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Sunday, April 24, 2016

Dysphoria, bathrooms, smoke, and mirrors

In America this month, it’s difficult to miss the strident panic over bathroom rules.   I’m not sure most of us realized there were laws, or who enforces them, until the powerful lobby of political correctness decided to make this a litmus test of civilization, and then North Carolina threw down the gauntlet.   At first I really couldn’t understand the issue, since a) transgender people are a small minority and b) that minority may be even LESS likely to assault a stranger in a bathroom than the rest of the world, but at least not more so. 

Reading both sides charitably, what I conclude is that those who proposed that individuals choose the bathroom where they feel most comfortable wanted to make the world slightly less hostile for people whose spirits and minds are at odds with their bodies.  On the other hand, those who want laws based on anatomy at birth are not so much worried about the handful of gender-dysphoric types the whole brouhaha is meant to protect, but they believe that sexual predator men will jump on the opportunity to pose as transgender XY-but-feel-females and stalk women’s bathrooms to peep at girls, or much worse. 

In essence, both sides have honest and potentially positive points.  This world contains a lot of lines that categorize and exclude, which a shocking verse in Galatians promises that the Gospel erases.  At the very beginning, in a surprising story, Phillip was sent to the Ethiopian eunuch, to invite (him) into the Kingdom.  We are told to be sensitive to those who are on the margins; to lay down our own rights when someone is offended.  Good principles.  We are also empowered to protect vulnerable girls and boys from predators.  We should not fear the scorn of being out of step with our culture when our culture normalizes pedophilia, for instance.

But honestly, this entire issue is a smoke-and-mirrors distraction from real problems, and it’s time for someone to say that the emperor is naked.

First, I’ve been going to women’s restrooms for half a century, and I can’t recall a single time that I’ve seen more of a woman’s genitals or breasts in a bathroom than on the beach or for that matter on the street.  Women’s bathrooms have stalls or doors with locks.  We generally like a bit of privacy.  Yes, an evil person could choose to plan an assault in a bathroom, but that was possible before and it will be possible no matter what is on paper.  Second, the fact is, that this is a super first-world-problem.  Much more harm comes from the fact that a majority of women in the world don’t have any sanitation, than from the labels on American bathroom doors.  Billions of people go through life with little privacy or cleanliness.  Let’s worry more about that.  Third, no amount of friendly labeling will change the brokenness of sexual identity.  Because sex has been a central aspect of our humanity, sex has been a central battleground of the Evil one attacking us.  Fourth, our communal humanity demands a constant negotiation between rights and protections.  As a 50-something female, frankly, I can feel threatened/sad/inadequate when I face my own body dysphorias.  To what degree we protect every person from feeling excluded needs sane discussion not strident paranoia.  Yes society needs to protect the vulnerable, but our culture has extended the obsession with safety to the kind of illogical rejection of reality that makes us unable to function.  But all of these points are minor.

HERE IS THE REAL POINT.  Bathrooms aren’t the battleground.  Pornography is.  Instead of fighting each other, let’s turn our attention to the real problem.  There is an industry stealing the souls of our children and making billions of dollars doing so.  Research is emerging that our boys and girls are exposed to a barrage of images and misinformation that turns sex into a violent conquest, denigrates women’s bodies, and divorces true giving, loving relationships from physical pleasure.  Pornography and drugs are public health problems as much as they are moral issues, they are tangles of bad choices, physiologic dependence, a massive economic pressures.  Let’s get up in arms about human trafficking, and about the relentless effort online to suck children into dangerous habits.  Let’s question the money that enriches people whose success comes at the expense of this generation.

Because they may be the very people who are fanning the flames of the bathroom debacle, to distract us from the real issue.


Anonymous said...

Hi. A friend forwarded your post to me. Thank you so much for your thoughtful words and perspective. I could not agree more that the biggest issue is pornography.
One word about the "bathroom debate" though. My understanding is that in some states the legalizing of transgender use of single sex facilities extends to prisons and shelters. In other words, a man calling himself transgender but with penis intact can say he wants to be put in a women's prison and can also demand to stay at a women's shelter. This strikes me as highly dangerous for the vulnerable women in prisons and in shelters. Since transgender surgery is not required, any predatory man could get access to women in very vulnerable positions. Our American prisons are already so dangerous and so inhumane, and now incarcerated women may face a serious, new threat.

Anonymous said...

In response to laurag8ch "word" about the bathroom debate, I have to say that I have known men, even some unseemly men, and more than one transgender. No man intent on sexual relations would go to the great pains these transgenders do to look, act, walk, and talk like a woman. A man trying to pass as a woman simply for sex will look like a man in a dress and will fool no one. They won't know how to walk, hold themselves or even talk in any way sounding like women do. We, as women in society, are at risk and vulnerable most of the time that we're not at home, church, or other safe spaces. I am far safer with a transgender than with many of the men I have met. What Ms. Laura suggests just isn't going to happen.