Bathroom Pass, Please?

Cartoon by Stefanie Diers.

Curt Schilling, a postseason hero for both the Arizona Diamondbacks and Boston Red Sox, finally crossed the line last week. On April 20, Schilling was fired from his job as a baseball analyst for ESPN after sharing a transphobic meme on his Facebook page. The meme criticized the perspective supporting the right of transgender people to use the bathroom of their choosing.

This of course was not Schilling’s first offense. He had previously been reprimanded from ESPN for his online activity, including sharing a post that compared Muslims to Nazis. Some see Schilling’s firing as another example of the encroaching nature of political correctness in America. However, it should be noted that ESPN employed Schilling for his baseball analysis, not his political commentary.

We at The New Paltz Oracle unequivocally support the right for transgender people to use whichever bathroom they identify with. Additionally, we join Disney, Target, the NBA and PepsiCo in urging North Carolina Gov. McCrory to overturn HB2. This piece of legislation unfairly restricts residents from going to the bathroom which makes them most comfortable.

In an era where the rights of individuals are being pitted against overreaching government interference, this is just another extension of that ongoing debate. It is our opinion that this is a civil rights issue and a point of contention in a society coming to grips with every facet of itself.

We believe that the law cannot be reasonably enforced, and fines incurred would be a result of government officials scrutinizing persons based on appearance. This violates modern rights towards using public facilities based on physical appearance or gender identification.

States in the south, with a history of very publicly dealing with civil rights issues, have now become a litmus test for the national mood. North Carolina, Mississippi and Alabama have all passed anti-LGBTQIA+ legislation in the past month, solidifying an objectionable perspective on a misunderstood minority group.

Meanwhile, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal stood alone in both his party and his region, in resisting the call to restrict bathroom access freedom for transgender people. Granted, this was under severe economic pressures from Disney, the NFL and the NBA, all of which said they would financially retract from Georgia. Boycotts have a record of effectiveness and if change can only be achieved through economic means, then that must be the cornerstone of the game plan going forward. For the sake of equality and fairness we must be heard by causing their wallets pain.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who previously objected to Indiana’s religious liberty bill that had adverse effects on the LGBTQIA+ community, has instituted a similar ban on nonessential travel of state employees to North Carolina. We support the governor for his stand against the stubborn reluctance of some to accept the rights of all peoples.

Rising from a state-based issue, the bathroom dispute has percolated to the presidential level this week, with President Barack Obama condemning the law as discriminatory, saying the laws “are wrong and should be overturned.” Additionally, the issue has split the Republican presidential hopefuls, with Texas Sen. Ted Cruz forcefully reiterating his opposition to transgender use of public bathrooms while an unlikely ally has emerged: Donald J. Trump. This issue has polarized Americans of every stripe, as the evolving discussions of gender and sexuality force us as a nation to confront the truth.

Unfortunately, America is poorly-equipped at this time to handle several aspects of this debate. Limited information and education, along with the prevalence of unwarranted ignorance, has withheld us from a fair and just conversation on gender. Instead, the screaming matches of heavyweight partisans, and the onslaught of Curt Schillings against the social justice warriors of the world has harmed society more than it has benefitted it.

Democracy works because people can express their opinions and together so we can work towards a reality that we are proud to live in. But in order for those opinions to add to this reality, they must be informed and they must be well thought out.

So far the most compelling opossing argument is that people do not want an old man in the same bathroom as their young daughter. This may be a legitimate fear for a parent but the argument is very flawed. Not all transgender people are old men, number one. And number two, transgender people who some may consider women will be going into the “men’s” restroom as well. While it is entirely possible someone may take advantage of this law to further an illegal or perverted agenda, that scenario is unlikely and insulting to the transgender community and those advocating for equality.

Last year, an ordinance in the city of Houston was voted on by the public concerning whether or not transgender people could go to the bathroom with which they identify with. An ad that ran in the lead up to the election cast the issue as a children’s safety issue, nastily insinuating that transgender women are pedophiles seeking entry to women’s bathroom in the hopes of assaulting or raping young girls.

But there is a threat the other way as well. It is no secret that our society feels strange about men in the “women’s” restroom and vise versa. If a trans-man enters the “woman’s” restroom there is a solid chance a girl could come out, tell her husband or boyfriend and then, upon the trans-man exit, they are assaulted. Trans-women entering the “men’s” restroom are also at potential risk to be assaulted by an intrusive  man who comes in. This is not to say we support the bill, far from it. Instead we must encourage transgender people to do what they wish, but do understand the risk and think of your own safety.

When the ordinance was approved, blocking transgender people from one of the most basic rights, crossed a line from concern of political correctness into something darker. This is not a continuation of the perpetuation of the political correctness that has consumed other controversial topics that require debate and discussion. An individual’s gender identification is their own personal business and shouldn’t even be a political issue.

Unfortunately it is an issue and the debate over transgender rights and policies are not by any means finished. There are still steps forward that need to be taken in this conversation, along with dozens of others regarding the civil rights of American citizens. The founding fathers said all men were created equal, but it took generations to secure equality for African-Americans, women and other “minorities.” For the LGBTQIA+, the struggle will be thrust onto future generations. Perhaps they will be wiser and more capable of making a change that shouldn’t even be needed in the first place.

All of that being said, repealing this law would be a necessary step forward.

We have been sharing a bathroom with lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and gender diverse people our entire lives. We will continue to do so, in spite of intrusive laws that lack any semblance of practicality to even enforce. Every person in America is different, but we are collectively strong due to the proud diversity we believe in and strive for. Few other countries on earth can boast that the goal of the nation is to provide the noble privilege of equality to all who live there.

Editorials represent the views of the majority of the editorial board. Columns, op-eds and letters, excluding editorials, are solely those of the writers and do not necessarily represent the views of The New Paltz Oracle, its staff members, the campus and university or the Town or Village of New Paltz.