by Michael K. Lavers, Washington Blade
Members of a Heritage Foundation panel on Thursday sharply criticized efforts to allow transgender people to use bathrooms and other facilities based on their gender identity.
Ryan Anderson, a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, moderated the panel that was titled, “Biology Isn’t Bigotry: Why Sex Matters in the Age of Gender Identity.”
“As gender identity ordinances and bathroom battles sweep the nation, ordinary Americans have had to confront the question of whether their long-standing beliefs about the sexes are based on biology or bigotry,” reads a description of the panel the Heritage Foundation posted on its website.
Anderson in his opening remarks said trans activists and their supporters “attacked” single occupancy bathrooms and locker rooms that he described as “common sense compromise solutions.” He also applauded U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor who issued an injunction last summer against the Obama administration’s guidance to public schools that said Title IX requires them to allow trans students to use bathrooms consistent with their gender identity.
The Justice Department last week withdrew its appeal of O’Connor’s ruling hours after U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions was sworn in. This decision comes less than two months before the U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments in the case of Gavin Grimm, a trans student who filed a lawsuit against his Virginia school district’s bathroom policy.
“Judge O’Connor got the case right,” said Anderson. “The Obama administration was unlawfully rewriting federal law.”
“The term sex is not ambiguous and it’s not subject to executive branch agency redefinition to now mean gender identity,” he added.
Other panelists also criticized efforts to accommodate trans or gender non-conforming students.
Emily Zinos of the Minnesota chapter of the Family Policy Alliance-sponsored Ask Me First campaign said the principal of her children’s school told her in an email that a “gender non-conforming kindergartner had arrived.” Zinos noted “a whole host of demands quickly followed this announcement.”
“The bathrooms, the locker rooms, the uniforms, really every aspect of the school’s practices that differentiated between the sexes would have to be made gender-neutral,” she said in her statement that Miriam Ben-Shalom, a lesbian Army Reserve veteran who is the first person the Pentagon reinstated for being discharged under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” read during the panel. “It was just the beginning of a wild ride into a world where schools had become indoctrination hubs and biological sex no longer exists.”
Organizers of the Milwaukee Pride Parade last year invited Ben-Shalom to serve as their grand marshal. They rescinded the invitation after they discovered anti-trans comments that she had posted to her Facebook page.
Ben-Shalom referenced the controversy during the Heritage Foundation panel. She also sharply criticized those who encourage trans children and adolescents to transition before their adults.
“As a teacher I care about my students and I believe it’s abuse,” said Ben-Shalom. “In this culture you cannot vote until you’re 18. You can’t drink until you’re 21. You can’t have a credit card of your very own that you applied for until you’re after 18 years of age. How the hell is it that you’re going to allow kids in kindergarten and 11-year-olds take all kinds of chemicals?”
N.C. governor ‘trying to make voyeurism legal’
Kaeley Triller Haver, a rape survivor who is the communications director for the Just Want Privacy Campaign in Washington State, said her previous boss at a YMCA outside of Seattle criticized her for questioning a new locker room policy that was “on the basis of gender identity.”
“This new policy that they were asking us to embrace and adopt was basically the equivalent of rolling out a welcome mat for any man who wanted to come in and access our spaces,” she said.
“Women means something,” added Haver. “And for too many of us it means that we get silenced and told to sit down and be quiet and told that our needs don’t matter and unless we are willing to compromise those, we are unloving.”
Thursday’s panel took place nearly a year after then-North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory signed House Bill 2, which banned trans people from using public restrooms based on their gender identity and prohibited municipalities from enacting LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination policies.
Current Gov. Roy Cooper — who highlighted his opposition to HB 2 and the economic impact it has had on his state during his campaign against McCrory — this week unveiled a proposal that would repeal the law, increase penalties against those convicted of committing crimes in bathrooms and dressing restrooms and require municipalities to give the state Legislature 30 days notice before they consider nondiscrimination measures.
“It’s essentially look but don’t touch,” said North Carolina Republican Party Communications Director Kami Mueller during Thursday’s panel. “So the new governor of North Carolina, Roy Cooper, is trying to make voyeurism legal, essentially.”
Mueller criticized the Human Rights Campaign, which she incorrectly identified as the Human Rights Coalition, for its efforts against HB 2. The former college athlete also singled out the NCAA for pulling seven championship games out of North Carolina over the law.
“Frankly that ticks me off,” said Mueller. “My blood, sweat and tears, many hours on the driving range, putting for hours on end is now being used to tell me that men should be allowed in the locker room with my niece.”
Haver noted she too is a former college athlete.
“I find it highly offensive to insist that my scholarship that I worked really hard for is now open to somebody who is 6′ 7” and anatomically male,” she said. “There is a difference. There is a power differential and what is happening with gender identity issues is that women are getting trampled and ultimately erased.”
Mary Lou Singleton of the Women’s Liberation Front, which filed a federal lawsuit against the Obama administration over its Title IX guidance, criticized what she described as “legal erasure.”
“My entire life work is fighting for the class of people who are oppressed on the basis of their biological sex,” said Singleton. “As someone who fights for those people I’m very upset that the gender identity movement has stolen for me a comprehensive name for that group of people that I fight for because I’m now being told it is transphobic to call those people women and girls.”
Ben-Shalom insisted many gay men, lesbians and bisexual people “wish the T would just go away.”
“Transgender issues are not our issues,” she said.
Ben-Shalom also said she is not transphobic.
“I don’t care if a biological male wants to wear a dress and put on a wig and put on make up,” she said. “That’s his choice and as long as whatever he does doesn’t hurt another human being and whatever else he does is with a consenting adult human being, I don’t have a problem with it. I don’t care.”
“I do have a problem with their insisting that they’re something that they are not,” added Ben-Shalom.