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May 5, 2010

The Washington Times Endorses Transphobic Discrimination

ESC's Disclaimer: The following guest blog by cfc discusses transgender issues, however the author is admittedly not that informed on the subject or well versed in the terminology. No offense is meant by the author's misuse of any language or mishandling of any key points. If you read on, you will see that her heart is most definitely in the right place.Our posting of this guest blog does not necessarily mean that we agree with it in its entirety, but that we felt the author's point of view was valid and worth reading.

We debated whether it was appropriate or not to post a blog about transgender issues written by a heterosexual, cisgender woman who admits to be somewhat ignorant on the topic, but ultimately decided to post it not in spite of the author's lack of experience with the subject matter, but because of it. She had emailed us "I was just so offended that I had to write something." Her outrage at The Washington Post's editorial reminds us that anyone is capable of recognizing the wrong in someone else's hate, regardless of whether they fully understand what it means to be transgender. We appreciated her willingness to learn and understand a subject that was unfamiliar and new - and that is exactly the type of attitude we need more people to adopt.

The Washington Times Endorses Transphobic Discrimination
A guestblog by cfc of A Writing Life

Based on the name, I assumed The Washington Times was a mainstream newspaper and would take a fair look at the issues it writes about. However, when I read the editorial "Discrimination is Necessary" I realized that I was sadly mistaken. [ESC's Note: The Washington Times is actually a conservative paper with a history of anti-gay rhetoric.]

The subtitle really says it all:

Subjecting kids to weirdos undermines standards of decency
That one line really expresses the tone of the article nicely. (Well, not so much "nicely" as accurately.) And then I read on...
First-graders should not be forced into the classrooms of teachers undergoing sex changes. Religious broadcasters and faith-based summer camps should not be forced to hire cross-dressers. Women should not be forced to share bathrooms with people with male body parts who say they want to be females. Yet those are some of the likely results if Congress passes H.R. 3017, the so-called Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which is due for a vote this week by the House Education and Labor Committee.
As I understand it, those "undergoing sex changes" and those who are "cross-dressers" are not necessarily one and the same. I had always thought of cross-dressing as a means of self-expression, while those that undergo "sex changes" do so in regards to gender identity. I would assume that a man who underwent sex reassignment surgery would become a woman, so when she was a woman (and dressed as a woman) she would not be a "cross-dresser". Unless of course, she then wore men's clothing. [ESC's Note: We realize that many trans women would not agree with the idea that they were "becoming" women. They would take the position that they were always women and were merely taking steps to make their outsides better match their insides.]

So I guess I'm unclear on what this article purports to be against. Is The Washington Times against those who have sex reassignment surgery or those who dress in opposite sex clothes?

As far as the bathroom situation, the use of the word "forced" was offensive to me. I shared a bathroom with a transgendered person; I was not forced to share a bathroom with a transgendered person. At the time, I was much younger and did not have the experiences and knowledge that I have now. I will readily admit that I felt a slight discomfort that stemmed from simply never having been in that situation before. I felt awkward, but I didn't think she was doing anything wrong. I knew clearly that I was the one with the problem. If I was uncomfortable to the point where it would have bothered me, I could have waited. I was not forced to do anything.

Many women will not hesitate to walk into a men's room if the line is too long at the ladies' room. I've used more men's rooms than my sons. The men may chuckle but they deal with it. I've never heard a man tell a woman using the men's bathroom to get out. But the idea that women be "forced" to share the ladies' room with someone who has so-called "male body parts" is outrageous?
ENDA purports to "prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity." Clever politically correct wording aside, this is a direct attack on common sense. On some matters, it is good to be discriminating. It is right to discriminate between honesty and dishonesty, between politeness and impoliteness, between right and wrong. And it assuredly is right to be discriminating in choosing who teaches our children.
Prohibiting discrimination is an "attack on common sense"? I don't see how barring discrimination in the workplace on all levels can be a lack of common sense. A safe work environment benefits everyone in the workplace.

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2009 (H.R. 3017) would extend the previously proposed ENDA of 2007 (H.R. 3685) which would've protected against discrimination based on sexual orientation, to include gender identity. [ESC's Note: The original ENDA of 2007 (H.R. 2015) did include gender identity but the bill died in committee. H.R. 3685 was the second version which only passed through the House after gender identity had been removed. It eventually died in the Senate and neither bill officially became a law.]

Currently, twelve states - and the District of Columbia - prohibit discrimination based on both sexual orientation and gender identity. (Additionally, five states have regulations that protect public employees on this basis.) This federal law would supersede these states as well as the states that do not cover it at all. This is important to note, especially in a state like Virginia, whose new governor rescinded these rights given by the former governor. Let me state that again: Rights based on sexual orientation and gender identity that these individuals had in 2009 were dissolved in 2010. I shudder at the thought of what else individual governors could do based on their biases.

H.R. 3017 does include some exceptions, which makes this editorial all the more insidious. It will not affect "don't ask, don't tell" as the military is not defined as an employer and religious organizations are provided an exemption, which the editorial writer scoffs at:
ENDA does provide supposed exemptions for churches and church-based schools to refuse to employ sex-changers and cross-dressers. But the exemption is far less than meets the eye. Even religious organizations, under the standards cited, are prohibited from making employment decisions based on the worker's sex. ENDA opponents rightly cite last year's 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals note in Prowel v. Wise Business Forms that "the line between sexual orientation discrimination and discrimination 'because of sex' can be difficult to draw." In short, courts easily could decide that even parochial schools must hire she-males to teach their kindergartners.
The term "she-male" leaves me speechless, but I'll try on a few words: Bigoted. Disgusting. Inaccurate. If they didn't want to say man or woman, they could have more respect and said "transgendered teacher" with the appropriate pronoun. It's obvious to me that they're trying to rile up the reader. Simply by using this label, it influences the bias of the person listening to it.
Perhaps the worst was at California's Foxboro Elementary School, where a music teacher underwent surgery to become a man, but parents originally were not even notified because administrators feared running afoul of medical privacy laws.
What if the music teacher had cancer? Or an amputation? Should the school really be responsible for disseminating the teacher's private medical background? I would think that if the music teacher had been a woman in the school and was transitioning, the students would notice the physical changes and make comment to their parents, who then would or wouldn't ask the teacher or the school about it. If, on the other hand, the music teacher had always been a man, and was only in the final stages of his transition, what exactly would the difference have been? Semantics? I also wonder if the teacher was getting married or living with an individual, would their private life be an issue. What if the teacher wore a yarmulke or a hijab? How far does the school get to go into their lives when it doesn't interfere with their ability to teach?
States have a sovereign right to set standards governing behavioral - as opposed to immutable - personal characteristics.
Yes, they do, but not in every aspect of our lives. Following this logic, it would seem that the writer would also regulate the behaviors that they don't like...like reading certain books, campaigning for certain politicians, shopping in certain neighborhoods.
Similar problems abound in this bill, which treats a conscious decision to choose a new or different sexual identity as if it were an inherent, unavoidable condition. But it's not. It's actually a psychological disorder, officially listed as such by the current American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Our children and our co-workers should not be forced by law to be held hostage to such disorders, nor should employers be forced to have psychologically troubled persons as the public face of their businesses.

Disorder. Is that the word that we want to assign here? I don't dispute that it is listed in the DSM, but that doesn't mean it's right. Do people think that individuals would choose this as a lifestyle? Homosexuality was also considered a disorder in this book until recently. It is only a matter of time before transgendered individuals are recognized and accepted for a physical condition. [ESC's Note: "Gender Identity Disorder" has been somewhat of a polarizing issue for the transgender community in the past. Some groups fear that if the GID diagnosis were revised, access to sex reassignment procedures would be limited or lost completely. However, most would still agree that the classification of gender identity as a "disorder" or mental illness is extremely problematic.]

It's my opinion that it would be a relief for trans individuals to know who they truly are and be able to further become that person. While I don't have gender issues, I certainly have questions about who I am and I question myself every day. Many of these people have explored themselves and found out who they are and that should be rewarded (or at the very least, accepted)... not punished.

I don't know anything about the transgendered community. I have very limited exposure to this issue, but I know how I felt when I read this editorial. I felt icky. I felt like I should take a shower. Wading through most of the comments was an exercise in bigotry and bad spelling. I can't believe that people really think this way, and it shows me that for how far we've come, there is still much farther to go.

I found this after I had completed my essay here, and I wanted to include it: I am a Transsexual (An Open Letter to the Washington Times).

I hope that I haven't offended anyone in offering my analysis of this editorial or giving my opinion. I hope that in my lack of practical knowledge of the situation that I haven't said anything wrong. I think that open-mindedness and acceptance goes a long way in life, and this is no exception.


1 comment:

libhom said...

The Washington Times is literally owned by the Moonies. There's nothing even remotely mainstream about it.