Comparing The Transgender Bathroom Issue To The Civil Rights Movement Is Dumb

A gender-neutral bathroom is seen at the University of California, Irvine in Irvine, California September 30, 2014. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

“If it wasn’t for the federal government, we would still have slavery, lynchings, Jim Crow laws, and bans against same-sex marriage,” Fargo Forum columnist Jim Shaw wrote recently. “The transgender bathroom debate is a phony bologna issue that local politicians need to speak out about, but they won’t because this is an election year.”

There is a lot of fail in those couple of sentences.

For one thing, Shaw writes that he’s glad the Obama administration issued an edict on bathrooms, but then derides local leaders for not speaking out. This is cognitive dissonance. By issuing a national directive, one which threatens the federal funding of schools not complying, President Obama took this issue out of the hands of locals.

How are local officials supposed to deal with this issue when the President of the United States is busy – for transparently partisan political reasons – sticking his nose into it?

How are local officials supposed to deal with this issue when the President of the United States is busy – for transparently partisan political reasons – sticking his nose into it?

For another, people like Shaw comparing the issues around transgendered citizens using the bathroom and locker room facilities for the genders they identify with to Jim Crow laws and the civil rights area is ludicrous. The intellectual equivalent of accusing everyone you disagree with being a Nazi.

Low hanging fruit for the intellectually shallow, sure, but it doesn’t make any sense. The civil rights era was about discrimination based on race. What gives many citizens – people who largely are not bigots or religious fundamentalists or political extremists – is that we’re turning gender into something that is inconstant.

Speaking for myself, I have zero concerns about me and mine using the restroom alongside transgendered citizens. What concerns me is the potential for abuse of these policies, like the man in Washington who exploited that state’s transgender protection law to enter a women’s locker and sit down to observe.

If someone can tell me how we can write a piece of policy that simultaneously gives transgendered citizens the access to public facilities they want while ensuring that those policies aren’t abused by creeps and weirdos, I’m all ears. But as long as we’re going to define gender as something as nebulous as what someone identifies themselves as, I think we’re going to have problems.

Recognizing this simple fact, and expressing concern about it, does not merit comparisons to supporters of Jim Crow laws and racial segregation.

But I guess, if you’re not a terribly deep thinker, making those sort of arguments is easier than acknowledging that your ideological opponents might have a point.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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