I tried to stay silent about this as long as possible, but my “as long as possible” didn’t last very long. At the end of March, the North Carolina General Assembly convened a special legislative session to push through a law, HB2. That law was passed in both chambers and signed off by the governor before the 11:00 news. It went into effect on 1 April 2016, and things have gone downhill since.
HB2, aka, “the Bathroom Bill,” says, among other things, that people must go into the bathroom corresponding to the gender on their birth certificate. This means that, a transgender male – imagine someone 5’8″ tall, buff, bearded, and visibly male – who has not had gender reassignment surgery or had their birth certificate changed, must go into the ladies’ restroom. Am I the only woman and mother of young daughters who’s not comfortable with this? I have nothing against people who are transgender; as I’ve said before, I have friends who are transgender. My problem is, now I don’t know if that man described above is a transgender male obeying a civil law, or if he’s a sex offender taking advantage of the ease of going into the ladies’ room this law provides in order to attack my daughters or me. Should I wait and see if he’ll go into a stall, or if he’ll pull out a knife or gun, by which point, it’ll be too late? So, thank you, NCGA, for creating the very opposite situation of what you claimed to be after and putting ALL us women and our children at risk for sexual violence – not at the hands of people who are transgender who are just in the bathroom to do their business, but at the hands of violent sex offenders who don’t care about laws and never have who can now walk into public bathrooms claiming to be transgender.
As a result of HB2, my state stands to lose federal funding for education. So much for our General Assembly and governor being “about the children.” My state has lost businesses. My state has lost wonderful, tax-paying citizens who no longer felt safe living here who have moved to other states. North Carolina has already lost a significant amount of revenue and stands to lose billions – yes BILLIONS, with a B! – more. My state no longer allows people who get discriminated against at work based on religion, gender, age, race, or orientation sue for discrimination at the state level; those suits now have to go to the federal courts to decide, a process which takes an easy three years, far longer than the 180 days the state gives for resolution in such matters. HB2 prohibits teachers from going into students’ bathrooms in schools. Hopefully that mean, nasty bully isn’t beating your child to a pulp in the bathroom between classes, since the law is so about “keeping children safe.”
And in the most ironic element of this law of all… In HB2, the state prohibits individual cities from passing their own anti-discrimination laws and their own minimum wage laws. In case you haven’t figured it out, yet, the North Carolina General Assembly and the governor are all far right conservatives. You know, smaller government? I’m sure they thought it was an abomination when the US Supreme Court decided that gays and lesbians have equal rights and made this federal law the law of the land, totally overstepping states’ rights to govern themselves in this matter. Yet, the North Carolina government is doing the exact same thing in our state to our counties and cities!
Obviously, when this law came out, there was talk everywhere. To be honest, I finally had to step away from Facebook for a while, because the plethora of “Pat McCrory saved our children!” posts were going to cost some friendships, and I try to respect my friends’ views, even if I disagree with them. Over against that was the continued hate speech against transgender people, mostly the result of manufactured fear by the media and ignorance. Here’s the thing – transgender people are so much like you and me. They get up in the mornings, go to work, fulfill their responsibilities to their bosses, come home, spend time with family, go to bed. They pretty much live under the radar, just like the rest of us do. And they’re fine with that. In fact, they feel safer under the radar.
The transgender people I know (that I know are transgender) – both women – are smart, attractive, bad-ass, loving people. One is married; I went to her wedding 3 1/2 years ago. There, incidentally, is where I met the other, who is engaged. In fact, I just found out the married woman is transgender about five weeks ago, and the latter, last year. These women live their lives, do their things, take care of their loved ones. The fact that I’d known them both so long before knowing their backstories should tell you something: Neither of them flamboyantly advertised the fact they’re transgender.
And I think that J and S are typical of almost all transgender people in America – and the world. Caitlyn Jenner is not the face of and spokesperson for people who are transgender, and, personally, I don’t consider her brave or admirable. Bruce probably went to some extremely private hospital in another country with the top gender reassignment specialists in the world, took a six-month “vacation,” and came back as Caitlyn. Now, Caitlyn claims she wants to “be just like everyone else.” Maybe she should give up her cadre of body guards and come hang out in a state where transgender people face police harassment, threats, government-sanctioned discrimination, and threats of and actualized bodily harm – all because her physical, outer self didn’t mesh up with her mental/emotional inner self.
Pediatricians and geneticists are now recognizing that people who are transgender could have genitalia, brains, and chromosomes that don’t match up. For example, a person could have male genitalia (“look” male), but have female chromosomes and female brains. Brain science research is now providing us with a reason why transgender people, even from an early age, may “feel” like they’re the wrong gender. At birth, doctors determine gender only by outer genitalia, not chromosomal testing.
For those of us in the church, this presents something of a theological conundrum: Did God make a mistake? Short answer – No. Do we look at a child with Down’s Syndrome and think that God made a mistake? Of course not! Do we think God messed up when a child is born with a deformed arm? Never! God doesn’t make mistakes in how God makes us. Each and every one of us is created in the image of God. The Psalmist says, “I praise you, because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” This goes for all of us. Sometimes, we face challenges in how we’re made – life challenges – and those challenges will either break us if we try to rely purely on ourselves; they’ll give us a source of strength and determination; or through our uniqueness, we will allow God’s love to appear to others.
If I may borrow from my younger daughter’s favorite Disney movie to wrap this up… “Love is stronger than fear.” As we are made in the image of God, and God is love, then we also are called on to love our neighbors who are transgender. You may see them differently than I do, and that’s OK. But for heaven’s sake, get to know someone who’s transgender. If you’re going to profess Jesus Christ is your personal Lord and Savior, then (literally) by all that is holy, act like it and love even those who you feel are unlovable. And you know what’ll happen? (This is great!) You won’t be afraid of them anymore, and you won’t hate them anymore, and you’ll begin to recognize all the bull crap the mainstream media and social media outlets are spewing for what it is. And you will please God. I’m thinking that’s a win all the way around.
Let me take a moment to direct you to this great article I drew some from, written by a fellow Baptist: https://baptistnews.com/2016/05/13/seven-things-im-learning-about-transgender-persons/#.VzgsSsiznvB.facebook.