I’ve got a couple of stories I am cobbling together to support the title thesis…which should come as a surprise to absolutely nobody. I mean, it’s nearly a tautology.
Big surprise. Maryland recently became the 17th state to offer anti-discrimination protections for gender non-conforming people…so immediately the people who voted against it and lost started howling…and lying and fear-mongering…hoping to cajole the Maryland public into dispensing with the new law.
Incredibly, the conservatives’ main line of attack is that the law will turn women’s restrooms into fertile ground for peeping toms disguised in dresses and wigs, even for similarly attired rapists. This is middle school trash talk disguised as policy analysis. There is no evidence that this is a statistically detectable problem in other states that have banned discrimination against transgender people, nor in Maryland localities, such as Montgomery County, that have had similar statutes on the books for years.
More broadly, opponents of the legislation tend to miss its central point, which is to ban the blatant discrimination that transgender people report is pervasive. In a 2011 survey conducted by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Center for Transgender Equality, 71 percent of transgender people in Maryland said they had experienced harassment or mistreatment at work and 18 percent said they had lost a job or been denied a promotion as a result of their gender identification. Seventeen percent reported having been denied housing. Shocking numbers of students in public schools report harassment (81 percent) and assaults (38 percent).
The Post rightly points out that although recall leader Del. Neil C. Parrott (R-Asshole) has concentrated on raising fears about behavior in bathrooms, he opposed transgender protections at every turn when they didn’t include public accommodations.
The Baltimore Sun thinks the “middle school” reference is entirely too generous.
The arguments advanced by Del. Neil Parrott and others who are organizing the petition drive would seem juvenile in a 3rd grade classroom. Rather than addressing the very real need to protect transgender people from discrimination in employment, housing and other matters, they are trying to convince the public that this bill will lead to a rash of men putting on dresses and going into public bathrooms to ogle women.
It’s difficult to know where to start in explaining why this argument is ridiculous, and it’s somewhat embarrassing for our state that we should have to do so. But here goes.
First, it takes more than putting on a dress to be covered by this law. It requires that a person exhibit “consistent and uniform assertion” of their gender identity or present evidence that the gender identity is “sincerely held as part of the person’s core identity.” To caricature this as a bill about men in dresses is to demean the very real and often very difficult experiences of those who do not identify with the gender they were assigned at birth.
Second, the misconduct Mr. Parrott and others predict, including indecent exposure and sexual assault, remains illegal no matter the gender or gender identity of the person committing it.
Third, transgender people do, in fact, go to the bathroom now. Usually, they use the bathroom with which they identify, and the one with which the public most readily identifies them. Given that, by conservative estimates, half of one percent of the population is transgender, chances are that Mr. Parrott has already been in a bathroom with a transgender person; he just didn’t realize it.
Also no surprise was the outrage expressed by some conservatives about the action of the Department of Education in extending Title IX protections to transgender students. NPR had a “debate.” It’s always so fulfilling to have people debate your rights over public media.
Anyway, host Michel Martin’s guests were National Center for Transgender Equality Executive Director Mara Keisling and Gayle Trotter from the conservative “research” group Independent Women’s Forum.
KEISLING: Sure. It’s a really helpful thing for school districts. They now are being told very clearly that it is against the law to not protect transgender students. They have to allow transgender students full access to schools just like they allow anybody else. And this helps clarify what that means for the school district so they don’t run afoul of the law, so they don’t waste precious resources fighting lawsuits.
Trotter is “concerned” about process…that this didn’t get debated in Congress or come through the courts, but was just an arbitrary decision by bureaucrats about the treatment of “a very small population of people.”
TROTTER: So I think that’s very important. Now, it’s not part of the law, but it has a chilling effect on schools because they don’t want to be investigated by the Feds. So they are going to change their behavior based on this guideline.
MARTIN: Well, that’s obviously the point – I mean, for people to change their behavior. But my question to you is what’s – is your objection to the substance, or is your objection to the process?
MARTIN: I mean, is your argument that – well, let me – tell me a little bit more about that. So on the substance of it, I mean, are you suggesting that transgender students should be discriminated against?
TROTTER: Definitely not. But the whole purpose the behind the passage of Title IX was to create full participation for the underrepresented sex, and we all know that that’s women. And when you look at the studies that show how important sports are to women, gaining leadership positions and having the ability to assert themselves in the workplace, we understand that it’s critically important for women to have those opportunities.
So the idea behind Title IX was to allow full participation by women. This guidance offered by the Department of Education is going in the opposite direction. It’s going to reduce opportunities for women to participate in sports in school.
And we all know that transgender women are not women, right Ms. Trotter? Transgender women should not have leadership positions or the ability to assert themselves in the workplace…because they are “really men.”
Martin caught that.
MARTIN: It would seem to me that at least some of the transgender students are girls, or at least they identify as women. So it seems to me that they would be covered under your kind of rubric. But let me ask Mara to address those two questions that you just raised.
Keisling points out that when people don’t like the substance of a policy change, they attack the process…and that people on Trotter’s side never complain about the process when the policy change favors them. And then challenges Trotter on substance:
KEISLING: This isn’t about people getting to decide who’s men and women. And that’s part of what Gayle’s trying to say is that she knows who women are, and transgender people aren’t either men or women. And that’s wrong, and it’s unfair. And it’s unscientific, and it’s illegal.