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.

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9 Logical Extensions of SCOTUS Ruling

On the one hand, I understand the joy and excitement many are feeling in the wake of Obergefell v. Hodges. In the streets and on the Internet, people are rejoicing on behalf of themselves and their dear friends. I don’t want to rain on anyone’s parade, spoil anyone’s celebration, or worst of all give the false impression that I don’t value all human lives equally. I agree with the words of the Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal.” But the fact that all people are created equal does not mean that all relationships are created equal, at least not in the sense of being the same. There exist real differences between the brother-sister relationship, the father-son relationship, the friend-friend relationship, and the husband-wife relationship. Only one type of relationship can logically create new human life, thus continuing the culture and the species. All societies until very recently have understood this biological fact and have recognized marriage as a special relationship that could only exist between a man and a woman. Truly we stand upon the threshold of a brave new world, one whose consequences and ultimate destination can only be guessed.

But even in the midst of our elation or despair, it is crucial to note that opposition to the redefinition of marriage is not based on faith alone, but reason as well. Yes, the Bible instructs a man to leave his mother and father and cling to his wife, as the two become one flesh (Genesis 2:24). Yes, the Bible admonishes homosexuality as a sin (as well as divorce, adultery, fornication, and even lust, leaving an extremely small minority of the human race guiltless in this area). Yes, most of the people concerned over the SCOTUS ruling are practicing, orthodox Christians. However, it is possible to oppose the redefinition of marriage on purely logical grounds, as I will try to demonstrate in this post.

If you believe that marriage should or even can exist between two people of the same sex, then briefly consider whether you also support these nine propositions (one for each unelected, unaccountable member of the Supreme Court) that logically flow from it:

  1. There are no meaningful differences between men and women. The Bible states that God created man and woman. However, the differences between the sexes are also supported by science and common sense. It is a scientific fact that men and women are different. This doesn’t make them unequal; rather, they are complementary. Consider the ovaries and the testes. Without each other, they are useless. The reproductive system is the only system in the human body that can only fulfill its function with a member of the opposite sex. We don’t need another human being to breathe or digest, but reproduction has always required an opposite-sex partner. But assuming there are no differences between men and women, then there can be no meaningful differences between mothers and fathers, meaning…
  2. Children do not have the right to their biological mother and a father. Countless studies have shown that children do best when raised by their biological mother and father. Of course, there are situations like death and abandonment in which this is not possible. In these cases, adoption offers a compassionate and loving alternative. However, the loss of either one of a child’s biological parents creates a profound void which leads to great pain and suffering. Several adults raised by gay parents have bravely come forward to attest to this pain. Despite their love for the ones who raised them, their pain and loss are no less real.
  3. Parents do not have the right to their children. Since the relationship between parents and children is no longer acknowledged as natural but rather arbitrary and incidental, there is no reason the state should not make decisions on the child’s behalf, even over the objections of the parents. This already happens in Canada, where same-sex marriage has been the law of the land since 2005, and it is currently happening in California where children must now be vaccinated even over the medical and religious objections of their parents.
  4. Our identities are defined by our desires. To recognize a special class of persons designated by their sexual orientation is to define identity not by biology or nature but by desire and inclination. But what if I was born with the desire or inclination to burn things down? Should arsonists be designated as a minority group with special protections? The law would traditionally say that it is not how we feel but rather what we do with these feelings that counts, assuming a level of human rationality that makes it possible to hold people accountable for their actions. But if people are simply born with a set of morally-equal desires, how can we hold anyone accountable for any behavior?
  5. Our rights are defined by our desires. In truth, our rights come from God. This is stated in the Declaration of Independence and this is the only reason my right to speech is different than my “right” to eat ice cream for breakfast. But if someone’s emotional longing for something is now enough to make it a right, then there is no difference between a right and a desire. In which case, I have the right to anything and everything that I want. Unleash the moral anarchy now.
  6. Truth is defined by emotional satisfaction. The old motto of the Sexual Revolution is “if it feels good, do it.” But the new saying of the 21st century should be, “if it feels good, it must be right.” Photos of gleeful couples, a White House illuminated in a rainbow of colors, and a pink and red equal sign are enough to elicit warm and fuzzy feelings in a lot of people’s hearts. But when we start to rely on the subjective feelings of the majority versus the objective and unchanging reality of nature, we are headed for trouble indeed.
  7. Incestuous and polygamous relationships also have the “right” to be considered marriages. Why shouldn’t a brother and a sister be allowed to marry if they love each other? Aren’t they entitled to the same right to intimacy invented (I mean, discovered) by Justice Kennedy? Why shouldn’t three men who love each other, or three women, or two women and a man, or two men and a woman be able to get married if they love each other? Once the role of reproduction is removed (it remains an embarrassing fact that all people are created by the DNA of two parents: one mother and one father), isn’t the number two an arbitrary limitation? After all, love is love. #equality.
  8. Marriage of any kind is discriminatory against single people. We have heard a lot lately about the benefits marriage supposedly confers upon straight couples. But what about cohabiting couples who refuse to take the plunge? What about a grandmother and grandchild living together, or an uncle and a nephew? Regardless of same-sex/opposite-sex, if marriage is no longer fundamentally connected to procreation, why should the state confer certain privileges to couples who have made a legal, long-term (but with divorce, easily reversible) decision? If love is love, why bother with a legal designation in the first place?
  9. People who support the traditional definition of marriage should keep their views to themselves. In other words, they should stay in the closet. Many people see the Gay Rights movement as an extension of the Civil Rights movement. But while differences in race are truly skin deep, differences in sex are biologically far more significant. The Civil Rights movement was grounded in the truth that men and women are equal, regardless of skin pigmentation. The Gay Rights movement is (to a large extent) grounded in the falsehood that men and women are the same, and thus same-sex sexual relationships are the same as opposite-sex ones.

I would like to conclude once again with the disclaimer that I whole-heartedly believe in the equality of all people. If you are someone who experiences homosexual attraction, consider me the last person to condemn you. As a fellow sinner, I will cast no stones. But the definition of marriage is not contingent upon a particular religious belief. All the great religions of our world—from Hinduism to Islam to Buddhism to Confucianism to Christianity—have recognized marriage as the relationship between a man and a woman. Even cultures notoriously permissive of homosexuality, like ancient Greece and Rome, never sought to equate a homosexual relationship between two men with a monogamous and committed heterosexual relationship (i.e. marriage).

To all my readers, gay and straight, let me repeat: God loves you. Your dignity and worth as a person are not dependent upon your sexual orientation. However, your inalienable rights to life and liberty do not entitle you to your own reality. There is but one sort of relationship capable of creating, sustaining, and nurturing human life; that relationship has historically and across cultures been recognized as marriage. To redefine this institution is tantamount to its dissolution, a reckless act which carries a host of consequences that will ultimately prove detrimental to all people, gay and straight. The joy of victory, and the thrill of altering the course of history in the name of equality, will be as short-lived as the fervor of the early years of the French Revolution. Many conservative Christians are despairing, because we know the Reign of Terror awaits. Some of us will be marched to the guillotine and sacrificed at the great altar of Human Sexual Liberation, while others may be mercifully spared. But at the end of the day, whether we accept it or not, the truth remains.