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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, May 20, 2016 - Volume 44 Issue 21
We are paper
Section One
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We are paper

by Janice Van Cleve - Special to the SGN

The Republicans have suddenly discovered gender! In spite of the fact that there is zero evidence that transgendered people have attacked, molested, gawked at, or harassed other people in restrooms, locker rooms, etc. and in spite of the fact that transgendered people usually use these facilities totally unnoticed by anybody else, the Republicans have suddenly declared a state of emergency. North Carolina passed a law demanding that everybody must use gender-segregated facilities that agree with the gender assigned on their birth certificate. North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory has even sued the federal government to preserve his discriminatory bathroom law. US Attorney General Loretta Lynch immediately fired back with a federal lawsuit against North Carolina. Where could this lead?

Let's start with the Republicans. First of all, it is often very difficult to spot who is transgendered and who is not. After all, the state doesn't make you wear a purple triangle when you figure out that your gender identity does not match the gender you were assigned. Secondly, who makes the call and on what basis? The North Carolina law and Washington state's own Initiative 1515 leave open the door for anybody to challenge anybody. In theory, somebody could challenge Governor Pat McCrory outside the restroom in his own capitol building. Thirdly, these measures claim that the facility you use must match the gender marked on your birth certificate. Who carries their birth certificate around with them? The Republicans claim that they are protecting privacy but how invasive is it for any stranger to come up to you and demand to see your birth certificate?

Just what is gender anyway? You pop out of the womb, the doctor smacks your butt, takes a cursory glance between your legs, and declares that you are a boy or a girl. There is no chromosome analysis or psychological evaluation. They tape a silly pink or blue bow to your bald head, take a photo, and slap an M or an F on your birth certificate. There's no science involved and you are not consulted. Some babies are born with indistinct or dual genitals. The doctor arbitrarily decides what gender the baby will be with consent of the parents and performs surgery to make it so. Bottom line, gender is assigned by authorities regardless of your actual gender identity.

Let's look at the federal position. Title VII and Title IX of federal law ban discrimination on the basis of sex. Both the Justice and Education Departments have defined sex to include transgendered people. Since these so-called bathroom laws are not limited to bathrooms, but also include showers, saunas, and locker rooms, the federal counter suit would apply to these facilities as well and maybe go even further.

For example, if a transman cannot be banned from a men's locker room at, say, Husky stadium, then by the same logic he cannot be banned from the Husky's starting lineup either, provided he meets the weight and other skill requirements. By the same token, a transwoman could not be banned from playing on the Seattle Storm team, provided she meets the height and other skill requirements. In other words, this could be the beginning of the end of all gender separations throughout our society. Gender could be relegated to the same non-issue status as hair color. (Some day, hopefully, we will get rid of racial distinctions, too!)

Sound far fetched? It is already happening. No less a hyper-macho organization than US Army Special Forces have embedded women in the front lines in Afghanistan for years even before any policy announcement from the Secretary of Defense. The reason is that women in a Muslim country are not supposed to talk to strange men particularly if they are invading their country. Yet immediate intelligence is needed for the success and safety of the American soldiers. So the Army took female soldiers into the front lines to speak with the Muslim women.

Women now serve in many formerly male roles as fire fighters, police, first responders, doctors without borders, front line reporters, pilots, and bishops. Two women have even passed the rigorous Army Ranger training program. Men now serve in formerly female roles as nurses, home health care providers, househusbands, elementary school teachers, cooks, and flight attendants.

Who you are has no relation to what you can do. Yet increasingly our society doesn't care who you are or what you can do. All that matters is your paperwork. You can't get on an airplane without a boarding pass and sometimes even a passport. You can't get a job without a Social Security card. If you are an immigrant, you must have documentation or you will be deported. And now in North Carolina you can't even pee without a birth certificate.

We are all losing our human dignity. We are becoming just paper.

Janice Van Cleve is a writer in Seattle.

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