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Hullabaloo


Saturday, May 14, 2016

 

We'd like Them just to go away

by Tom Sullivan


Traditional gender-neutral restroom.

Here we go:

The Obama administration is directing public schools across the country to let transgender students use bathrooms that match their gender identity, a move that will expand nationally the argument over North Carolina's controversial bathroom law.

The letter going out Friday from officials of the Education and Justice departments sets out the agencies' view of what schools need to do under current federal law to provide an environment for students free of discrimination.

The letter, first reported by the New York Times, carries no specific threat for schools that do not comply. But the threat is implicit because violations of federal civil rights law can lead to a loss of federal aid to a school district, or enforcement action by the Justice Department.
Attendees to the Texas Republican Convention did not take the news too well, NPR's Wade Goodwyn found:
TAD GREEN: It's a safety issue at the very core.

GOODWYN: Tad Green owns his own real estate company in Fort Worth. He's married with three daughters. For Green, accommodating a small number of transgender children is an invitation to trouble, simple as that. He's got no problem providing for the disabled, but for Green, this is going too far.

GREEN: This is a choice. And it's ridiculous, in my opinion, to put the other 99.9 percent at risk, and even put that little 0.1 percent at risk, all to accommodate something that shouldn't be an issue, in my opinion, at all.
The state that encourages carrying guns everywhere is worried about safety. That's a choice. But transgender students are the new "black bucks" of southerners' nightmares.
GOODWYN: For quite a few Texas Republicans, the issue is a moral one, period.

SARAH TAYLOR: What happened to God? You know, what part of the Bible do they not believe in?
Because God's gender-specific bathroom law is clearly spelled out in 2 Chronicles 17:35. (And that's "Two" Chronicles to you, Donald Trump.)

Americans have long felt uncomfortable around people outside what the wider community gets to define as the norm. As another Texas delegate told NPR, "I don't think that we should hold hostage every other child, which is certainly the huge, huge, huge majority, and put them in an uncomfortable position" by formally acknowledging their presence and equality. Because the majority has a right not to feel uncomfortable around people not just like themselves. It's why we move to gated communities. What the majority would prefer is that Others just go away. Recognizing the Other as human is somehow un-Christian and a sign of moral decay.

And in places on the right, this is somehow the fault of the left. But is it?

For Gavin Grimm, the Virginia transgender student who sued his school board for access to the men's room, the Internet was key. As I wrote in March, we are wired to identify enemies with faces. Technology is morally neutral. Just ask the NRA. The gay liberation movement may have started with the Stonewall riot long before the advent of the World Wide Web, but the faceless technology of the Web has enabled hidden, marginalized people to come out of the shadows and claim full citizenship. Where once gay and trans teens were isolated and alone, wondering if it was just themselves who were different, on the Web they can find others like themselves and strength in numbers. And courage. Somebody with a face must be to blame because you can't punch a system in the nose.

The majority would like Them just to go away. We would prefer to return to a more predictable America when things were Great and the majority had a right to be comfortable. Back when men's rooms were men's rooms and "broads" stayed home and cooked and nobody we knew was gay or conflicted about their identities or griping about family members being summarily killed by police. And ethnic minorities had their own schools and neighborhoods and stayed there. And we all faced nuclear annihilation on 30 minutes' warning from a fleet of Soviet intercontinental ballistic missiles. Yeah, those were the days.