Learnings from a Baptist Minister (about transgender people)

Our blogging friend Michael Beyer at https://catchafallingstarbook.net/ guided me to an article penned by Baptist Minister Mark Wingfield which is posted on the Baptist Global News website. I found the article compelling and feel it is worth reading by all Christians and non-Christians. The article speaks for itself.
 

Seven things I’m learning about transgender persons

OpinionMark Wingfield | May 13, 2016

“I don’t know much about transgender issues, but I’m trying to learn.

How about you? How much do you really know about this subject beyond all the screaming headlines and concerns about who goes to the bathroom where?

The truth is that I don’t know any transgender persons — at least I don’t think I do. But with the help of a pediatrician friend and a geneticist friend, I’m listening and trying to learn. This is hard, though, because understanding the transgender experience seems so far outside what I have ever contemplated before. And the more I learn, the more theological questions I face as well. This is hard, even for a pastor.

Here’s some of what I’m learning from my friends who have experience as medical professionals dealing with real people and real families:

1. Even though LGBT gets lumped together in one tagline, the T is quite different than the LG and B. “Lesbian,” “gay” and “bisexual” describe sexual orientation. “Transgender” describes gender identity. These are not the same thing. Sexual orientation is about whom we feel an attraction to and want to mate with; gender identity is about whether we identify as male or female.

2. What you see is not always what you get. For the vast majority of humanity, the presence of male or female genitalia corresponds to whether a person is male or female. What you see is what you are. But for a small part of humanity (something less than 1 percent), the visible parts and the inner identity do not line up. For example, it is possible to be born with male genitalia but female chromosomes or vice versa. And now brain research has demonstrated that it also is possible to be born with female genitalia, female chromosomes but a male brain. Most of us hit the jackpot upon birth with all three factors lining up like cherries on a slot machine: Our anatomy, chromosomes and brain cells all correspond as either male or female. But some people are born with variations in one or two of these indicators.

3. Stuff happens at birth that most of us never know. It’s not an everyday occurrence but it’s also not infrequent that babies are born with ambiguous or incomplete sexual anatomy. In the past, surgeons often made the decision about whether this child would be a boy or a girl, based on what was the easiest surgical fix. Today, much more thought is given to these life-changing decisions.

4. Transgender persons are not “transvestites.” Far too many of us make this mix-up, in part because the words sound similar and we have no real knowledge of either. Cross-dressers, identified in slang as “transvestites,” are people (typically men) who are happy with their gender but derive pleasure from occasionally dressing like the opposite gender. Cross-dressing is about something other than gender identity.

5. Transgender persons are not pedophiles. The typical profile of a pedophile is an adult male who identifies as heterosexual and most likely even is married. There is zero statistical evidence to link transgender persons to pedophilia.

6. Transgender persons hate all the attention they’re getting. The typical transgender person wants desperately not to attract attention. All this publicity and talk of bathroom habits is highly disconcerting to people who have spent their lives trying not to stand out or become the center of attention.

7. Transgender persons are the product of nature much more than nurture. Debate the origins of homosexuality if you’d like and what role nature vs. nurture plays. But for those who are transgender, nature undeniably plays a primary role. According to medical science, chromosomal variances occur within moments of conception, and anatomical development happens within the nine months in the womb. There is no nature vs. nurture argument, except in cases of brain development, which is an emerging field of study.

This last point in particular raises the largest of theological questions. If Christians really believe every person is created in the image of God, how can we damn a baby who comes from the womb with gender dysphoria? My pediatrician friend puts it this way: ‘We must believe that even if some people got a lower dose of a chromosome, or an enzyme, or a hormonal effect, that does not mean that they got a lower dose of God’s image.’

I don’t know much about transgender issues, but I’m trying to learn — in part because I want to understand the way God has made us. For me, this is a theological quest as much as a biological inquiry or a political cause. How about you?”

I felt this was a sincere attempt to understand transgender people. I think it will speak to many folks who have been preyed upon by fear in this discussion opened up by the recent North Carolina law which generally discriminates against the LGBT community and specifically targets transgender requiring them to use the bathroom per their birth gender.
My wife and I attended a celebratory dinner for a friend’s daughter this past weekend. We sat at a table with a delightful, unmarried heterosexual couple. She oozed with Southern charm and wit and is a very attractive woman in her fifties. We traded stories about Charlotte (the city) and had a delightful time. My wife had met her before and shared with me later that this lovely woman used to be man and had an operation many years ago to align her physical gender with her internal make-up.
As the new law in North Carolina stands, this beautiful woman would be required to go in a men’s restroom. Even if she had not had such an operation, the identification as the opposite sex from a birth identification, should not preclude this woman from going into a woman’s restroom.

Just a song before I go

Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young sang the following words:

“Just a song before I go,
To whom it may concern
Traveling twice the speed of sound
It’s easy to get burned.”

I use this initial stanza of the song entitled in the first line, to note we need to not make hasty decisions, as we will end up being burned. I am thinking of the backlash against my home state of North Carolina for an unconstitutional law it passed against transgender people, specifically, but also slipping in LGBT restrictions, in general. The law also said any employee could not bring action in state court, if their rights were violated, leaving the only recourse in lengthier and more expensive Federal court.

The song comes to mind, as the state General Assembly and Governor Pat McCrory passed and signed the bill in twelve hours after the City of Charlotte passed a law allowing transgender folks to use the restroom they identify with. This law jives with that of 200 other cities. Many legislators did not realize the LGBT restrictions were added to the law and some were unaware of the state court restrictions for all employees.

Now, my formerly progressive state, continues to become more like the southern states of the pre-Civil Rights era. Now, we are mentioned in national news in a negative and unwelcoming light, as opposed to how the Chamber of Commerce would like to present us. Since fear was used to sell this hasty law, the General Assembly and Governor are having difficulty making changes to it. You cannot scare people as your main selling point and then walk it back.

I would wager the General Assembly would like to hit the “undo” button.

When fear mongering is your main argument


It is hard to back away from an erroneous point, when fear mongering is your argument. Let’s face it, fear sells. This is why politicians use it and why it is used in commercials to push product.

Politicians tend to use it most when their arguments are poor or the data goes largely against their points. Some of the Presidential candidates have said the Affordable Care Act will cost us millions of jobs, when, in fact, it has not and is working pretty well, but could stand a few improvements. Same with the economy, as some Presidential candidates say it is horrible, yet it is doing pretty well.

In my home state of North Carolina, our General Assembly passed an unconstitutional law that restricts the rights of LGBT citizens, in general, but specifically targets transgender people by restricting them to the bathroom based on their birth gender.

This law was passed and signed in twelve hours in an especially called General Assembly session. It was designed, but went further, to overturn an ordinance in Charlotte which mirrored 200 similar laws nationwide permitting transgenders to use the restroom of identification.

To sell the law, fear was used. Direct fear that any man could choose to go in the restroom with your little girl. Indirect fear is implied that transgenders must also be perverts, which is not based in fact. These are people trying to find themselves. They are discriminated against based on lack of understanding.

Yet, in 200 cities that have these laws, examples of inappropriate use are hard to come by. The fear has been sensationalized to the point it is hard to reason with someone. It also made it difficult for the General Assembly to back away as they know they screwed up.

A similar law was ruled unconstitutional by the Court of Appeals in Virginia, which would oversee an appeal of the lawsuit against the state. The Attorney General for the state refuses to defend the law in court, which he has done before on laws that were ruled unconstitutional passed by this GOP led Assembly.

The law has received a huge backlash from business with canceled expansion plans, canceled conventions, canceled shows and reduced turnout at the spring Furniture Market in High Point. It is expected that the fall market will be decimated as the designers had  already committed to the spring show.

Even with these concerns, the law will make things worse on the restroom issue and is unenforceable unless each restroom will use a policeman. Many transgender people look like their gender of identification, so being required to use the restroom of gender birth will be a problem. Also, some have had their gender legally changed and they would run afoul of the new law.

This law was rushed through in twelve hours. Many folks did not know the LGBT restrictions were added, which are discriminatory by themselves. It was passed on fear. So, these lawmakers who know they screwed up have boxed themselves in.

Land of Hope and Dreams – Bruce Springsteen anthem for us all

There has been some push back on Bruce Springsteen by more conservative voters in North Carolina for canceling a concert in Greensboro in protest of the oppressive law that was passed that restricted the rights of LGBT folks, in general, as well as the rights of transgender people specifically. But, this is not new for Springsteen to lend his voice to fight for the disenfranchised folks in the world. In fact, if people listen to his songs, many are about those who have little voice in a society that sometime steps on them.

One of my many favorite Springsteen songs is called “Land of Hope and Dreams” which speaks of the train taking us all to a better place. To me the song lives in the chorus which is repeated often as the song winds down. This is one song where the live version sounds better than the studio-recorded one, in part as the studio version was recorded after Clarence Clemons had passed with his saxophone being overdubbed.

Here are most of the lyrics, with the chorus highlighted at the end.
Grab your ticket and your suitcase, thunder’s rolling down this track
Well, you don’t know where you’re going now, but you know you won’t be back
Well, darling, if you’re weary, lay your head upon my chest
We’ll take what we can carry, yeah, and we’ll leave the rest

Well, big wheels roll through the fields where sunlight streams
Meet me in a land of hope and dreams

I will provide for you and I’ll stand by your side
You’ll need a good companion now for this part of the ride
Yeah, leave behind your sorrows, let this day be the last
Well, tomorrow there’ll be sunshine and all this darkness past

Well, big wheels roll through fields where sunlight streams
Oh, meet me in a land of hope and dreams

Well, this train carries saints and sinners
This train carries losers and winners
This train carries whores and gamblers
This train carries lost souls

I said, this train, dreams will not be thwarted
This train, faith will be rewarded
This train, hear the steel wheels singing
This train, bells of freedom ringing

Yes, this train carries saints and sinners
This train carries losers and winners
This train carries whores and gamblers
This train carries lost souls

I said, this train carries broken-hearted
This train, thieves and sweet souls departed
This train carries fools and kings thrown
This train, all aboard

I said, now this train, dreams will not be thwarted
This train, faith will be rewarded
This train, the steel wheels singing
This train, bells of freedom ringing

Folks, The Boss’ words are compelling. We are all imperfect. We are all sinners. But, there is a place on the train for everyone. I for one applaud Springsteen’s stance. It is not a stretch for him to make it.

 

North Carolina – State of Confusion

I have lived in North Carolina for going on 36 years, mostly in Charlotte, but with a four year stint in Winston-Salem. I moved here after college in Atlanta, which I also love, but was born and raised in Florida. Florida has basically two seasons and is flat, so being in North Carolina with its four seasons, trees, mountains and coast is more my taste. It has been a great place to do business, but the recent years have made things more challenging than they need to be.

Our state used to take pride in being the most progressive state in the south. We were open for business, research and education. About ten years ago, for example, we were hailed by passing a law that obligated our electric utilities to phase-in the use of renewable energy over the next fifteen years. As a result, our state is the fourth most prevalent state in solar energy and is ripe for more wind energy expansion. This was a prescient eye toward the future.

Yet, since the 2010 elections, our state has been governed by a very conservative set of leaders who seized the opportunity of the President’s first mid-term election and a census year to gain a majority and gerrymander the voting districts to favor their candidates going forward. It should be noted the Democrats did this in previous census years, but that does not make it any more correct – it was wrong then and is wrong now. It should be noted, the gerrymandering was overturned as unconstitutionally drawn in two districts two months ago, and all districts have been redrawn.

The dilemma is our legislature has proceeded to pass a series of laws and avoid taking positive actions that have made our state much less progressive and the subject of lampooning by national businesses and media. Some of the actions are still in court, while others have been ruled unconstitutional like the above gerrymandering ruling.

A law which made it harder for women to get access to abortion facilities was overturned as unconstitutional. A law that said the tenure of existing teachers could be overlooked was overturned. A law that said the Jim Crow like and most restrictive Voter ID Law in the country remains in court. It should be noted that the legislature tried to preempt the most recent court case, by changing some of the features last summer, knowing they did a bridge too far.

The latest foray is HB2 which unfairly discriminates against the LGBT community in response to a City of Charlotte ordinance passed last month to permit transgender people to legally use the bathroom they identify with. This law exists in about 200 cities around the country. Using fear tactics that unjustly paint transgender people as sexual predators (without data I might add), the state General Assembly swept in for a special session and passed a law to say the person must use the bathroom based on gender at birth. Plus, it went beyond this restricting formal rights for all LGBT people and preventing other cities to pass similar ordinances or minimum wage laws.

To make it worse, the Governor signed this into law the same day without reading it. I say this because at a news conference to tell others the criticism of the law is overblown, he was asked about a couple of features of the law, which he was unaware were therein. The news conference was hastily called as the backlash has been huge. So, far 120 major companies such as Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Google, Lowe’s, Apple, Facebook, etc. have signed a letter asking for the repeal. Thus far, a specific filming project for a TV comedy has been canceled and one convention reservation has been terminated. Others are reconsidering events, plans and projects in the state.

And, that is just to date. My guess is the mountain of companies will build and pressure the General Assembly to act. Plus, a law suit has been filed against the unconstitutionality of the law. While stranger things have happened, I cannot see this law suit failing as the law is discriminatory. Plus, it is ineffective. First, someone born as a man or woman that looks like, acts like and/ or biologically is the opposite sex, then to force them to use a bathroom opposite their countenance will heighten risk and incidents. Second, setting the legal issue aside, there is very little chance for the law to be policed. So, in practice, the issue is moot. If Aunt Edna is now Uncle Ed, there is very little chance he will be stopped from going to the men’s bathroom.

My state is in confusion. We have tarnished our image and that will hurt both our economy and reputation. And, for what gain, as there is not much that can be done to limit the bathroom of choice? Finally, if the General Assembly fails to act, they will be made to act when the law is ruled unconstitutional. This law needs to be repealed to avoid further embarrassment and negative impact on our economy.