said that she was a male, and she was not issued a marriage license on account of the fact that a male was trying to marry a male.

My goodness! Here in America, just in the past 12 months or so, we finally managed to solve that problem, and Christine Jorgensen could get married today to her lover. Now we have a whole new problem. Now, thanks to Republicans, bigots in North Carolina, we have a law that would require Christine Jorgensen to go to the men’s room.

Think about that. Think about that.

In fact, the natural consequence of that law is what I’m about to show you right here.

Here Grayson includes a photo of two women using urinals in a men’s bathroom.

So you folks in North Carolina who are obsessed with where the transgender people go to the bathroom, this is the result you’ve come up with.

People who self-identify as women, people who look like women, people who act like women, they somehow are being driven into the men’s room. And the same thing is true of transgender people who identify as men. You’re going to force people who look like men, act like men, you’re going to force them into a ladies room.

My God, what’s wrong with you? That doesn’t make any sense at all.

More follows the break.

Continue reading

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Biggs is a Neanderthal

In directing public school districts to let students use bathrooms and locker rooms consistent with their gender identity, President Obama’s administration recognized the need to provide top-down cover for a group of people that are routinely subjected to severe discrimination. They also recognized that assuring the civil rights (the right to receive equal treatment and ensure one’s ability to participate in civil life without discrimination or repression) of a minority couldn’t be left to the majority. That’s why Diane Douglas is wrong when she says “Every local community across Arizona is unique, and I know that the people who live in those communities should be making the decisions when it comes to this and many other education issues.” How well did “leaving it to communities” work for Black people in the deep South during the Jim Crow days?

Look, I get that many people are uneasy with the whole transgender issue. I managed Wingspan, (Arizona’s LGBT Community Center), for over a year and had more exposure than most to the transgender community. We had transgender people on staff (a couple of them were transitioning during the time I worked there) and we supported the Southern Arizona Gender Alliance (SAGA.) If I am totally honest, I still struggle with totally embracing this community. But, I have great respect for what transgender people go through just to be themselves. And I know beyond a shadow of a doubt, that no one would put themselves through the ridicule, discrimination and pain of transitioning unless they felt they had no other option. My bottom line is that I accept transgender people and respect their right to live freely and safely as equal members of our society.

Arizona Senate President Andy Biggs obviously doesn’t feel the same way. He said the Administration’s directive “has no place in the value system that we seek to instill in our children from their earliest age” and that “the rules and norms of modern society may change, but biology will not”. With this statement, Biggs demonstrates what a complete Neanderthal he is. First of all, the definition of biology is that it is a natural science concerned with the study of life and living organisms, including their structure, function, growth, EVOLUTION, distribution, identification and taxonomy. Biology, as the study of life and living organisms, is not static, but constantly changing. I read once that 100 species per day go extinct and that in 2011, scientists discovered nearly 20,000 new species. Obviously, biology DOES change and more importantly, the more we learn, the more our understanding of it changes.

Secondly, we can’t really “instill” gender identity in our children. We can try to get them to conform to “social expectations that may accompany a given gender role” “but this can exacerbate the disconnect transgender children feel. I have met very young children who absolutely know they weren’t born into the correct gender. The lucky ones have supportive parents who help them pave their own path. Those not so fortunate have a much tougher road to hoe, one that more often than not leads to multiple suicide attempts (if the first try doesn’t succeed.) The American Psychological Association corroborates that transgender children are more likely to experience harassment and violence in school and other group programs than other children. Transgender adults are at increased risk for stress, isolation, anxiety, depression, poor self-esteem and suicide. In fact, transgender people have an extremely high rate of suicide attempts, 41 percent versus a national average of 1.6 percent.

In addition, there are biological causes for the “gender dysphoria” or “gender identity disorder”(GID) many transgender people experience. “Evidence suggests that people who identify with a gender different from the one they were assigned at birth, may do so not just due to psychological or behavioral causes, but also biological ones related to their genetics, the makeup of their brains, or prenatal exposure to hormones.” Genetic variation, hormones, and difference in brain functioning and brain structures provide evidence for the biological cause of   In fact, twin studies indicate GID is 62% inheritable. (NOTE: gender identity has nothing to do with sexual preference and a transgender person may or may not have had any surgeries to bring their body in “conformance” with their gender identity.)

Ever notice how if Arizona lawmakers and administrators don’t want to deal with an issue, and it doesn’t detract from the ability of one of their supporters to make profit, it becomes something that should be dealt with at the local level? Just look at Douglas’ comment on AZCentral.com that she has“full confidence that government at its least and lowest level is most answerable to constituents on these matters.” Yet time and again t found these same people have found local government is incapable of making decisions about “life-altering” matters such as the use of plastic shopping bags, the admission of guns on school property, and the rights of pet shops to sell puppy mill dogs; all of which had significant lobbyist support for state lawmaker intervention.

As with any struggle for civil rights, this one will be tumultuous. The best approach is for communities to learn about the issue and have open discussions about the way forward. It cannot though, be left to individual communities to determine the “rightness” of the equality sought. That’s why the President’s directive is important. It is a validation of the “immortal declaration” in the Declaration of Independence that states: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, and that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. It really is that simple.