Bathroom Bill Stupidity

Mark Figley's view in the May 10th issue of the Lima News sees the opposition to the North Carolina bill (HB-2) attempting to force people to use bathrooms against their gender as "a combination of elitist-minded forces." He suggests that those same forces are unconcerned about "discrimination against people of religious faith." He worries that 'predators" will use "an anti-discriminatory bathroom policy to traumatized/victimize women and children."

The fact is that transgender people have been around for a very long time. We’ve been allowing people to use the bathrooms according to their gender and haven’t had problems from that policy. Of course most people were unaware of the existence of transgender people. Now that some politicians need a new wedge issue, it’s become a big deal.

Are most people upset? A CNN-ORC Poll run the end of April reveals that most people oppose such bills (57% against such bills vs, 38% in favor,) even Republicans are split evenly on the issue (48% against vs. 48% in favor.)

But it’s likely that those who are in favor of such bills think that there’s no difference between sex and gender and that sex is unambiguous at birth—hence the emphasis on what’s listed on your birth certificate. However ambiguous genitalia is a known medical condition. Estimates vary, some say 1 in one thousand, others 1 in six thousand require a specialist and may even require surgery to assign a baby as male or female. If even the sex part isn’t free of ambiguity, how can we expect gender to be?

But shouldn’t we be concerned about "discrimination against people of religious faith?” Yes we should. I am upset when women are attacked or ridiculed or excluded for wearing a hijab. (Or reported as suspicious when taking pictures at a mall while wearing one.) It’s terrible when Sikhs are physically attacked for wearing a turban. But that may not be the discrimination Mr. Figley is talking about.

What about the people who are uncomfortable with transgender people using bathrooms which match their gender? What about people who are offended by women wearing slacks instead of dresses? What about people who don’t like same sex marriages? I would say that none of those things are discrimination against religious people.

The Bible says that we should not wear clothes made of two different kinds of stuff—possibly the most consistently violated rule in existence—yet that is not discrimination against those who follow it. Discrimination would be forcing one who follows it to wear clothing violates the rule. No one is being forced to marry someone of the same sex. The issue of causing offense is more complex. The current presidential campaign certainly offends many, yet we tolerate it.

In addition there are some cases where we have restricted the free exercise of religion. Ask a Mormon about the free exercise of religion or a snake-handler or a Native American about sacred land or, for that matter, sacred mushrooms. Should all these be viewed in the same way? The fact is that things in the real world are complex. Trying to fit everything into simple categories and simple solutions is asking for trouble. The world is complex and needs to be approached carefully and thoughtfully. Not everything is a nail, even if all you have is a hammer.