As we strive for the civil discourse needed in a democracy, Monday put another hot-button issue at the forefront as the Huffington Post attacked
the Trump Administration on the bathroom debate and the Daily Mail reported
on Mack Beggs of Texas preparing to win the state high school girls title before transitioning to wrestle on the men’s team in college.
In the powder keg that is American politics today, people of good will feel very strongly on both sides of this issue — and there are also purveyors of secret political spending that could care less but see an opportunity to motivate a conservative or progressive voting block with anonymous political attacks.
Before reacting to this latest news, I took a breath and reflected on the comments by Marine hero and Congressman Mike Gallagher, R-WI, who recently took the stage after me at the Unrig the System Summit in New Orleans and argued the best way to drain the swamp is to build dams way upstream by starting with ourselves and the vitriol in our own words and actions.
Guilty. Darn, when a fellow conservative fighting for reform puts it that bluntly, it was time for some introspection.
Gallagher’s words brought to mind a pretty shrill piece I wrote two years ago in reaction to the push for transgender bathrooms.
A few weeks after writing this piece I ended up having a conversation with a Boston business leader who was on the opposite side of the issue — in fact, he was leading some of the divestiture efforts from North Carolina companies over the issue. He did express a real appreciation for Pope Francis because he and his husband were well received during a trip to the Vatican, even though he felt he could no longer practice as a Catholic due to the differences on marriage.
That made me ask a question.
“Years ago when most fellow conservatives were enjoying their winning streak at the ballot box over marriage, I received strong pushback for suggesting we should reach out for a compromise that allowed for Civil Unions with all the rights of a marriage regarding money, visitation etc., but just keeping a distinction between civil unions and marriage so that our pastors would not risk prosecution for advocating for traditional marriage from the pulpit. Unfortunately, at the time social conservatives were on a roll and didn’t want to find common ground — but would you have taken that deal 15 years ago?”
“I would have taken that deal in a heartbeat,” he answered, and then continued with a laugh, “But you are never getting that deal now!”
Which made me wonder about dialing back my wording — not my strong conviction — on not allowing men in women’s restrooms.
What Drives My Convictions
So let me try to hone in on my strong convictions on this issue first, then seek potential compromise and understanding like we did not try on the traditional marriage vs. marriage equality debate.
What I oppose is Chris Cuomo saying that if a father was concerned about a 12-year-old daughter seeing men’s privates then the problem is really "her overprotective and intolerant dad." When you read the exchange, Cuomo seems to make the case that a father can prove he is tolerant only by having no problem with his 12-year-old daughter being exposed to a man in her restroom.
Likewise, the head of the Georgia ACLU quit over President Obama’s bathroom edict after her daughter was scared of three transgender individuals reportedly carrying on in a loud manner in their bathroom, saying the ACLU shut down any dialogue on the issue.
Finally, women and girls do sometimes use women’s rooms as a sanctuary to escape creepy men, and for me changing the law to allow a man to follow a woman into a restroom and then claim he self-identified as a woman is a legal protection I do not want to provide.
At the same time, I do admit that my understanding of what drives many on the other side of the issue has increased due to some who reached me in a calm manner to express counter concerns. I do understand that some transgender individuals who are biologically men are scared to go into a men’s room and being mentally or physically abused.
None of us want that.
In some cases, there may be no common ground. From a practical perspective, there are times when having a line of urinals in a men’s room and a women’s room next door is a dividing line that I believe is needed to allow the privacy of girls and women and not create endless lines.
I admit, no situation is perfect and I have a greater concern that a sexual offender could follow a girl into a women’s room than the legitimate counter concern that a transgender individual could get surrounded by some jerks in a men’s room.
Possible Common Ground
One point on which I was wrong in the North Carolina law, is I thought that the exception was simply letting someone who started the transitioning process from man to woman use the women’s room. In fact, it was correctly pointed out to me by my North Carolina divestiture friend that the state had made the process more difficult. Perhaps a starting point is to simply say that if the transitioning process has begun, documenting that fact if questioned on your use of the women’s room is sufficient.
On the flip side, while I sometimes get on fellow conservatives for not accepting evidence, in this arena it can be liberals who refuse to consider evidence.
While the pressure from LGBT groups eventually compelled Johns Hopkins to proceed with transgender procedures after suspending them for almost four decades due to the grave risks and high suicide rates of those transitioning, this does not for me prove there are not grave risks, but rather the realities of political pressure that we fight at Take Back Our Republic. By the same token, when the American College of Pediatricians warns of the problems of encouraging children to question their gender, I have grave concerns with brushing those concerns aside.
However, one key to the potential common ground is focusing on the specific issue at hand — how can we minimize threats in bathrooms — and not get sidetracked into debating issues like those in the previous paragraph.
To this end, I believe we should continue to encourage the third option of a gender-neutral and/or family bathroom in addition to the men’s and women’s restrooms where practical.
Humor isn’t a bad starting point either. As Ellen DeGeneres writer Adam Yenser joked (at 1:56:40 of this link) at the Unrig the System Summit, the argument is the result of both sides being concerned someone who makes them uncomfortable will be in the public restroom, “Which makes perfect sense, UNLESS you have ever used a public bathroom.”
In some cases, we may not have the solutions, just a starting point for civil discourse. Taking up Rep. Gallagher’s challenges, I am looking for dams to build upstream to drain the swamp. And just remember, some groups making secret contributions on both sides do not want solutions or civil discourse — they just want a controversy to drive votes.
John Pudner is Executive Director of Takeback.org, a non-profit home for Americans seeking true political reform. Our conservative solutions include: stopping illicit foreign money from impacting elections; ending pay-to-play in government contracting; and restoring the Reagan-era federal tax credit for small-dollar political contributions, which will encourage more citizens to become donors and help re-balance the campaign finance system. For more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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