Media Matters has a nice compilation of statements from law enforcement officials and other experts from the 12 states that have had laws protecting transgender people on the books for a while (some going back to 1993!) about whether or not all those predictioned sexual assaults in bathrooms and locker rooms have occurred. Shockingly, no such assault has occurred in any of those twelve states. Who would have thought?
In my previous postings about transgender rights laws in particular, and LGBT rights laws in general, one of the dumb arguments I didn’t cover has come up and contributed to the temporary suspension and threatened firing of a teacher just because she was transgender. The argument takes several forms, but they’re all basically the same objection.
So let’s take a look at it, shall we?
It causes my children to have questions that I don’t think are appropriate.
Kids have questions all the time about everything. And many of them are topics that adults feel awkward or embarrassed to answer. That happens whether they ever meet a transgender person or not. But you know what? Helping your kids with awkward questions is a parent’s job. It’s one of a parents’ most important jobs. If you can’t handle an embarrassing question, you’re failing as a parent.
I won’t go so far as to say such parents should have their kids taken away, but dang it, if anyone in that situation should be temporarily suspended, it certainly isn’t the teacher who is just existing.
I get it that most of these parents bringing this up have some very old-fashioned religious beliefs about gender. I understand that they think a transgender person is going against god’s plan, and consequently that the trans person is bound for an eternity in hell. And I understand that think being transgender is nothing more than a notion that someone gets in their head. So the thing they fear most about this kind of situation is that their child will somehow get the same notion if they are merely exposed to a transgender person. And therefore they believe if they teach their kid to be polite and respect the teacher that they will be condemning their own kid to hell.
I get that. But they can keep all those beliefs intact without persecuting (and firing someone just for who they are is persecution) a trans person. My mom had a go-to answer for a lot of things that we encountered which she felt was morally wrong based on her fundamentalist beliefs: everyone is different, not everyone believes the same way as we do, they have a right to those beliefs, god has different plans for the lives of different people and it may be that god wants them to be that way for some purpose we can’t understand, therefore, since Jesus told us to love other people as we love ourselves no matter what, we should never be mean or rude or disrespectful just because we believe differently.
If you can’t muster enough compassion and open-mindedness to actually accept that there is nothing wrong with a person being trans, the least you can do is go with my mom’s answer.
That’s not the only problem with this “inappropriate question” argument. The parents making this argument believe that letting their kids know there are people who do things the bible condemns is going to somehow force the kids to do those things, right? So, why do they let their kids watch movies in which people get murdered? I’m not talking about letting them watch graphic depictions of murder, but letting them watch shows where cops track down and arrest criminals is letting them know, again and again, that criminals exist. Doesn’t that mean the kids are all going to grow up to be criminals?
When I was a kid, just about every mother in every church we attended had several favorite soap operas that they watched faithfully. All those shows filled with people having affairs, betraying each other, cheating their business partners, marrying and divorcing and re-marrying over and over and over again. And none of them ever believed that talking about all that stuff in front of their kids, or letting their kids watch it whenever kids were home during the day, would actually turn their kids into adulterers, crooks, and serial divorcees.
If watching all that bad behavior on television and movies wont turn their kids into bad people, then just knowing that trans people exist won’t, either.
I realize that some of these parents may be the sort who don’t own a TV, don’t let their kids go to movies (or only certain narrowly-approve ones), restrict their kids’ internet access, and do their best to never expose themselves to bad language and so forth. So they aren’t being hypocritical, at least. However, when I said answering your kids’ questions is a parent’s job, that’s really a subset of a bigger job: prepare your children to survive and thrive as adults in the real world. When you put your children in a cocoon where they never encounter anything challenging or different, you’re not preparing them for the real world.
Learning that not everyone is like you, that not everyone believes as you do, that not everyone fits into the little cubby holes you imagine life to be, is an important part of learning to be a responsible adult. Learning to get along with people who are very different than you is crucial to being a responsible person. Learning to love people who are very different than you is a commandment from the savior these people all claim to follow.
Which circles us back to my mom’s answer again.
One of the subtexts of this argument is that it’s difficult for kids to understand. There’s a quote from an article that gets turned into a meme and shared a lot that really puts that into perspective. The author was talking to an acquaintance’s child about some things, and the child explained about one of their family friends: “She used to be a boy, but she never felt right or good. Now she takes medicine, and she’s a girl, and she’s happy.”
It isn’t any more complicated than that.