Thursday, January 22, 2015

With friends like the Fairness Alliance, transgender students don't need any enemies

In the old days it was only politics that was politicized. Today, there are few areas of life that have not become excuses for ideological contest. Race, sex, religion--all have now become occasions for political conflict. Now even bathrooms have become an ideological battleground.

The first shots in the political Battle of the Bathroom are being fired at places like Atherton High School in Louisville, where school administrators created a policy that allowed students to use the bathroom of their choice. If a student "self-identifies" as a girl, then she—or he—can use the girls' bathroom; if as a boy, then he—or she—can use the boys' bathroom.

The argument for the policy, according to groups like the Kentucky Fairness Alliance, is that it will reduce the incidence of harassment and bullying. But it doesn't take a whole lot of reflection to see how hair-scratchingly bizarre this position really is.

Sending girls who claim to be boys into the boys' room and boys who claim to be girls into the girls' room is not exactly the first policy a rational person would think of when trying to come up with a way to protect students who, whether you agree with them or not, want to challenge sexual convention (if not biology itself).

Far from reducing harassment, it's more likely to be a recipe for it.

And it can't be too comforting for the majority of students who probably just want to be left alone when they go to the bathroom.

The underlying issue, of course, has to do with the latest ideological innovation of the political left: what is now being called "transgender rights." While its rhetoric about homosexuality itself claims that gender is purely a matter of biological determinism, the rhetoric of transgender rights makes the exact opposite claim: that gender is a matter of individual choice. You can't help the gender you were "born with" (even if it is the opposite of your biological gender), but you can "self-identify" as anything you want.

It's hard to imagine how both these claims could possibly be true at the same time, but such is the power of sexual politics that we are all now expected to nod compliantly in the face of each increasingly contradictory and preposterous claim. In gender politics, the Parmenedian lion lies down effortlessly with the Protean lamb.

And nodding is not all that is required. A good knowledge of the alphabet and a fertile imagination are now a prerequisite for dealing with the gender acronyms with which we are all now expected to be familiar. What was once "gay," became "lesbian and gay." "Lesbian and gay" became "LGBT" (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender); and now "LGBT" has turned into "LGBTQIA," which, in case you were wondering means Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual, Ally.

Thank the Lord we are done with that.

Oh, wait, here comes our man on the spot, Fairness Alliance director Chris Hartman, with a few additions to what he refers to as the "alphabet soup of the queer community": "LBGTQQIAAPH. I'm sure there are several that I'm missing."

I'm sure there are.

Let's all nod our heads obediently to the idea that we can create whole new genders simply by creating acronyms for them and asserting publicly that they exist.

We shouldn't be too hard on Hartman, however: Facebook (which nods its head more vigorously than most at such things) now lists 52 gender categories, all of which Hartman, after I pressed him on it on KET one night, said were inborn—despite the fact that the whole idea behind some of them is that they can be determined on a whim.

Hartman has come out in opposition to a bill now before the Kentucky State Senate, SB 76, that would require schools to provide separate bathroom facilities for any student who "self identifies" as another sex than his or her biological one--either a unisex bathroom or a faculty bathroom. This would virtually guarantee the safety of transgender students.

But Hartman is having none of it. He claims that it would "actually have the effect of endangering students and potentially increasing instances of bullying for transgender students. “Anything that draws more and more attention and scrutiny to someone who is different naturally makes them feel more different,” he said.

Of course, Hartman has devoted his entire professional life to drawing attention to these people. If he couldn't draw attention to them, he would quite literally have nothing to do.

If the transgender students Hartman claims to be trying to protect (but whose safety he is actually undermining by opposing the bill) were speaking honestly then there would be no reason for him to support the Atherton policy, since if no one knew a transgender student was transgender, but just looked and acted as if they were whatever gender they purported to be and used the corresponding bathroom, no one would ever know and the issue would never come up.

Truth to tell, however, Hartman is in the business of scoring political points for his side and so a policy that would actually help the situation doesn't help him or his group.

It's sad.

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