John Seven: Transgender uproar reflects Americans' tendency to punish difference


NORTH ADAMS >> I always find it strange when people become passionate about denying other people not just basic, but pretty mundane rights, and yet apparently a million people feel strongly enough about where people go to the restroom at Target that they will sign a petition about it.

I don't actually know who any of these people are. No one I know has expressed much concern about it. I do wonder how much anyone actually uses the restrooms at Target. Enough to really worry about this?

This is a transition time. Even a decade ago, transgender Americans were not nearly as visible. I run with a pretty progressive crowd, yet in 2006, I didn't know one transgender person. There wasn't even one I can name floating in the outer edges of my professional circle. Because of that, right or wrong, it's something I never thought much about.

That has all changed, and I think it's the same for many other people, especially in my professional circle.

Given the previous climate of invisibility, I understand to some this seems very sudden and among those are people averse to fast change, especially what they frame in moral terms. That they need more time with progression is not surprising, nor ideal, but I would suggest that many of us have areas that we require that for.

I don't think there is anything wrong about a personal process any individual needs to go through. We are all different in the way we arrive at understanding.

But while I might have my own thoughts and questions about gender identity, fluidity and transition, those are merely part of my personal intellectual curiosity. They have no bearing on the rights of human beings. I'm not going to get worked up about what other people choose to do with their own lives. A gender transition affects me far less than, say, gun ownership or people who text and drive.

Some might say that the restroom issue crosses a line, but transgender people sitting on toilets in public restrooms don't concern me. People like serial child molester Dennis Hastert do, though.

Actually, there is a depressing cacophony of names and similar atrocities committed by politicians. Three of whom — former U.S. Sen. Larry Craig of Idaho, Florida state Rep. Bob Allen and Mississippi Rep. Jon Hinson — actually committed their offenses in public restrooms.

There are no reported instances of a transgender person attacking someone else in a public restroom.

By contrast, 9 percent of transgender people stepping in a restroom can expect to be assaulted. A whopping 70 percent can expect to be denied entrance, which tells me that Americans have their priorities all wrong, as they so often do.

I wish the restroom issue was the worst of the problems transgender people face, but it's merely one more in an array that includes violence and all levels of discrimination. Our society is doing its level best to try and make their lives miserable, you don't have to actually make restroom laws in order to do so. It comes directly from the American compulsion to punish difference, which casts its reach wide, though focuses its impact on certain groups more than others.

The restroom issue is just another form that the American tradition bullying is taking. That's what everyone who has ever been treated like a freak, like an other, for whatever reason, should realize.

The fight for the rights of our transgender friends is a fight for all of us, their dignity is our dignity, because we are all humans together.

Contact John Seven at Follow him on Twitter @damnjohnseven.


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