What’s Really at Stake in the Bathroom Wars

On February 22nd, the city of Charlotte passed an ordinance allowing transgender people to use the bathroom of their choice, regardless of biological sex. North Carolina’s state legislature responded on March 23rd by passing a law requiring individuals to use the restroom corresponding to the sex listed on their birth certificate. Since then, our country has been engaged in a national debate over who should pee where. But the real debate is about much more than that, and the outcome matters more than one would think.

First, it’s not about stigmatizing transgender people, or making it easier for them to perform necessary biological functions throughout the course of their day. Yes, transgender people often struggle over the issue of which restroom to use, especially if they look like one sex but have the parts of another. But as many have noted, transgender people have been using the facility of their chosen gender for decades. It’s not like there’s a gender policeman stationed at each bathroom checking birth certificates.

Second, the debate is not primarily about sexual predators, though the safety and privacy of women and children is certainly at stake. Policies like the one recently announced by Target will make it easier for sexual predators to gain access to women and girls. Several men have already been caught trying to film women under the stall dividers. But bathrooms – both men’s and women’s – have always been places where predators could lurk, as they feature people at their most isolated and vulnerable. This is why girls pee in packs. This is why I don’t let my eight-year-old son use the men’s locker room without a male relative present.

The great bathroom debate, like the marriage debate, comes down to this – will our culture and our laws recognize the fundamental truth that men and women are different in important and immutable ways, and that this difference structures much of human society? Or will we abandon reason, tradition, and common sense in our attempt to deny the obvious and assert the opposite?

Claire Chretien recently made this argument in Lifesite News:

The battle over men accessing women’s bathrooms and vice versa has little do with bathrooms or even transgenderism, a well-known LGBT activist admitted last week.  It has everything to do with re-working society and getting rid of the “heterobinary structure” in which we live—eliminating distinctions between “male” and “female” altogether.

But these distinctions are not matters of opinion. People are born male or female. This is a scientific fact. Sex is binary. Men have XY chromosomes, male genitalia, and higher levels of testosterone. Women have XX chromosomes, female genitalia, and higher levels of estrogen.  There are very rare exceptions where an intersex person may not fit neatly into male or female categories, but these exceptions do not disprove the rule that sex is binary. Some people are born without arms, but this does not mean that arms are just an arbitrary thing that some people have and others don’t.

Your sex is assigned to you before birth, at the moment of conception. It cannot be changed. No amount of hormonal therapy or surgery can transform someone to the extent that they are indistinguishable from a person born as that sex. A man that seeks to become a woman will never bear a child. A woman that seeks to become a man will never impregnate anyone. The best that can be accomplished is a crude imitation, a farce.

During childhood, males and females must develop healthy gender identities as men and women. A biological male must figure out what it means to be a man, and a biological female must figure out what it means to be a woman. This is where “nurture” enters an equation that has previously been dominated by nature. Not all biological males like getting dirty, playing with trucks, or tackling other boys. But they must all accept their role as men so that they can become tomorrow’s fathers, uncles, and husbands. Not all biological females like playing with dolls, wearing dresses, or doing other “girly” things. But they must all accept their role as women so that they can become tomorrow’s mothers, aunts, and wives. Sexual difference is born out in numerous statistics, but where we mainly see it is in the disproportionate success of children raised by their biological mothers and fathers.

Long-term success and happiness can only be found in the truth, never in a lie. It may be initially liberating for a man to try out a new identity as a woman, or for a manly woman to quit trying to be feminine and just “be a man.” But statistics and personal testimonies show that transgender people are far more likely than just about any group to suffer from depression and to commit suicide. This heightened risk is not due to a lack of social acceptance. Even transgender people in liberal areas with tons of social support are more likely to take their own lives than a random “cis-gender” person.

Across numerous statistical measures, gender dysphoric disorder is more harmful to a person’s long-term health than alcoholism. What is the compassionate response to alcoholism? Obviously, it is not to accommodate the alcoholic by installing beer kegs in bathrooms and workplaces. A combination of counseling and support are required to help the alcoholic cease engaging in destructive behaviors and create a new identity as a non-alcoholic.

I have noticed an abundance of Facebook statuses seeming to extoll that person’s tolerance and compassion for transgender people by criticizing HB2 or voicing support for men being allowed in women’s restrooms. “I am happy to share a bathroom with a biological male who identifies as female,” many have suggested, “I would even hand her the toilet paper if she needed it.”

While the intentions of such posts may be noble, they do not consider the long-term consequences of promoting gender confusion. Many people today act like hurting someone’s feelings is the worst thing you can do to another person; thus all subjective beliefs must be validated by society as “real” lest some irreparable emotional damage occur. But what about the confusion this debate is causing children who are still in the delicate stage of developing a gender identity that fits their biological sex? What about the pain and frustration and regret that will be suffered by more boys who decide they are really girls, and more girls who decide they are really boys? As with so many other issues, we celebrate the short-term emotional satisfaction of supporting a certain policy with no regard to the long-term damage it will inevitably produce.

Gender is binary. Men and women are different. We complement each other in important ways. We are not just people, not just interchangeable individuals. We are men and women.

What happens to us when we deny this basic truth?

For starters, we forget what marriage is. We used to understand that marriage requires both sexes, a man and a woman. Sexual difference was essential to the definition of marriage. Now this understanding is gone. Marriage has been redefined as just another relationship, just two people who love each other and get sexual satisfaction from each other’s bodies (though not of the sort that creates and nourishes new life).

Now that marriage has been redefined, it is only a matter of time before it is legally destroyed. People in polygamous and incestuous relationships will demand that their love be recognized as marriage. Singles will defend their “rights” by demanding that all laws privileging people in relationships are discriminatory. People will soon tire of the endless controversies and debates that result when such a core truth is abandoned. Finally, both sides will embrace a “compromise” – get the state out of the marriage business altogether. Gone will be parental rights, gone will be the rights of children, and gone will be the legal recognition of the family unit, all in an attempt to be “tolerant” and “inclusive” of the small minority threatened by the traditional understanding of marriage.

The truth is, marriage has never been especially compatible with the homosexual lifestyle, especially for gay men, who have much higher rates of promiscuity than their heterosexual peers. Even “married” gay men are likely to have multiple sexual partners and agree to open relationships. Now that the male-female component of marriage is gone, the expectation of fidelity will not be far behind. Why should married straight men be expected to be faithful to their spouses when gay men are free to explore other options?

Numerous sources can be found from gay rights activists admitting that they seek to transform or just outright destroy marriage, not simply access it as they claimed. While the transgender movement claims it only wants to broaden the definition of what it means to be a man or a woman, the end game is to abolish these labels entirely. Chretien quotes Stella Morabito, an expert on cults and propaganda who writes for The Federalist:

“What we are really talking about is the abolition of sex. And it is sex that the trans project is serving to abolish legally, under the guise of something called ‘the gender binary.’  Its endgame is a society in which everyone is legally de-sexed.  No longer legally male or female.  And once you basically redefine humanity as sexless you end up with a de-humanized society in which there can be no legal ‘mother’ or ‘father’ or ‘son’ or ‘daughter’ or ‘husband’ or ‘wife’ without permission from the State.  Government documents are already erasing the terms.  In such a society, the most intimate human relationships take a hit. The family ends up abolished… A sexless society is ultimately a totalitarian society because it erases in law the most basic human relationships, particularly the mother-child bond.”

When most people support gay marriage or trans bathroom access, they don’t understand that they are really working toward the abolition of male and female identities; they just think they’re fighting for equal rights. But others know exactly where the train is headed. Just this morning, John Sutter published an opinion piece for CNN calling for a “restroom revolution.” He starts by highlighting the plight of James Sheffield, a transgender man, who looks far too manly to be allowed in a ladies restroom without causing alarm. Sutter writes:

But you know what else is absurd? The idea that Sheffield — or anyone else — should have to choose a male or female restroom at all. And, beyond that, that any of us would feel entitled to decide someone else’s gender for them — and, consequently, where they can and can’t pee.

This isn’t a binary gender world. People don’t fit neatly into the “M” and “F” boxes. It’s time our public restrooms reflected that. The fairest way to do so is to desegregate restrooms by sex, and that means eliminating the men’s and women’s rooms in favor of “all gender” restrooms.

According to Sutter, “the only justification” of refusing to let a biological female in a men’s restroom “is bigotry and ignorance.” Forget reason or common sense; gendered bathrooms are now “absurd.” Sutter notes that several buildings have already removed gender identification from restrooms. The restroom revolution is already underway; we just haven’t noticed it yet.

While the worst may be yet to come, there is hope for those who would like to see a return to reason in our culture. Writing in 1938, the great Catholic historian Hillaire Belloc noted the anti-rational nature of what he labeled the “Modern Attack” on the Faith:

Being Atheist, it is characteristic of the advancing wave that it repudiates the human reason. Such an attitude would seem again to be a contradiction in terms; for if you deny the value of human reason, if you say that we cannot through our reason arrive at any truth, then not even the affirmation so made can be true. Nothing can be true, and nothing is worth saying. But that great Modern Attack (which is more than a heresy) is indifferent to self-contradiction. It merely affirms. It advances like an animal, counting on strength alone.

The contemporary reader will find this description all too familiar. Recall PayPal’s hasty decision to pull out of the entire state of North Carolina over HB2. The message is clear: get in line– or else. After all, when one attempts to deny objective truth, one must get everyone else onboard. If the emperor is truly to parade around in no clothes, even the voice of a child may expose the whole charade. However, Belloc offers this glimmer of hope:

Indeed, it may be remarked in passing that this may well be the cause of its final defeat; for hitherto reason has always overcome its opponents; and man is the master of the beast through reason.

In the bathroom wars as in the marriage wars, our culture may yet return to its senses, triggering a change in our laws. Even better, the triumph of reason may yet inspire a return to the Faith, allowing our society to recover its moral center.

Why Bruce Jenner Is Not a Woman

Part of me hates to bandwagon onto this topic, as so much has already been said. It is a bit strange that as our economy sputters, the Middle East burns, and our communities descend into violence, we choose to obsess over the personal decisions of someone who a few years ago would have been considered a D-list celebrity. However I’m going to do it; not because I feel compelled to support or attack Jenner, but because the transgendered movement—and our society’s response to that movement—is illustrative of a broader, more important trend.

There is a shift going on in our culture to deny objective reality and to substitute in its place subjective feelings. While we should respect and value the human rights of each individual, we do not have the “right” to determine our own reality, nor do we have the right to then force everyone else to go along with it. This path leads not to liberation and fulfillment, but to chaos, confusion, and profound dissatisfaction.

Who are we?

There are two ways to approach this question: reason and religion. They both lead to the same conclusion, which is that there are certain aspects of our nature that we cannot change and therefore should accept. Though we have different faiths, we all share a capacity for reason; thus, I will confine most of my analysis to the former.

Reason and science tell us that we are born either male or female (though a small minority of children are born intersex, with biological features of both sexes). At birth, our chromosomes and reproductive organs distinguish us as male or female; otherwise, we are quite similar. Now most parents will tell you that differences in temperament and preferences will crop up even in small children, but this leads to the argument over how much of this is biological and how much is socially constructed, so I’ll leave it alone for now.

Reason and science also tell us that during puberty, our bodies undergo specific changes, depending on whether we are male or female. Girls develop breasts and begin menstruating. Boys develop facial hair and start producing semen. Both the sperm of a man and the egg of a woman are necessary in order for human reproduction to occur. Not the sperm of someone who “identifies” as male, or the egg of someone who “identifies” as female, but the sperm of someone who is male and the egg of someone who is female. Despite all the innovations in fertility science, no man can ever menstruate. No woman can ever produce semen. These are the facts of our biology, undeniable and unalterable.

So why as a society are we acting otherwise?

Are we doing it in a misguided attempt to show compassion to individuals who are obviously troubled and confused? Are we doing it to show how tolerant and open-minded we are? Are we doing it to achieve a sense of moral superiority over those who still cling to “backward” and “outdated” views of human sexuality?

Let’s put your tolerance to the test. For those of you who support and celebrate Jenner’s decision, do you deny objective reality in other areas of your lives? Would you fly on a plane piloted by someone who “identifies” as a pilot, but who has no flight experience? Would you put your life in the hands of someone who “identifies” as a surgeon, but has no medical training? If your child told you she “identified” as an old person, would you take her to a retirement home? If someone “identified” as a different race, would you encourage her to dye her skin? If someone “identified” as a disabled person, would you support his decision to amputate his healthy legs?

Or at some point do you have to say: you are who you are, regardless of what you feel you are. So make peace with your body. Accept yourself. Love yourself as you are. We do, and God does.

How is it compassionate to encourage someone to alter his body in a radical, irreversible way, especially when a large percentage of men who “transition” later regret it? How is it loving to encourage someone down this path, when suicide mortality actually rises post-operation to 20-fold the non-transgender rate?

Of course, the great irony of the transgender movement is its obvious conflict with feminism. Many feminists claim gender is a social construct, and women should be appreciated for more than just their beauty and bodies. The transgender movement claims gender is a biological reality, and that a man can become a woman simply by castrating himself and putting on a dress. How offensive to women. And yet even enlightened liberals like Jon Stewart can’t see the connection between this distorted view of gender and the objectification of women?

I remember wanting to be a boy when I was little. They seemed to have all the fun, and they could pee standing up. At the age of three, I showed up at a friend’s Thanksgiving party with war paint on my face and feathers in my hair, while all the other girls were wearing pilgrim dresses. My tomboy streak continues to this day. But at a certain point—and I don’t even remember when that point was—I made peace with my female body. I realized that I could paint my nails and like boys, and still play football and climb trees. Being a woman doesn’t mean wearing makeup or putting on a sexy swimsuit for the entertainment of men. It means being created with the capacity to nurture a human life. That’s what the breasts and ovaries and uterus are for, not attracting “oohs” and “ahhs,” or selling magazines.

Women can do things our society associates with men and still be women. Men can do things our society typically associates with women and still be men. How can we deny this, and still claim to support equality?

I’ll conclude this post with two stories. The first involves a friend of my dad’s, a self-described Massachusetts liberal. This friend holds all the politically correct positions one would expect from someone of his background in that part of the country. He was recently attending the graduation of one of his children from a well-known liberal arts college when he noticed the restrooms were labeled “Those Who Self-Identify as Men” and “Those Who Self-Identify as Women.” Astonished at the ridiculousness of the situation, he made the mistake of telling his children. They, of course, promptly chastised him for his backwardness. The whole experience left him puzzled and wondering why he had just paid several thousands of dollars for their so-called educations.

The next story involves my own son, though I hesitate to bring him into this for fear of making him part of the controversy. I must have been scrolling around on Facebook when a picture of Bruce Jenner popped up. My son exclaimed: “Oh, I know about him.” My first reaction was to panic and wonder just what my seven-year-old had been exposed to. But intuitively, I trusted him.

“Oh, yeah? What do you know?” I asked.

He replied, “I know he was an athlete and then he got married and had children, but then he had a big problem.”

“What problem?” I asked.

“He felt like he was a woman, but his body was a man’s.”

“Oh,” I said. “That is a problem. What do you think he should do about it?”

Then my son looked at me as though I had just asked the most obvious question in the world. “Pray to God,” he said. I could almost hear the unspoken “Duh!”

When I remarked upon his wisdom, my son added, “There’s no pills or surgery that can fix that. You need God.”

We often forget the innocent wisdom of children, though it is our job to protect and nurture that very innocence. It makes you wonder how the most educated members of our society can be so confused about such simple truths. The emperor truly is wearing no clothes, and—just like in the fairy tale story—it takes a child to point this out.

The ones claiming Jenner is a woman simply because he feels like a woman (whatever that means) are the same people who claim conservatives are in denial about science, and we should all line up behind their expertise on a range of political and social issues.

Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner is not a woman, because being a woman is not a lifestyle choice. It is not something you can buy. It is not about having a pointy chin or big boobs or long hair. You can be a woman and have none of these things. Like being a man, being a woman is a biological reality. We are created as a unified mind, body, and soul; the three are not divisible. This doesn’t mean we can’t show compassion to people who struggle with gender identity. The most loving and compassionate thing we can do is to encourage them to accept their bodies as God (or nature, if you prefer) created them.