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The transgender debate and messaging

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The current transgender bathroom issue illustrates the importance of messaging. While the debate should focus on human rights and dignity, those who oppose transgender people using the bathroom that matches their sexual identity (versus the gender that appears on their birth certificates) have changed the debate into a moral crusade. Society’s relationship with God is now at issue.

Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest of North Carolina stated a few weeks back on talk radio, “We have a lack of moral compass in our country right now, we’ve taken our eyes off God in America, we have turned our back on God, we have forgotten God in a lot of ways, so the moral compass is broken here.” Southern Evangelical Seminary President Richard Land stated, “In North Carolina, we stand for traditional family values, and we’ll stand up for our right as citizens not to be put upon in this way.”

To characterize the transgender issue as one based on morality is to start with the premise that transgender people are immoral and purposefully engaging in sin. Society is, therefore, obligated to object to their sinful, wayward behavior.

It’s easy to see how people are opposed to—even frightened by—transgender people. People who undergo sex change operations or just doubt their given gender are, well, different. They go through a transformation that is beyond the average person’s understanding, and people are generally repelled by that which they do not understand. From there, it’s easy to make the leap that transgender people are immoral.

But here’s the problem. It’s not a matter of choice. Catherine Dulac, a Harvard professor of biology, told Time magazine (May 30, 2016) that “gender dysphoria” (the official diagnosis) is recognized by the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association and other major medical institutions. According to Time, it is irreversible, and the most of the negative effects associated with it do not come from the syndrome itself but from society’s reaction.

Look at it from another angle. How many people would endure the humiliation and ostracism that comes with changing their names and gender presentation just so they could use a different bathroom?  This was the question asked by a 13-year old transgender student who sued his Virginia school district for the right to use the boys’ bathroom.  It seems unlikely that former Olympian Bruce Jenner underwent a sex transformation on a whim or to be adventurous. Nobody does this out of simple choice.

People respond to the transgender issue in one of two ways. One group says, “Transgender people are different. I don’t understand it, but they’re still human beings entitled to the same rights as everyone else.” The other group looks at transgender people as a moral aberration that threatens society.

Take a look at what this means for a parent. Glenn Sheller, a Columbus Dispatch editor, wrote candidly about what his family has experienced.

“But being transgender is not a lifestyle choice, not a whim, not a mental illness. A transgender person is someone who simply is living the gender identity that feels natural. Just as everybody else does.

“But for transgender people, coming to this realization and living it often comes with a big problem: other people. In the eyes of some, being transgender is a willful violation of the natural order, or of divine will, an act of rebellion, or a mental condition that requires treatment. Because of such views, transgender people suffer discrimination, harassment, bullying and shunning from many quarters.”

What about the dangers we are warned about if transgender people have their choice of bathrooms?  Columnist David Brooks  thinks “these laws are in response to a problem that doesn’t seem to exist. They are in response to a threat of sexual predators that has no relation to the existence of transgender people. They are about legislating a group, not about what constitutes good behavior. They are an attempt to erect crude barriers when a little local consideration and accommodation could get the job done.”

Is Brooks right? According to Time, The Los Angeles Unified School District, with 550,000 students, has allowed transgender students to use the bathrooms they identify with since 2005. Judy Chiasson, who runs the district’s office of human relations, stated, “I have never had misconduct by a transgender student. A lot of fears people expressed, we have never realized those, we have never seen them. “

Brooks suggests a new societal view. “If public life were truly infused with the sense that people have souls … We’d understand that citizenship is a covenant, too, and we have a duty to feel connected to those who disagree with us.”

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Jack D’Aurora writes for considerthisbyjd.com

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Discussion

  1. debdeb44  June 14, 2016

    Thanks JD. I appreciate your kind and thoughtful words.

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  2. tmaddix  June 15, 2016

    Excellent

    Tom Maddix             604.442.2658               Vancouver,  BC      Sent from Samsung Mobile 

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  3. jjtartaglione  June 15, 2016

    Jack,

    As you usually do, you give me pause and allow me to reflect on the topic. Excellent points. Being the same age as you, I have many years on this earth. Why has it taken so many decades of my life for this issue to get to where it is today? Have to admit I have heard more about transgender issues in the past 6 months than I have my entire life. If this is indeed a recognized medical condition, where has it been for the past 50+ years?

    Johnny

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  4. dmccormick79  June 15, 2016

    Comment: Good op-ed but there are some important points to consider. First, for those uncomfortable with a transgender using their bathroom, this has been going on for many years….you just didn’t know it. If I tried to ban every person in a day dress with facial stubble and a gravely voice, everyone of my buddies grandmothers of Eastern European descent would be suspect. Second, the problem is with locker rooms. Many of the advocates want to allow this to go on in high school locker rooms. When I was 15, I would have worn a dress to school just for the chance to sneak into the girls locker room.

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    • jdaurora@behallaw.com  June 19, 2016

      Thank you for voicing comments about eastern European grandmothers and the shenanigans of 15-year old boys. Who says a blog has to be serious all the time?

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  5. Ben Zambito  June 15, 2016

    Thanks for articulating a lot of my thoughts on this issue. Another great post!

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  6. John Calhoun  June 15, 2016

    Pseudo Science not rooted in fact. Same kind of science as Darwin who was as big a bigot as there ever was. The problem is very simple for Christians (Was brought up just today in Men’s Prayer Group way down here at St. John the Beloved here in SC). Human Beings, please do not label people other than what God created, are asked to take up their cross and follow Christ. Yes you can have strange feelings but the cross you bear is to not act on them. This goes for adulterers too! The problem is people are inclined to take the easiest way (not take up their cross because it is too hard)! Unfortunately, doing the wrong thing will cause people to seek justification and not repentance. This is life’s dilemma.

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  7. bruce  June 15, 2016

    Is there some way to put you in charge of our government (at all levels)?
    b.a.c.

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    • jdaurora@behallaw.com  June 19, 2016

      I would love to be in charge, but there’s probably more danger than good that would come from me being in charge. Remember, I’m Italian and would probably follow in the footsteps of Julius Caesar. Once appointed as “guy in charge,” I would eliminate the senate, usurp total power and … well, you get the picture.

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  8. Melissa  June 15, 2016

    Couldn’t agree with you more JD. Thanks so much for the post.

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  9. Matt Schaeffer  June 15, 2016

    I see this as a conflict between gender and sex. “Gender” is a social construct (i.e. the notion that “boys are like this, and girls are like that”); “sex” is a biological trait (i.e., boys and girls have certain different, yet complementary, biological characteristics). Society does not have the right to impose a particular gender on an individual, and an individual doesn’t the ability to actually change his or her sex. The question really comes down to whether biological women should have any rights or opportunities that transwomen shouldn’t have–and this goes beyond locker room privacy. For example, should transwomen be entitled to compete for women’s athletic scholarships, to receive women’s educational scholarships, and receive other opportunities that are designed to remedy discrimination against women? If the answer is “no,” then gender discrimination results. If the answer is “yes,” then biological females will be deprived of the “womens-only” opportunities that are instead given to transwomen.

    I would go beyond David Brooks’ view and suggest that we should see one another, not merely as having souls, but as sacred and worthy of love regardless of gender/sexual ideology. Unfortunately, in our system of identity politics, differences are exploited and magnified, with the end being not “connectedness” and “citizenship” but fragmentation and conflict.

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  10. Marie Motta  June 17, 2016

    If you believe in reincarnation, which is a big if, you are put on earth to make spiritual progress and you choose your parents, your circumstances, your health, and your sex because that is the only way you can overcome the particular challenges you must face to develop spiritually and overcome past patterns and mistakes. If a person has had many lifetimes as a woman, but chooses before birth to be born as a man because of the challenges he willingly takes on to progress, he is wasting a lifetime. Of course, this person is more comfortable as a woman, since so many previous lifetimes were spent as a woman, and they are comfortable and known. However, choosing to be a man and then, due to emotional discomfort and hardship, deliberately reverts back to what is comfortable, is only creating a bigger problem in that he has deliberately chosen not to follow the path he himself chose for his own spiritual development. He has “failed” to do what he most needs to do on a spiritual level. And so, he in future lifetimes will continue to face this same problem until he chooses correctly to follow the path he himself knows he needs most. He is wasting a lifetime. I’m sure many people think that this whole concept is absurd, but I really believe that God would not give us an immortal soul and then give us one chance only to live, limited by 3 dimensions, and a period of time that is like a second compared to eternity.

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