“There is no clear definition of gender identity…”

I do not understand the social/culturally conservative preoccupation with LGBTQ issues. The trans-bathroom fight is absurd. In a world with so many real moral and ethical threats, THIS is what you chose to use valuable social and political capital on? Not our violent crime epidemic? Or our corrupt and oppressive criminal justice system? Nor the inequity of our economic system and the damages wrought by poverty– such as the spreading heroin epidemic? To you, the bathroom choices of transgender people is the pressing moral question of our time.

Pat McCrory has become the face of the conservative Christian fight against transgender bathroom rights. If you enjoy watching a public figure embarrass themselves on live television, I highly recommend North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory’s appearance on Fox News Sunday last weekend. The defense of his state’s absurd bathroom law that he mounts is laughable.

He pins much of his defense on the notion that it is hard to define gender identity. This is simply not true. Here is a definition from the American Psychological Association that has been in use since 2011. The HRC. Merriam-Webster. The Unitarian Universalist Association. Planned Parenthood. You see, the concept of gender identity has been defined. It is not a particularly difficult concept either. It is simply a person’s internal concept of who they are. It can be male, female, some combination, or neither. You simply have not bothered to look into it. Or disagree without offering an alternative. But to pretend that the concept is not defined is a lie.

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This should surprise no one. The governor of the “9th largest state” in the US also thinks race is a clear and easily defined category. Most social scientists and humanities scholars today would tell you that race is an arbitrary classification of humans that utilizes the sloppy application of social constructs of identity based upon some combination of physical characteristics, ancestry, historical affiliation, or shared culture. In essence, it is messier and harder to define than the notion that people internalize their gender identity.

He clumsily undermines his own claims that this is not discriminatory and exposes the culturally conservative reason that these laws are being pushed through for when he points out how gender identity is not specifically called out in the 1964 Civil Rights Act. It is discriminatory, but it is ok because transgender people are not a protected class. Slavery was once ok this way too– until that pesky Lincoln over-reached and issued an executive order ending it in the rebellious south.

Why did North Carolina pass this law? Why did McCrory sign it? He has claimed that HB2 is a commonsense law makes bathrooms safer for women and children, made necessary by liberals in places like Houston and Charlotte passing laws that make it illegal to prevent transgender people from using the bathroom on the basis of their gender identity (rather than their assigned birth gender). When pressed, McCrory cannot point out a single instance of a transgender person violating the privacy or molesting someone in the bathroom. The best he could muster are some twisted nightmares about sexual predators who will capitalize on transgender protections– as though rules of privacy and sexual assault somehow go out the window if you let a transgender woman use the woman’s facilities. I would have paid good money to see him answer a question about gays and lesbians in our bathrooms and locker rooms. Remember what a huge threat that was, until we found out they had been in there all along and no one was being harmed by it?

So why would the governor risk losing millions in federal funding for education and transportation in order to back a law that solves no existing problem, is openly hostile to a very small and vulnerable slice of his population, and will almost certainly look very stupid within several years?  The answer is clear– he is playing politics. He is up for reelection in a year in which GOP candidates face a bit of an uphill battle– the party is deeply unpopular and untrusted according to most national polls– and he is looking for a standard to rally the socially conservative forces of North Carolina around. So what if this costs the state needed federal dollars, weakening education and allowing their infrastructure to further corrode? Who cares if businesses pull away from the state, stripping the economy of more jobs, spending, and tourism?

The socially conservative position on this issue is nicely summed up in this quote from McCrory: “A man who is a man should use the restroom that is on the door.” I’d like to remind McCrory that bathrooms have not always had such signs. And somehow men and women manage to use the same toilet facilities in cohabitation, drunken clubs, port-o-johns at festivals and stadiums, and a whole host of other places. Bathrooms are not a sexual place for most of us– we just expel bodily waste there. Stop worrying about who is shitting a stall over from you and get on with your business. You are gumming up the lines and we all have better things to be doing.

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