Sometimes it is astonishing to see where we are as a country, that somehow we cannot find moral clarity on the idea that a man should not be allowed to use women’s or even girls’ bathrooms, locker rooms and showers.
But that is where we are.
First, perhaps, it would be good to clarify what transgender actually refers to. This will take a moment, because even on this point, clarity is elusive.
According to Wikipedia’s rather extensive entry on transgenderism, there is this to get the enlightenment rolling:
“…in addition to including people whose gender identity is the opposite of their assigned sex (trans men and trans women), it may include people who are not exclusively masculine or feminine (people who are genderqueer, e.g. bigender, pangender, genderfluid, or agender). Other definitions of transgender also include people who belong to a third gender, or conceptualize transgender people as a third gender. Infrequently, the term transgender is defined very broadly to include cross-dressers, regardless of their gender identity. Being transgender is independent of sexual orientation: transgender people may identify as heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, asexual, etc., or may consider conventional sexual orientation labels inadequate or inapplicable.”
Ok, there really is no clarifying the absolute hash we’ve made of gender identities and sexual proclivities deemed alternatively acceptable.
However, there is some moral clarity to be had on this issue.
Fundamental right and wrong
Common sense dictates this most obvious of all statements: A male with all the physiological package of a male should use the male bathroom and locker room facilities, regardless of how he feels about himself at any given moment. Science, decency and “well, duh” normal thinking dictate this truth.
Alas, that is not what President Obama thought when he ordered the schools to open up bathrooms, locker rooms and showers — the news accounts just focus on the bathrooms — to transgender people. I suspect most Americans are not buying into this, at the moment, but enough activists are that they provided cover for friendly media coverage for the policy.
However, all we need to do is think this through clearly, stepping away from power politics and emotional appeals based on a tiny number of people, to find clarity.
These laws pose an existential threat to women and girls. The threat does not have to come from transgenders, although it may. The laws themselves open pedophile portals, avenues for voyeurism and worse. Despite what you may hear, be guided by this reality: Most teen girls are not going to be comfortable changing and showering with anatomical boys — regardless of how the boy may identify.
Rights right and wrong
The media coverage of Trump overturning Obama’s Title IX guidance on transgenders using the bathroom of their choice, and other single-sex school facilities (which would be politically translatable beyond schools) is labeled transgender rights or LGBT rights. So naturally, Trump is seen as taking away rights.
But that is the wrong label, even wrong concept.
The word “rights” invokes powerful feelings and desires. There are rights we have as humans. Thomas Jefferson and other founders called them “unalienable rights,” meaning they cannot be separated from the person. They saw them as given by God to every man (yes, a huge error, now corrected, was committed on the point of slavery for the sake of colonial unity) and government cannot give or take those kinds of rights. They are inherent in being human.
The founders embedded this understanding in the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
The founders did not see governments as granters of rights, but as the largest threat to squash rights. They had, and still have, history on their side in that assessment.
Government makes laws determining what is legal and illegal. Sometimes, they make something legal that abridges the rights of others. Society at times agrees that this tradeoff is worth it (taxes, for instance) while other times society is rancorously divided (legalized abortion) for instance.
These laws are not unalienable. What government can give (Obama’s guidance) government can take away (Trump’s reversal) because those are simple executive policy decisions. No one’s rights were infringed on the reversal.
However, we have changed our definition of rights in recent years — often for political gain — and split rights into special subgroups. That resulted in pitting some groups’ rights against other groups’ rights through laws and policies. Gay rights conflict with religious people’s rights. Transgender rights conflict with women’s and children’s safety rights. And so on. This has created tremendous conflict in our nation — to the benefit of a select few.
If we could return to basic rights as unalienable from every person — no subgroups — we would be in a better place to judge what is best for all in laws and policies, and gain the added benefit of increased unity.
Clarity becomes easy
With this understanding, we return to the question of transgenders — and whoever else — being allowed to use bathroom facilities opposite of their genital package.
Realistically, women using men’s bathrooms and showers would be extremely rare, and it would be even more rare to be seen as threatening to men if they did. So the real danger is men using women’s facilities, and this is where there actually is a potential rights infringement.
Under the rubric of “life, liberty and pursuit of happiness,” being comfortable in the bathroom is not a right. It is not unalienable, and being uncomfortable does not undermine the Declaration’s declaration. This is true for transgenders in bathrooms and it is true for non-transgenders in bathrooms with someone of the opposite sex. It simply doesn’t fall in the rights category.
However, any man or men being allowed in the same changing and showering facilities with women, does pose a very real physical threat. As much as we might want it to not be the case, everything we know tells us that a statistically significant percentage of men are sexual predators, primarily against women and girls, but sometimes against boys, too. The percentage of women in this category is not zero, but is negligent.
Government legally allowing potentially predatory males into women’s facilities presents a very real physical-harm threat against women and girls. That becomes an infringement of a basic human right to life, ensconced in the Declaration, throughout the Constitution, and accepted by the American public.
On this basis alone, allowing transgenders — but understand, please, that means any man who chooses — to have access to women’s bathrooms violates basic human rights we all agree on. And on that basis alone, Trump was right to reverse Obama’s policy.
RELATED ARTICLE: Plumbing the Depths of the Bathroom Debate
EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on The Revolutionary Act.