OPED: Something wicked this way comes
I typically start my day scrolling news sites and Facebook for trending stories and called up a video titled, “Bible-Waving Woman Walking Through Target.” It showed a menacing mother of 12, bible held high above her head, trailed by her children and husband, storming through the aisles of the store shouting at customers about the retailer’s policy inviting transgender customers to use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity.
“Attention Target customers: Do not be deceived. Target would have you believe that they love mothers and children. This is a deception. This is not love, and they’ve proven it by opening their bathrooms to perverted men. I am a mother of 12, and I am very disgusted by this wicked practice. Target does not protect mothers and children…What Target has done is very hateful. It’s hateful toward families. It’s hateful towards mothers. It’s hateful towards children...”
The only thing hateful here is this railing woman. This is terrorism! What this woman did terrified me. Not because I fear my soul would be damned for shopping Target and supporting its policy, but for her ignorance and hate. Her aggression and militant march through the store made me feel unsafe just watching it from home. My heart raced, my hands shook, and I cried for the real victims of this story. I thought about the brave trans women and men I met at a Planned Parenthood volunteer conference in Pittsburgh last weekend who spoke about being gang raped, brutally beaten, displaced from their homes, fired from their jobs. They are the people who need our protection, not this battleaxe and her band of bullies.
“…America, when are you going to wake up? When are you going to stand up for the right things, America? Are you going to let the Devil rape your children, America? It’s time to stand up and have a voice instead of bowing to the homosexual perverted agenda that’s taking over this nation…”
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) calls out these bathroom bills as backlash to the Supreme Court's legalization of gay marriage last summer, and to the growing visibility of transgender people in the media. These "think of the children" scare tactics are nothing new, common in the early days of the gay rights movements, when anti-gay activists stoked fears of gay pedophilia or recruitment of children. One conservative powerhouse appears to be influential in putting bathroom bills on the agenda: a massive, deep-pocketed network of lawyers called Alliance Defending Freedom, known for defending the right of business owners to decline services to gay couples.
Political attacks against transgender people also are increasingly portraying them as predatory and dangerous, cites Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, reporting zero statistical evidence to link transgender persons to pedophilia. In fact, the typical profile of a pedophile is an adult male who identifies as heterosexual, and is often married. Think Josh Duggar, Dennis Hastert, Jerry Sandusky...
I know it seems confusing all this talk of gender identity, which is different than sexual orientation (who you are attracted to). The vast majority of people are “cisgender”—meaning they identify with the sex they were assigned at birth. For “transgender” or “trans” persons their gender identity is different from the sex assigned to them at birth. HRC’s research suggests that there are at least 700,000 transgender people in the United States, about 0.3% of the total population, and about 3.5% of the LGBT community. These estimates are likely conservative, because there are limited studies measuring the transgender population, but it’s still a small community.
Being transgender is not a perversion, and although the word and our modern definition of it only came into use in the late 20th century, people who would fit under this definition have existed in every culture throughout recorded history. Websites like hrc.org/explore/topic/transgender and transequality.org/about-transgender are great resources to understand what it means to be trans.
The typical transgender person wants desperately not to attract attention. All this publicity and talk of bathroom habits is highly disconcerting to people who have spent their lives trying not to stand out, but rather fit in.
Research by the Williams Institute reveals that transgender people are the ones at risk in restrooms. About 70 percent of a sample survey of nearly 100 transgender and gender non-conforming persons in Washington, D.C. were denied access to restrooms, harassed while using restrooms, and experienced some forms of physical assault. In fact, trans people are at high risk of experiencing prejudice and mental health problems, including a staggering 41 percent rate of suicides.
“…Mothers, get your children out of this store. It’s a dangerous place…You need to run and flee this place. I wouldn’t spend a penny of my money here. This is wicked. This is confusion. This is twisted. This is abominable in the sight of God.”
Frankly, the kind of person I would not want in the bathroom stall next to me is this bible-bullying mom. Or someone like Anita Staver, president of Liberty Counsel, a “religious liberty” advocacy group in Orlando, Florida, who recently tweeted that she plans to take her Glock .45 to the ladies room at Target. This is terrorism and should not be tolerated.
These bathroom bills have nothing to do with privacy and everything to do with marginalizing the trans community. A solution in search of a problem, there is neither evidence that anyone has used the fictional “transgender defense” for illegal conduct nor reports of any increase in public safety incidents in any of the hundreds of jurisdictions that have extended legal protections to trans people.
Growing up, I was taught to treat others as I would like to be treated; to be fair and inclusive; to imagine myself in someone else’s shoes; and to stand up for the most vulnerable among us. Perhaps that bible wielding mom and those like her should worry less about demonizing others and search their own souls for compassion by learning about those who are different from themselves and why equality matters for all, as our own freedom is bound with the freedom of others.