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Donald Trump's decision to lift the guidelines issued by the Obama government allowing transgender students to use the bathroom of their choice has caused much consternation and wailing about the rights of transgender students.
However, when you look at the impact of lifting this guidance, it's hard to see what there was for people to get quite so het up about. Firstly, the original guidelines had absolutely no legal force whatsoever, therefore, as ever, the decision seems to be indicative of Trump's usual style; it's enough to please his supporters and establish his conservative credentials, but doesn't change a lot in practical terms.
For example, when the original guidance from Obama was issued, the state of Texas put a temporary hold on it after 13 states sued. What the lifting of the guidance has done is introduce a sensible level of subsidiarity, noting that this is an issue best dealt with at a local level.
Tellingly for concerned Catholics, the American bishops' conference — the USCCB — has applauded and welcomed Trump's decision on this issue, expressing their gratitude. They note that it's an extremely sensitive situation, best dealt with care and compassion at a local level, respecting the privacy and safety concerns of all students.
Father James Martin, S.J. doesn't appear to agree with them and in response issued a series of tweets, implying that to deny transgender students the rights to choose whichever bathroom or changing room they choose is not Christ-like, it further marginalizes people, infringes on their basic dignity and asking: "Where's the harm?"
Along with a number of other Catholic women, I responded to him in pretty gentle terms as a mother of five. We asked, "Where is the care and compassion for the dignity of vulnerable women and girls who don't actually want to share their intimate spaces with non-biological females?"
As a result, my Twitter feed has been filled up with an eye-watering amount of expletive-ridden abuse and invective. I am a "terrible person," a "bad mother," "evil," "lacking in all compassion," who "needs to educate herself," "ugly," my "genitals are deformed from having five children," "I must die in a fire," "commit suicide," hopefully "my family will hate me," and so on and so forth. The sheer level and bombardment of hate is dizzying. I've been at the end of Twitter storms before, but this takes it to a whole new level.
It's not only the violent abuse itself which is so frightening, but the level of delusion that it's based upon.
The insults are all variations on a theme, so I'm just going to offer a response to each one.
Nobody with any common sense or compassion minds an adult who has fully transitioned, using a public loo designated for women, provided that they do so in the same way as any other woman, i.e., unobtrusively and not drawing attention to their trans status in a way that makes other women around them feel uncomfortable. Most trans women I know already do this.
Most women don't actually take much note of who else is going into their toilets, which in many ways makes them more vulnerable, because we don't expect to see men in there. If you can pass as a woman on first glance, chances are nobody will really object.
However, what women are objecting to, and rightly so, is the idea that anyone who decides to state that they identify as a woman for whatever reason, regardless of their manner of attire, can use women's facilities. It's not acceptable for someone who is so clearly obviously male to think that their feelings entitle them to intrude upon women's spaces. Plus, there is the issue of whether or not sexual predators might take advantage of relaxed laws, as has happened on past occasions. Part of the reason for enforcing legislation is to ensure that people feel safe and to discourage criminal activity.
Years ago, in the era before mobile phones, I was once followed home after getting off the bus, and the only way to shake off the man was to go into a public ladies' room and raise the alarm. The threat of being accosted by someone for following me in or for entering proved enough of a deterrent.
Read the rest at The Catechesis of Caroline.