The lines of division are once again forming between states, individuals
A few years before the war, the Supreme Court had ruled in Dred Scott that a former black slave could not be an American citizen and could not sue in federal court, fanning the flames of division and further setting the stage for civil war.
I don’t know what it must have been like back then. I consider it one of the darkest and most shameful periods in the history of our great nation. I mean no disrespect to anyone in this comparison; what I am seeking to point out here is that deep divisions can have disastrous consequences.
Ever since the Obergefell v. Hodges decision a summer ago, which provided marriage equality for LGBT people, there has been an odd, tantrum-like backlash against the LGBT community, with special focus on the transgender community.
Once again, these debates are largely Republican vs. Democrat. The rhetoric has been vicious at times, and much of it is downright deceptive, with equality opponents loudly declaring over the “threat” that trans people pose in bathrooms. (Actual threat: None at all.)
The lines of division vary from state to state, with North Carolina throwing down the biggest gauntlet to date in the face of equality with passage of a state law revoking the city of Charlotte’s non-discrimination ordinance, blocking passage of any such ordinances in the future and forcing trans people into bathrooms matching the gender marker on their birth certificate instead of their gender identity.
Do you carry a birth certificate with you when you use a public restroom? Does anyone you know carry their birth certificate around with them? I’m curious, what’s going to be their probable cause that a crime has been committed?
While this new law is clearly unconstitutional on several levels, it also will likely jeopardize $4.5 billion in federal funding for North Carolina public schools because it violates the guidelines in Title IX.
So permit me to take things to their illogical conclusion:
Several other states have laws similar to this: Georgia has a religious freedom bill that the governor vetoed; Tennessee just defeated one this past week.
Massachusetts, Illinois, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, South Carolina and Wisconsin are all still actively debating laws that would openly discriminate against the trans community.
All of these bills affect trans people in general, but also keep transgender students from using the proper bathroom. These bills are cruel and unjust. And as I said, they all violate Title IX.
Let’s assume that all 10 of these states lose federal funding for their schools. (There are sure to be more such bills, as Texas is certain to join in this hate-fest as soon as the 2017 legislative session rolls around. Also several states have inactive bills that target trans people and they surely will try again.)
Imagine if these states banded together to create their own education system and share funds, since the federal money would not fund their bigotry. The NCAA has been a staunch supporter of equality; what if Indiana and Kentucky were ineligible for the NCAA basketball tournament?
This time, the schism is not just Democrat and Republican. Not just North and South. It seems to be drawn mostly along religious lines.
I’m writing this on Easter and note the irony hanging thick in the air that Christianity has a doctrine that requires followers to love one another. Yet, in my 58 years of life, I’ve never seen more hate being targeted at a marginalized population that represents around one-half of 1 percent of the population.
There are plenty of states and city governments who stand in solid support of rights for ALL of their citizens. California is a shining beacon in the west.
Boston just signed a non-discrimination ordinance that specifically and positively affects trans people.
Dallas is a little blue island in a sea of red here in Texas, where trans people can feel relatively safe. But don’t doubt that we are one North Carolina-style bill away from losing that.
So, is there strong enough division? Is this something worth fighting, and dying for? If you are asking me personally, yeah, it is.
It makes me sad to say that because the simple answer is to simply do the right thing. Rights aren’t something you “grant” to someone else. I’m no better than my Christian neighbor. But they are no better or deserving of human rights than I am.
The truth is, this matter will likely be settled in the U.S. Supreme Court instead of on battlefields with the lives of young men and women sacrificed for the ideals of politicians.
In the 1860s, an awful lot of people died because of hatred and an unwillingness to see someone as human who looked different from them. Today, seeing an African American as three-fifths of a human would be unthinkable. Separate but equal didn’t work then, and it’s just as flawed now.
Those who support these “religious freedom” bills and the bills who target the transgender community are on the wrong side of history. Your freedom to practice the religion of your choice or to believe as you believe has never been on stronger footing, no matter what lies Ted Cruz or anyone else tells you.
Transgender people are no threat to you or your way of life. But using your beliefs to harm or penalize people you haven’t taken two minutes to try and understand is wrong, and it won’t be tolerated.
History is a harsh judge and it is through history’s unblinking eye that you can look back at the folly of your ancestors.
I am not saying that the struggle of African-Americans or the atrocity of slavery in 18th and 19th centuries is the same as struggle for LGBT equality. But hatred is hatred and one thing is for certain: those Trans women murdered each year because of who they are are no less dead, no less disrespected. It needs to stop.
Leslie McMurray, a transgender woman, is a former radio DJ who lives and works in Dallas. Read more of her blogs at lesliemichelle44.wordpress.com.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 1, 2016.