“We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all [people] 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…” These words from the Declaration of Independence are sacrosanct for a nation so in love with its freedom. But no one ever said living out that creed would be easy.
The Charlotte Observer recently reported:
“As the Charlotte City Council prepares for a March 2 vote to extend protections to gay, lesbian and transgender residents, some religious leaders are opposing the measure, saying the non-discrimination proposal would infringe on their own freedom.”
I had to read that sentence several times just to cut through the thick irony. Non-discrimination infringing on freedom? Would we actually be “free” if we had to discriminate to claim it?
I do understand that freedom is not a free-for-all, and protecting “life, liberty, and… happiness” – in such a beautifully diverse nation, is not easy. You have, for example, the right to smoke tobacco. I have a right, similarly, not to smoke and not to have to breathe your smoke. So how do we resolve these conflicting freedoms?
Do we let people smoke anywhere, and let those who want to eat and breathe, fend for themselves? Do we provide “non-smoking” sections? Or, do we ban smoking from public places, altogether? You can still smoke, of course, just not where it infringes on my right to enjoy my meal, too.
So, I get it. Protecting freedom without infringing on another person’s rights is a balancing act. “Extending protections” will always need careful analysis. I am confused, however, by the logic of the opposition in this particular case.
The stated concern is that in allowing transgender persons to choose which restroom to use (Men’s or Women’s), we run the risk of “a child being exposed to a biological male in a women’s restroom.”
Let’s think this through.
Shouldn’t a transgender woman actually use a women’s restroom? Could anyone really think it would be better for her to use the men’s facility? Forcing a transgender person in a restroom not of their choosing would almost inevitably mean they would appear to be in the restroom for the wrong sex. How could this be better for our children?
The issue is not men dressing as women, to gain access to women’s restrooms. Even with a non-discrimination ordinance for public accommodations in place, this would be illegal. Any male or female, using any public restroom in order to prey on children, is guilty of a crime – and this is a different matter, altogether.
Since I can’t follow the logic of this concern with men’s vs. women’s restrooms – maybe there’s actually a different concern, the solution of which has nothing to do with restrooms but with the fundamental affirmation of extending “unalienable rights” to all, since all are “created equal.”
“Extending protections” is not about understanding the homosexual or the transgender person. I cannot claim that understanding – just as I do not understand being a woman, or being poor, or being black. That lack of understanding, though, does not lead me to assume the right to discriminate. And those protections do not depend on my approval or agreement with your life choices – my personal approval, my party’s approval, my church’s approval – because we Declared Independence for ALL.
In a secular democracy there is simply no justification for not extending all rights of the citizenry to all citizens.
Who could have imagined we would be having this conversation when those daring words were penned almost 250 years ago? How wonderfully strange, and difficult, is democracy! Thank God for it, and for freedom – personal, civil, and religious. God give us the courage to honor that freedom, even as we continue to learn what it means for all of us.