Thursday, May 19, 2016

A Letter to Those Who Support Restroom Discrimination

I participate in several online support groups for parents with transgender children. As the “bathroom wars” wage on in social media, we have clung to each other’s words of encouragement, listened to stories of hope and helped each other move forward, even though all of us are so very tired, so very weary. Obama’s declaration of a commitment to equality offered hope for our youth, our LGBT community. But along came insults, accusations, threats, disgust. And just when we all felt as low as we thought we could, one of the moms our group shared that her transgender daughter committed suicide.

Of course, I support bathroom equality (honestly, typing that phrase is almost embarrassing….bathroom equality!? Is this Jim Crow all over again!? Why are we even talking about bathrooms!? Why are we talking about pee!? We’re adults!) 

I have tried to see this from another side. I have tried to see this from a side that wants to protect your child just as much as I want to protect mine. I've tried to think that if only one of us got our way that it would be to the detriment of the other child’s safety.

But here's the truth...I CAN'T understand your side. And here's why:

Your bogeyman isn't real. Mine is. MY bogeyman comes in the form of suicide. Transgender suicide where the risk is real and the statistics are staggering. Most people who have been touched by our family don't see this side because Allie is happy. Supported. Thriving. 

She is protected from the idea that she isn't allowed in a bathroom in North Carolina. But what about the transgender people who live there? The sons, daughters, sisters, brothers, wives, husbands, friends who have been cast off, thrown out, demonized...What happens to them?

Sure. I’ve heard the whole argument “Well, its not transgender people I have a problem with. It’s men creeping into women’s bathroom because now they can.” As if they couldn’t before.

Your bathroom bogeyman is a creation of your own fears, an imagined side effect, a histrionic manifestation that is ravaged by the media. How do I know? Because the media isn’t sharing that across the country there have already been non-discrimination protections in place when it comes to facilities usage.

Colorado has a state law that has been in place since 2008 that has prohibited discrimination in public facilities based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Alex M. Priddy of the Coalition Against Sexual Assault has said there are no reported problems as a result of Colorado’s non-discrimination law.

Hawaii, in 2006, passed a state law that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in public accommodations. In 2014, William Hoshijo, the executive director of the Hawaii Civil Rights Commission indicated that that the Non-Discrimination Law hasn’t resulted in an increase of sexual assault or rape.

The state of Iowa has been prohibiting discrimination in public accommodations since 2007. In 2014, a spokesperson for the Des Moines Police Department, Jason Halifax, indicated that the department had not seen an increase of cases of sexual assault related to the state’s non-discrimination policy.

Maine has protections in place for individuals using public accommodations based on gender identity and sexual orientation and has since 2005. Amy Snierson, Executive Director of the Maine Human Rights Commission said that there has not been an increase in sexual assault or rape after the legislation was adopted.

In 1997, the city of Cambridge, Massachusetts expanded their non-discrimination ordinance to prohibit discrimination against transgender people in public accommodations. The Cambridge Police Superintendent Christopher Burke shared the following statement:

“Back in 1984 Cambridge enacted an ordinance that established the Human Rights Commission. The purpose of the ordinance was to protect the human rights of all citizens of the City. In 1997 this ordinance was amended to specifically include gender identity and expression. Much like the Transgender Equal Rights Bill proposal, the City of Cambridge sought to offer protection to transgender individuals from being harassed, fired from a job, denied access to a public place, or denied or evicted from housing. Since this 1997 amendment there have been no incidents or issues regarding persons abusing this ordinance or using them as a defense to commit crimes. Specifically, as was raised as a concern if the bill were to be passed, there have been no incidents of men dressing up as women to commit crimes in female bathrooms and using the city ordinance as a defense. 

In as early as 1993, Minnesota adopted a state law that prohibits gender identity discrimination in public facilities. A spokesperson for the Minneapolis Police Department confirmed that there have not been any cases of men dressing as women to commit crimes in the bathrooms, nor have there been increases in restroom related crimes.

Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont…all have had similar non-discrimination laws in place as early as 2001. All have reported that there has been no increase in crimes in restrooms and that there are NO reports of men dressing as women to commit crimes in bathrooms.

The media isn’t sharing these stories because nothing has happened as a result of these protections. It’s a boring story, so it’s not newsworthy. And it shouldn’t be newsworthy. People peeing isn’t news. It’s nature.

So for all the outrage that has been exhibited over the last few weeks (thanks, North Carolina), it seems there is evidence that what could happen in theory isn’t what is happening in practice.

But you know what it IS happening? You know what is worthy of outrage? Transgender adults and children are trying to kill themselves. At an alarming rate. Georgia State University conducted a study that revealed a strong link between gender identity discrimination in public facilities and suicide. The study included over 6,000 transgender individuals. Of those 6,000 individuals almost 2,800 of them had attempted suicide. That’s almost half. That is startling. The study also found that the rate of suicide attempts increased to over 60% when denied access to appropriate facilities such as bathroom use and university housing. SIXTY PERCENT. My daughter is one of those children who does not currently have full access to a gender appropriate bathroom at school. Which means I have a forty percent chance of her not attempting suicide. Lord, please help us.

That scares the shit out of me. And it should make people feel ashamed of the idea that they care where she pees.

You don’t want someone looking at you in the bathroom? Then go in the stall, lock door and mind your own business. Just like the rest of us do.

Your bathroom bogeyman isn’t real.

Mine is.


Monday, May 2, 2016

A letter to the mom who told me she is boycotting Target

I've spent five years patiently, calmly, diplomatically trying to educate people on the importance of LGBT, specifically, transgender, rights. I have swallowed frustrations, taken the high road, made allowances for different opinions. I have even criticized some of my own trans parenting community for sounding "too bitter." Well folks, I'm done. I'm done with killing people with kindness. It's not working for me anymore. Big Mama is mad.

Yesterday morning, I awoke to someone responding to a post on my own Facebook feed...a person who barely knows me, doesn't know my family and certainly will never know my heart. She coolly explained, with pride, how she was boycotting Target not because she doesn't think that trans people shouldn't have rights but because she claims she is worried about her daughter. Worried some pervert will don a dress and sneak into the bathroom and do something unspeakable. She clearly feels the rights of her daughter are more important than the rights of mine...that some sort of accommodation should be made for Allie (how thoughtful) but that her privilege of comfort should prevail.

Of course, I'm paraphrasing, but it was the sure sentiment. And if she is reading this right now and is outraged that I am paraphrasing her words, here's my response: Don't post things on MY page that you don't want me to have an opinion on. Stay off my feed and I'll stay off yours.

And hey, guess what? I worry about a pervert sneaking into a woman's bathroom too. But I'm not going to use that as an opportunity or an excuse to lie to myself about the fact that I am discriminating against a group of people that have done absolutely nothing wrong and think I am doing something good by taking their rights away.

Truly, it's akin to saying, "I like black people. I just don't think they should be allowed to sit at the same lunch counter as me because one of them could get violent." 

An old high school friend cautioned me to not sound angry. Well, I AM angry. Here's why I am angry, and why you would be too, if you were in my shoes: my daughter's basic civil liberties are under fire in this country. They are under fire because people are creating hyperbolic hypotheticals and calling them real. They are under fire because people see some meme on Facebook, sign some nonsensical pledge and feel they are on some political high road to self-righteousness. Signing and reposting the pledge to stop shopping at Target is not brave or righteous. It's uneducated. It's uneducated because chances are you posted it from your Apple product, or your IBM computer. Chances are you used Google to search for some bit of information that you would use to discredit me. You used Facebook to share the post. Those companies I mentioned are supporters of LGBT rights. They donate money to the HRC who, in turn, uses it for things like fighting bathroom bills. 

You want to be outspoken and self-righteous? Then do it. But do it right. Do it all the way. Stop hiding behind stupid viral Facebook memes and think you have done hard work (because, as you've said not going to Target is going to be oh, so hard). Don't act like you have done a good deed or stood for the silent majority. 

If you are really concerned about people pretending to be a gender they are not to bring harm to another, start lobbying insurance companies to offer better mental health care services. Lobby your local and federal governments to do the same. Because someone pretending to be a gender they aren't so they can creep around a bathroom isn't an LGBT issue, it's a mental health issue. You aren't concerned about mental health and law breakers. If you are really worried, do something that matters. But don't think the solution is to take away my family's civil rights. It isn't the solution. And never will be. 

Skipping the Target trip isn't hard. Buying your paper towels at Walmart instead isn't hard (I'm sure there are no creepers to worry about in Walmart).

But, you know what IS hard? Finding a new pediatrician because your doctor refuses to see your child anymore. Hard is finding a dance studio who will allow your child to enroll in dance classes. Hard is finding a friend for your daughter whose parents will let them sleep over. Hard work is having to get a letter, explaining your child's gender and signed by your child's doctor and standing in line for hours to have your child's passport changed to reflect her appropriate gender so that you aren't suspected of kidnapping your own child when you take a family vacation out of the country. Hard is having to explain your family's journey to a new baby sitter and hope that she will love your kiddos just the same. Hard is saving money for the hormones that our insurance won't cover. Hard is explaining to your sweet, innocent child why some people don't want her in the bathroom. 

That's hard. Do all that, and then we can talk. Your little Target boycott petition (that let's face it, probably won't really last)? That's not hard.