1972 Education Amendments, Acts 9:1-20, anti-discrimination, Antonin Scalia, Apostle Paul, Armor of God, Bathrooms, change, children, Christian, court rulings, David Omdahl, Dennis Daugaard, Dina Nina Martinez, discrimination, Discrimination in the United States, divided country, Employment discrimination, executive orders, Fred Deutsch, HB 1008, hearts, Holy Spirit, laws, lawsuits, legal process, legislation, light of Christ, Los Angeles, Madison Wisconsin, minds, political process, politics, prayer, reasonable accommodation, Saul of Tarsus, school districts, South Dakota, South Dakota Attorney General, Title IX, trans-friendly, trans-hostile, Transgender, transgender discrimination, U.S. Supreme Court, Winston Churchill
We have been seeing great strides recently in legislation, court rulings and executive orders that have made it illegal to discriminate against transgender people. I consider this to be transgender anti-discrimination law, not transgender rights, for just about everything that we have been fighting for has been to be treated like anyone else: the right to safely use a bathroom that corresponds to our gender identity; the right to gain employment based on merit and so on.
We are also seeing backlash, not just in increased violence but also at the ballot box and in state legislatures. A number of laws that legalize discrimination against transgender people have been blooming: weeds among the flowers of gain. Most of them have been killed with common sense herbicide. But South Dakota’s recent weeds have proved to be a resistant strain so far.
South Dakota State Representative Fred Deutsch has sponsored HB 1008 that would prohibit transgender children from using school bathrooms and locker rooms that correspond to their gender identity and gender presentation. It includes language that requires “reasonable accommodation” for those students that can demonstrate being transgender, said accommodation being various forms of facilities that are either designated as unisex or segregated from the rest of the student population. I am open to such bills being debated openly and fairly with all the relevant facts presented. After all, when no accommodation at all was being provided to transgender students, developments such as the ones in HB 1008 were considered a great advance until application of Federal Title IX (1972 Education Amendments) found that such accommodation did not go far enough.
The bill will now be debated in the plenary session of the South Dakota State Senate on Tuesday. It is predicted that the State Senate will also vote in favor of this message (the South Dakota House passed it by a 58-10 vote) and that Governor Dennis Daugaard will sign the bill into law. Then we shall see how many lawsuits arise in Federal Court. (The bill promises that the South Dakota Attorney General will defend school districts against such lawsuits and will pay all resulting legal bills, including any penalties and awards to the plaintiffs.) This is politics in America as it has been for centuries: two sides, two positions using legal and political processes.
However, it is sidebar remarks by South Dakota State Senator David Omdahl that disturb me far more. His recent remarks from a “legislative coffee” in the district he represents (Sioux Falls) drew gasps from the audience when he called transgender people “twisted”. Then he repeated the tired remarks of needing to protect the children. Which children and from what, Sen. Omdahl? The ones who are never attacked when transgender students are allowed to the bathrooms that correspond to their gender identity, or the transgender students who are bullied and attacked merely for going to school?
Yes, adults want to protect children. And knowing the GIGO rule, flawed information will yield flawed legislation and outcries. But what about transgender adults? Surely we don’t need to protect cisgender adults in the workplace from us, do we?
Here we have seen a number of recent victories for transgender people who were wrongly terminated from their jobs or were discriminated against in the workplace simply based on their gender identity. But what happens to transgender individuals who find themselves out of work and in need of employment? Discrimination in the hiring process is much harder to prove. The following story is sobering, for it doesn’t take place in the Deep South or the Dakotas. It takes place in Los Angeles and Madison, Wisconsin.
Once Dina Nina Martinez fully transitioned with name change, appearance and ID with her true gender, the job search became easier. But while in transition, she faced rejection after rejection. And even after living full-time as female, she was rejected from opportunities simply by virtue of being transgender. And now that she has changed locations, the dreaded task of finding a job, difficult enough under any circumstance, is many times more difficult because Ms. Martinez is transgender.
The question is not whether the country can survive being part trans-friendly and part trans-hostile. The question is whether trans-hostile attitudes will become rigid in some states. Will there be some states in the United States where I know I cannot freely travel and therefore should cross off my list?
Laws that are voted in can be repealed. Court rulings can be overturned when the composition of the court changes (as we have been reminded again with the death this weekend of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia). The same is true of executive orders when a new chief executive has been voted into office.
It is much harder to change hearts. But once they have been changed, it is even harder to change them back. There are some who say it isn’t worth the bother, that our opponents will never change their minds about us. We will never reach their hearts.
But in the words of Winston Churchill: “Never, never, never give up.” As long as I have the ability to think and convey my message, I will never give up on changing hearts so that trans-hostile people will see us as people too, not as threats or “twisted”.
And I am reminded that one of the greatest champions of Christianity, the Apostle Paul also known as Saul of Tarsus, at one time was its greatest persecutor. I do not attempt to change hearts based on my strength alone. I do so while walking in the strength and power of the Holy Spirit, covered by the armor of God, bathed in prayer that in everything I communicate the light of Christ will shine.
Someday, one of our greatest detractors will become one of our greatest champions. I hope and pray that I live to see that day.
And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem. And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do. And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man. And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man: but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus. And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink.
And there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias; and to him said the Lord in a vision, Ananias. And he said, Behold, I am here, Lord. And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and enquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prayeth, And hath seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in, and putting his hand on him, that he might receive his sight. Then Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem: And here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name. But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake. And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost. And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized. And when he had received meat, he was strengthened. Then was Saul certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus. And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God. – Acts 9:1-20