If You Don’t Listen, You Can’t Hear

BY ED SIKOV | When I was covering the media’s shameful response to the AIDS crisis in the 1980s, if you had told me that one day I’d be citing the New York Times as a model of fairness and forward thinking, I’d have said you were on crack.

Lo: it has come to pass. Not that you are on crack, but that the Times has evolved.

A recent story featured young Thomas Lewis, a trans guy who’s a senior in a South Dakota high school and was forced to wage a public fight over — yes, here we go again — which bathroom he must use. South Dakota and its legislature followed a lengthening list of locales and officials that are trying (as one hostile lawmaker claims) “to protect the innocence of children” by denying trans folks the right to use the bathroom designated for their gender.

Media Circus

“How do we protect their minds and hearts and eyes while they’re showering and changing?” he asked, expanding his roster of contested public spaces to include locker rooms, always known for their church-like propriety.

Let’s ignore the fact that the kids whose innocence he’s so tirelessly trying to protect are probably spending their evenings humping in the back seats of their parents’ cars, as high schoolers tend to do.

“Mr. Lewis said the onus was on others to accept his identity as a man rather than on him to conform to their expectations, and noted that locked stall doors already ensured a layer of privacy,” the Times story reported. “‘Bathrooms don’t need to change,’ he said. ‘People do.’”

The Times continues: “In Watertown, high school students gathered more than 200 signatures for a petition saying the bathroom bill was discriminatory and should be voted down. And on the Rosebud Indian Reservation, where State Senator Troy Heinert once taught elementary school, Mr. Heinert said a transgender girl had attended classes years ago without any issue. ‘Parents said, “He dresses as a girl, he lives as a girl, he plays with girls,”’ recalled Mr. Heinert, a Democrat who voted against the bill. ‘We made some accommodations at our school. Nobody cared. Everybody knew. We didn’t make a mountain out of a molehill.’”

The Washington Post went further than the Times: It featured an op-ed by Thomas Lewis himself.

“People who support the bill are claiming that they are treating us fairly by giving us separate restrooms,” Lewis writes. “In reality, this law does just the opposite. It suggests that transgender people like me are unequal and must be separated from our friends and peers. It prohibits us from using the restroom that matches who we are. Every transgender child who starts school in my state will be subjected to unequal treatment and made to feel like an outcast. They may even be subjected to terrible things such as someone demanding documentation about their chromosomes or to see their genitals. A member of my legislature, Rep. Roger Hunt (R), actually brought this suggestion into a committee meeting on the bill.”

The idea that anyone would have the legal right to examine a student’s genitals against his or her will is repulsive. There appears to be no limit to the filth that fills these scuzzbags’ minds.

In the interest of balance, we now turn to the scuzzbag point of view. Here’s the Federalist’s David Marcus: “While the coastal class clobbers bigoted South Dakota on social media, the parents of that state have spoken. Their representatives have accepted the time-honored definition of gender and defied the transgender mafia. That choice must be celebrated and defended… South Dakota’s schools are not and should not be houses of trans advocate worship.”

The overt paranoia and sheer meanness of these remarks are mind-blowing.

Fortunately, on March 1 some reason prevailed when Republican Governor Dennis Daugaard vetoed the bill. No override attempt is planned.

But let’s get to Marcus’ lunacy: “Part of the reason trans advocates have been so successful in their attempts to redefine gender is that most people are uncomfortable with the entire discussion. It is far easier to simply live and let live, knowing that a person’s gender identity has little effect on you, than to actually tackle this complex issue [emphasis mine]. After all, most people wish to be polite. So they smile and nod, and use appropriate pronouns, never truly believing what they are saying. But this luxury of politeness is one we can no longer afford.”

Why not, one might ask? If “knowing that a person’s gender identity has little effect on you,” then why bully your way into a deeply personal area of someone else’s life?

In justifying his paranoia about the devious plan by the “trans mafia” to rule the earth, Marcus points to a New York magazine article by Jesse Singal about well-known gender specialist, Kenneth Zucker, being fired from a clinic because he advocated “reparative therapy.” The issues raised by Singal’s article are complex and deserve more space and time to dissect than this column can accommodate. But the response offered by Julia Serano, a trans woman, poet, author, and performer, on her blog, Whipping Girl, is simply the interview Singal conducted with her, none of which made it into Singal’s article. It’s the most useful way of summarizing why the trans community shed no tears at Zucker’s unceremonious firing, not to mention why Singal stands accused of anti-trans bias:

“Zucker’s stance has always been the same: While not explicitly condemning trans or gender-non-conforming people, he has maintained that these children’s lives will be easier if they can grow up to be more gender-normative. But in the last decade or so, as LGBTQ acceptance has grown (with public recognition that many gay people are also gender non-conforming), and as the practice of allowing trans children the possibility of socially transitioning (with physical transitioning only coming if/ when the child is old enough and desires it), Zucker and his supporters’ arguments have shifted. Nowadays, gender reparative therapy is being sold as allowing these children the possibility of being gay rather than trans, or as not needlessly shuttling children into potentially unnecessary hormone regimes and surgeries.

“The problem is, this argument is not only revisionist, but it creates a false dichotomy. Because no one is going around forcing gender non-conforming children into cross-gender-identifying or socially transitioning. The organizations advocating on behalf of gender-variant children and the non-gender-reparative clinics that work with these kids will tell you (if you ask them, and you most certainly should) that social transitioning (and puberty-delaying drugs, if they are older) is only being recommended for children who strongly and persistently cross-gender-identify. If a child is simply gender non-conforming or gender questioning, these people/ organizations/ clinics will encourage them to explore their genders (i.e., without socially transitioning), and try to provide support for them to do so without shame or stigma.”

Had Singal included any of these thoughtful, articulate comments in his article, it would not have been as sensationalistically one-sided as it turned out to be. And creeps like David Marcus wouldn’t be able to claim victory where none exists.

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