The Obama administration issued a clear statement this past week encouraging schools nationwide to allow students to use the bathroom which matches their gender identity. In case there is any confusion, this is a change from the previous understanding of bathroom usage – that students would use the bathroom which matches their biological sex. While no law has yet been established, the implication was that federal funding would be cut to schools who refuse compliance.
As though American politics weren’t polarizing enough, delving into the bathroom lives of citizens was a guarantee to create additional angst. Students around the country are starting to protest. My own church body, which maintains a very large school system, is even starting to face some outside pressure.
Clearly our country is encountering some gender hurt right now. Many people on either side of the issue feel unheard and unconcerned for. Media coverage is not helping, but it’s also not the media’s job to help. It’s the media’s job to cover legitimate news.
In honor of Pentecost (this past Sunday’s celebration), however, it IS the Church’s job to offer hope, peace, comprehensible truth, and radical unity, guided by the example, sacrifice, and grace of Christ.
So, since this has quickly become a political issue (as seemingly all are becoming today), let me phrase it like this:
To my friends on the Left…
I think there exists a caricature of the Right – that they fear transgender individuals using bathrooms because “What if they abuse little children?” I haven’t seen any evidence that a transgender individual has any greater likelihood of sexually assaulting someone (minor or adult) and therefore if someone legitimately has this concern, it would seem unfounded.
That said, bathroom behavior that matches gender identity does, however, seemingly create a greater risk. This is because it unquestionably offers greater access to those who seek to do sexual harm to others.
Say, for instance, that a male sexual predator wants to molest a little girl. Since there’s no way to police gender identity, that man now has significantly closer proximity to a vulnerable young woman in a state of undress. This is like the “no junk food in the house” diet rule. Proximity to temptation (i.e. access), creates greater likelihood of transgression. In this case, it would undeniably involve a victim.
So…for the sake of maintaining an important barrier that protects potential victims, does the willingness on behalf of some to use private bathrooms seem unreasonable?
To my friends on the Right…
I think there exists a caricature of the Left – that they not only want bathroom access for transgender individuals, but they want conservative religious people to suffer. If that were true, it’d obviously be a severe form of bullying in a land where we’re supposedly free to coexist with varying beliefs.
But, by and large, my impression is that those in the transgender community don’t have an agenda to torture others. They simply want others to understand some of the pain and ostracization that they themselves have felt, and show some sympathy and humanity towards it.
I can’t imagine what it’d be like to feel like a woman trapped in a man’s body – my brain and impulses communicating one thing and yet my physiology saying another. That has to be a source of immense internal tension. Feeling like the weight and hostility and judgment of the religious world is piling on you I would assume only aggravates the frustration.
So…for the sake of some tender human spirits who have endured a struggle that most of us can’t begin to comprehend, does it seem unreasonable to listen and perhaps reconsider our public bathroom options?
To all my friends…
Anger, panic, and frustration do little for quality decision-making. It often leads to unnecessary either/or thinking.
In the short-term, I hope we can take the emotion out of this issue and come up with some workable solutions. For instance, I’m not sure why we can’t move to an all private bathroom system. As it is, public situations like YMCA locker rooms have always felt shockingly closer to Roman Baths than modern safety and hygiene for my comfort. In 2016, when 90% of people are literally walking around with a video camera, more private places for private parts just makes sense. (Incidentally, that’s also my 2020 campaign slogan, by the way – Make America’s Parts Private Again)
Will it cost money to renovate all these public spaces? Yes, of course. There is always a cost to more peaceful human relations. It’s worth it. And both sides of this issue seem passionate enough that they’d be willing to put their money where their mouths are.
In the long run, I’m going to continue encouraging Christians to consider and reconsider their approach to social influence. The great American evangelist, Vince Havner, once said,
“We are not going to move this world by criticism of it nor conformity to it, but by the combustion within it of lives ignited by the Spirit of God.”
It’s always amazed me that when Jesus was asked a question about paying taxes to Caesar, he nonchalantly said, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” (Matt. 22:21) He literally encouraged paying taxes to the very government that would unjustly crucify him! And yet he obviously still didn’t consider that “approving of sin.”
Jesus’ approach to changing the world was not political. It wasn’t forceful. It was self-sacrificial. Jesus never condoned nor dismissed sin. But he also didn’t publicly condemn “sinners.” (John 8:11) Instead, he inconvenienced himself all the way to hell so that those who were in the wrong might experience grace, have their hearts melted, repent and be saved.
It worked. It’s happened a billion times. Including to me.
And I’m convinced that the ones who realize this grace are the only ones who can bring this awful public dialogue out of the toilet.