Friday, February 24, 2017

Ongoing Culture Wars, Social Order and the use of the Bathroom by Transgender Students. Is the Intervention by those who oppose the Right of Transgender Students to use the Bathroom of their Choice Morally Credible?


The argument over the use of the bathroom by transgender students would seem to be absurd on the surface and without merit to some who embrace more progressive, thoughtful and critical views. Yet there is a deeper issue which compels the cultural and political battle lines drawn.  I remember working at my local Target store here in Emeryville, CA some years ago, where a situation arose when the only bathrooms available were the women’s bathroom and a bathroom where the parents could clean and change their baby’s diapers, etc.  What was interesting about the matter is that men having a choice to use the women’s bathroom, and/or the baby changing bathroom preferred to stand in physical stress and pain waiting the men’s restroom to open.  It was astounding as seemingly mature, thoughtful adults, chose to get physically stressed, some visibly in pain as they waited for the men’s restroom to open. 

For many, arguments over the use of the bathroom, between good, well intentioned and thoughtful people on all sides, are framed as concerns for parental rights, prevention, safety and privacy within a discourse on what is moral based on sensitivities affirmed by conservative or progressive interpretations of biblical scripture and a social order rooted in historical desires of sexism, racism and patriarchy. The bathroom issue presents a profound moral crisis as it echoes, at least for this writer, actions exemplified by the election in 2008 and 2012 of Barack Obama, the first African American, as President of the United States, the legalization of gay marriage, women’s rights, immigration, economic and cultural globalization, the war on terror, the decline and the gradual demise of the white working class as a significant voice in the U.S. cultural, economic and political arenas. The world no longer revolves around the exclusivity of desires, interpretations, imaginations and affirmations of white society and culture. 

Despite political situations unjust, alternative facts, divisive rhetoric, and the supposed deconstruction of the progressive, administrative state, as stated by Steve Bannon, senior advisor to the President of the United States at CPAC, a conservative political action convention, the U.S. is experiencing a fundamental sociocultural shift in its social order, this will not be stopped.  The use of bathrooms by transgender students is just the tip of the iceberg.  The bathroom issue is not so much about prevention, safety or privacy, but a means to address the reality that American society is moving beyond traditional notions of a social order based on the desires of white society and culture, its imagination, and its privilege as gained through genocide, enslavement, disregard for treaties, and various forms of oppression. The reaction to this shift has resulted in the election of a white alpha male daily proving he is unfit to be president, the attack on a free press, the burning of Mosques, bomb threats of Jewish Community Centers, millions of immigrants at risk of deportation, and the desecration of Jewish cemeteries, to name a few.   

Rescinding the rules, contrary to Title IX, on the use of bathrooms by transgender students is just one more shot of intervention by those who fight for a more traditional social order against the inevitable progress of a liberal progressive agenda. That said, writing as one who is African American, transgender a woman and progressive, I suggest that agendas emerge from those intimate authentic spaces of being and therefore whatever intervention of religion, politics, law enforcement, cultural or social discourses engaged are primarily confronting questions of authenticity and how to live out that authenticity daily in the face of oppression and in some cases repression. June Jordan, author of Civil Wars. Touchstone, 1981, writes, Intervention has its limits. The limits of intervention, particularly when it comes to matters of civil rights and social justice, conjure images of Bull Conner, water hoses and his dogs, Church Bombings, and Jim Crow, as those who stubbornly held on to a social order that had long past. Their intervention for the sake of a social order based on racism and the affirmation of whiteness eventually led to their shame. 

Considering Black History Month, the question for this writer in addition to whether a transgender student can use the bathroom of their choice is a moral one. Is the intervention by those seeking to protect or at least, shore up a social order in transition moral? Is there moral credibility to their argument? The many successes of the civil rights movement including the election of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States makes it clear that the morality of the argument is crucial in attaining the justice of Micah 6:8 and a peace within unhindered by injustice.

He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
    and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
    and to walk humbly with your God?

In closing, the use of the bathroom by transgender students must be seen within the larger context of a culture war of moral consequence at least for now being prosecuted by the local community upon the Trump administration rescinding rules regarding transgender students use of bathroom in schools and the supreme court. In this sense the bathroom issue is at the vanguard of a human rights, liberal progressive political agenda and must be defended at all cost not just for itself but for the liberation of the soul from regimes of ignorance and oppression and the freedom to be at peace within.