Missoula, Loudoun, and the politics of pee

The most recent community to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity is…Missoula, MT. Missoula joins 129 other localities with such ordinances, including our neighbors to the north in Montgomery County, MD. The ordinance, which was adopted by the Missoula City Council 10-2, “covers discrimination in [housing,] the workplace and public accommodations, which include places such as restaurants, hotels, salons, bathrooms, golf courses, ice cream parlors and hospitals.” (The action taken by our own board earlier this year is not an ordinance, but an administrative change that applies only to county employment practices.)

Predictably enough, the few anti-gay uglies in town “testified” to stop the ordinance – using exactly the same potty-obsessed campaign we saw unfold in Montgomery County (see extensive coverage here). They even named their group “notmybathroom” (presumably because “notmyshower” was already taken). Their material contains the same nonsense about “men dressed as women” using public restrooms, links to recognized hate group Massresistance, and includes this howler: the ordinance “could also force ministers to perform homosexual marriages.” Sorry, no.

The Missoulian has done a great job reporting on this issue, in particular where they have addressed the ridiculous claims of the opposition group. Rather than treating easily-refuted lies and facts as if they are equally valid, an unfortunate and lazy trend in some media reports, this reporter does her research and (politely, in my view) calls the claims what they are: myths.

Not coincidentally, Chuck Colson participated in the defamatory and disgusting Montgomery campaign through his Prison Fellowship Ministries “Breakpoint” commentary. We haven’t yet seen a commentary on the Missoula ordinance, but wouldn’t be surprised if one appeared; this so-called “worldview ministry” funded by Loudoun tax dollars is one of several Anti-Gay Industry outposts that churns out the talking points used by activist groups like “notmybathroom/shower/whatever.”

In a Prison Fellowship vanity press book with the unintentionally apropo title Lies That Go Unchallenged, Colson reveals his intellectual shallowness when discussing gender. Hopelessly stuck in the 80s, he goes on and on about “postmodernism” and “queer theory” as the source of what he seems to think it means for a person to be transgender:

[We] don’t hesitate to think that nature might have made a mistake. In fact, we deny that nature has anything to do with a person’s sex. That’s because of the influence that feminism and “queer theory,” as it’s called, have on college campuses. For both of these philosophies, the idea that there is such a thing as fixed or biologically determined human nature, especially with regard to sexuality, is the enemy. If we are, as the Scriptures say, created male and female, then this limits our personal autonomy – which is, after all, the summum bonum of modern American life. And so postmodern academics replace the word sex with gender, a word historically associated with classification and description. This enables feminists to claim that the qualities normally associated with the sexes are socially constructed, that is, imposed from without as opposed to being inherent. “Queer theorists” depict human sexuality as a continuum instead of an either-or. So a man, biologically, can choose to be feminine, and vice-versa – it’s just another life choice.

I’m going to have to agree with Chuckles here, and he’s not going to like it. Aside from his confusion of gender expression (“masculine” and “feminine”) with actual gender, he’s absolutely right to reject the idea that gender isn’t biologically determined, and is “just another life choice.” To illustrate, let’s say hypothetically that Chuckles is abducted by aliens for the purpose of a study of human gender. As an experimental subject, he is given a regimen of female hormones and surgical reconstruction to give him the primary and secondary sex characteristics of a human female. Would this make him into a woman? I’m pretty sure he would say no, and in the strongest possible terms. I think he would insist that he was created male, and no amount of medical intervention could change him into a woman.

Here’s what he really won’t like, and where we are in complete agreement: What he says is true, for himself and for everyone else. People cannot change their gender. “Personal autonomy” has nothing to do with it. No amount of medical intervention can “make” someone a man or a woman. Why is that? Continuing with our hypothetical, it’s because Colson, presumably, is neurologically male – a biological characteristic that was determined long ago during a critical period when he was in his mother’s womb. Contrary to the social construction ideas that became popular in the 1970’s, and that Colson’s polemic is intended to refute, male and female brains are different, and gender is, indeed, biologically determined and unchangeable. This is true for everyone – whether or not some or all of their other biologically determined sex characteristics are congruent with their neurological gender. Just as Colson always has been and always will be neurologically male, a transgender woman always has been and always will be neurologically female.

These biological facts are even (grudgingly) acknowledged by Paul McHugh – the notorious anti-trans Johns Hopkins physician and ordinarily the darling of anti-gay activists – as a result of inarguable research conclusions like this. As some wag once said, “facts are simple things.” Colson and his ilk continue to doggedly “debate” an idea that no longer has any medical legitimacy – but I suppose that’s understandable, given the alternative.

Here’s another fact: Evidence that the lies about inclusive nondiscrimination laws are, well, lies, has become so compelling that even the most vicious purveyors of those lies are forced to feebly equivocate. Opponents can’t come up with a single instance of the horrors they keep predicting – even though approximately 40% of the U.S. population lives in a jurisdiction with such an ordinance in force, in some cases for decades. That’s been true all along, of course – but finally a reporter has forced one of them to admit it publicly – Concerned Women for America president Wendy Wright.

The Concerned Women aim to bring biblical principles to public policy, and the Montana office opposes the Missoula ordinance. It’s one member of Notmybathroom.com, a group that formed to defeat the local ordinance in large part because of fear sexual offenders will prey on women and children in bathrooms and locker rooms.

Wright couldn’t point to places that have counted increases in sexual offenses because of such laws, but she said such data is beside the point.

“It doesn’t go back to numbers,” Wright said. “It goes back to the issue that people will have legal rights that will trump other people’s rights. The right of a woman or a girl to feel safe in a fitting room, a locker, a restroom, their rights will be trumped by a person who is claiming their sexual orientation right has legal protection.”

Oh my, let’s unpack this, shall we? It “doesn’t go back to numbers” (by the way, Wendy, I think the number you want here is “zero”) or data; it goes to a subjective “feeling” projected on women and girls. Put another way, the absence of actual danger doesn’t matter; what’s important is the nonexistent “right” to not be in the presence of someone who, although they don’t pose any demonstrable danger to you, might make you feel uncomfortable due to your own ignorance. Got it. What a morally vacuous position that is, when compared to the very real danger to gay, lesbian, and especially transgender people due to insidious, legalized discrimination.

The good news is that you can do something very important to address this, right now. Call Congress and tell your representatives that you expect them to support the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. The switchboard for both House and Senate is 202-224-3121. Here’s all the information you need to make this easy, compliments of NCTE:

WHAT YOU CAN DO

Call the Capitol Switchboard at 202.224.3121 and ask to speak to your Representative (have your zip code handy and they’ll help identify your member of Congress).

When you are connected with your Representative’s office, give your name and your city and then let them know:

I am calling in support of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (H. R. 3017/S. 1584), which will protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people from job discrimination. No one deserves to be fired from their job because of who they are. Please vote yes for ENDA.

If you get voicemail instead of a person, feel free to leave a message-the messages are listened to and count just as much as if you reach a staff member. You can call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If you’ve called in the past, no problem … call again or write or visit.

For extra credit, when you are done, hang up and call the Capitol Switchboard again, let the operator know what state you are calling from, and they will connect you with your Senators.

And please, forward this message to your friends, family members and allies. Spread the word by calling your friends and on Twitter and Facebook.

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