Sorry for your discomfort

Look – it turns out that the Montgomery County Republicans have produced their very own imitation of Eugene Delgaudio:

“Heil Hitler!” Adol T. Owen-Williams II, a Montgomery County Republican Central Committee member, shouted immediately after the vote from his third-row seat in the council chamber. “Wait until little girls start showing up dead all over the county because of freaks of nature.”

Isn’t that nice? At least they have the good sense not to let this character run for public office.

The occasion was last week’s unanimous council vote amending county human rights law to ban discrimination against transgender people. County Administrator Ike Leggett signed it into law on Wednesday.

The opponents of this bill have shown themselves to be unbelievably selfish, nasty, deceptive and manipulative. Their entire campaign has been based on an imagined scenario in which transgender women would threaten the privacy and safety of “girls and women” in public facilities. The central idea they are trying to establish is a flat out lie: That people decide on the spur of the moment to identify as one gender or another just by putting on some clothes, and that therefore “men” will suddenly have legal access to facilities designated for women. “Family Leader Network” in particular displays this trait, referring to transgender women with almost comically uninformed language:

“Think of what this means for public schools! A biological male student and teacher claiming they are female could enter the girls’ locker room…”

Males who identify themselves as females will have open access to changing areas designated for women and girls…”

“The women’s changing room should be ‘safe’ for women and girls without the fear that a biological man will be exposing himself.”

Recall that the public policy director of “Family Leader Network” is none other than Lynn Chapman, the guy that Loudoun Republican party leadership chose to run against David Poisson in Eastern Loudoun. They actually managed to find someone worse than Dick Black to run for that seat. Black may have been monstrously intent on doing harm to the GLBT community, and he may have promoted the fake “science” and public policy analysis of groups like PFOX, CWA, Eagle Forum, and the like, but he wasn’t actually directing one of them to manufacture this nonsense.

The stupidity of these claims is hard to overstate. Bans on transgender discrimination are in place in over 100 jurisdictions, and these silly scenarios don’t happen in any of them. People who are not transgender do not claim that they are in order to invade locker rooms. People who are transgender do not “strip naked” in public places; in fact that’s about the last thing a person undergoing transition would do. Yet, the opponents of the bill (the same peculiar trifecta that opposed the revised Montgomery County human sexuality curriculum) have chosen to frame the issue in exactly this way: “Legalized Indecent Exposure,” and then, as they became increasingly unhinged, “MEN IN THE GIRL’S SHOWERS.”

JimK at Teach The Facts argues convincingly that their objective is to reframe the issue so that it’s about scary predatory men, not transgender people – but I think it’s even worse than that. I don’t think, in any of their lurid talk about young girls being “exposed” to “biological males,” they even make a distinction between transgender women and the completely fictional red herring of men (always men) pretending to be transgender. Their real objective is to create the impression that transgender women and scary predatory men are one and the same. As I indicated above, I think the quotes from the “Family Leader Network” material are actually intended to be read as referring to transgender women. Language like “men who think of themselves as women” and frequent use of the term “drag queen” (as in a “suggested talking point” for the media that imagines a four year old girl “running into the exposed male genitals of a drag queen”) is evidence enough of that.

Also, is there some sort of annual award (I’m thinking along the lines of the IgNobel Prize) for the cheekiest framing of victimhood? I would definitely nominate this crew on the basis of the following statement: That this bill actually constitutes discrimination against them, described as “anyone who believes it is best for women to remain women and men to remain men.” Check it out: They are claiming that they are victims of discrimination if they are restricted from discriminating against a group of people who are publicly insulted and ridiculed, summarily fired and evicted, often physically abused and disowned by family members, and most alarmingly, murdered with an unusual degree of brutality because of who they are and for no other reason. And they’re serious about this claim.

Asked about the bizarre testimony, hate mail (“Hopefully it will be one of your daughters who gets raped first!” wrote Gabriel Espinosa from PFOX, in 40-point font) and threats of divinely inspired retribution unless transgender people are adequately discriminated against, the sponsor of the bill said: “The bottom line is I am not going to stoop to their level. I’m sorry they are uncomfortable with the [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] community. This bill speaks to the fundamental principals of law.”

I’m sorry they are uncomfortable, too – but their comfort is just not as important as the right of other people to live their lives in safety and with dignity. People who are uninformed about transgender people can remove the source of their discomfort and fear simply by becoming informed. Transgender people can’t become someone else, nor can they forgo the need for employment, housing and safety.

Are the perpetrators of these lies themselves so ignorant of transgender issues that they believe their own talking points – or, are they doing this with full knowledge of their deception? I’m sad to say that I think it’s the latter. The real issue, and the effect of this bill, is that transgender people will no longer be subject to legal discrimination based on nothing more than small-minded prejudice. The need for opponents to invent another issue does nothing but reveal that they know better than to defend that small-minded prejudice. They can’t. It’s indefensible.

We owe a debt of gratitude to the transgender residents who have recognized this shrill pogrom as a teachable moment, and have done so with grace and kindness in the face of all this ugliness. There must be some degree of compassion for those who fear what they don’t understand, and simply don’t know any better. And those who refuse to even try to understand will continue providing these teachable moments.

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8 Responses to Sorry for your discomfort

  1. David says:

    Thank you, Doug. You should go over to Teachthefacts.org and read their blog; the “potty people” who comment there are absolutely batshit crazy. It’s hard to have any compassion for these folks, but I’m trying.

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