Why Bathrooms MatterThe Department of Education should be abolished and all its employees blacklisted. All taxation for federal control of education should be stopped, and all powers of education returned to the states.
"We have reached a bizarre moment in our politics, where the “progressive” left resists having conservative speakers on a college campus because they make students feel “unsafe,” but insists that boys who identify as girls be allowed to shower with girls in the public schools, and misgivings must be educated away, or litigated into submission."Last week was one of those quiet Election Days where, on the surface, nothing much happened. But the “nothing much” might actually be something. We may have seen voters begin to pump the brakes on runaway liberalism.
In Ohio, an initiative to legalize marijuana was on the ballot; it lost by 30 points. In San Francisco, the sheriff who defended his town’s “sanctuary city” policy was tossed out. In Kentucky, a businessman who hugged Kim Davis (the county clerk who wouldn’t issue marriage licenses to gay couples) and ran on social issues won by 9 points. But the two most interesting results had to do with the left’s “transgender” agenda.
Nestled just outside the Washington beltway, Fairfax County, Virginia, is one of the nation’s largest, and by performance measures, best, school districts. Earlier this year the school board caused a great deal of consternation among parents when it voluntarily adopted a sweeping nondiscrimination policy that made “gender identity” a protected category—meaning that, in all regards, students would be treated as whatever gender they claimed. Despite the protests of hundreds of parents, the board voted 10 to 1 to enshrine the new liberal dogma on transgenderism.
But that’s not where it stopped. When parents asked what, in practice, the new transgender policies would entail for access to bathrooms, sports teams, locker rooms, and so forth, the board bluntly refused to release the text of the new policies. Faced with a FOIA request from the conservative legal group Judicial Watch, the school board filed a lawsuit in order to stall the release of the policy until after the election.
The local Republican party put up three candidates to challenge the incumbent at-large board members, but the campaigns avoided focusing on the transgender policy. The result was that only one of the Republicans was elected.
Contrast Fairfax County with the city of Houston. There, the city’s aggressively progressive mayor backed an expansive Human Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) that would have created a class of “transgender rights” (along with much else). But in Houston, conservatives were willing to oppose the HERO proposal on specific, literal grounds: “No men in women’s bathrooms.”
That was the slogan of the campaign to overturn HERO. And despite the wailing and caterwauling of social justice warriors across the country, despite claims of business leaders that Houston would suffer an economic backlash if HERO wasn’t approved, despite polling that promised the measure would survive comfortably, the transgender law was crushed, 61 percent to 39 percent.
There is a lesson in this, especially for Republicans. The left is in the process of overreaching on an issue that the average voter cares about, deeply. People might be able to rationalize supporting same-sex marriage by telling themselves that, even if it’s not their thing, it makes no difference to them what gay couples do. But if you’re a woman using the locker room at the gym, it might matter quite a lot if a man who says he’s a woman on the inside is using the shower next to you.
And no matter how progressive and fair-minded you are, if you’re a parent, you probably don’t want boys who say they’re girls competing against girls in field hockey or basketball or some contact sport where weight and muscle-mass exist independent of deep, personal feelings about identity. Come to think of it, you probably don’t want your daughter being forced to share a shower or a locker room with a boy, either.
The day before the election last week, the New York Times ran a front-page story about a school district in Palatine, Illinois, that has tried valiantly to accommodate the transgender agenda. Township High School District 211 has agreed to refer to a male student as a female at all times. It allowed the student to join girls’ sports teams. It allowed the student to use the girls’ locker room. The only concession the school requested was that the student shower and change behind a curtain.
The student filed a complaint under Title IX, the federal law prohibiting sex-discrimination in schools. And the Obama Department of Education took the student’s side, stating, “All students deserve the opportunity to participate equally in school programs and activities—this is a basic civil right. Unfortunately, Township High School District 211 is not following the law because the district continues to deny a female student the right to use the girls’ locker room.” The school has been given 30 days to comply.
So it is now a “basic civil right” for any boy to be granted equal access to girls’ locker rooms. And if any of the girls, or their parents, are made uncomfortable by this new right? Tough, says the Department of Education.
We have reached a bizarre moment in our politics, where the “progressive” left resists having conservative speakers on a college campus because they make students feel “unsafe,” but insists that boys who identify as girls be allowed to shower with girls in the public schools, and misgivings must be educated away, or litigated into submission.
We have also reached a moment where, whatever the majority of its voters may think, the Democratic party may be unable, as a practical political matter, to do anything but trumpet “transgender rights.” Have you seen Hillary Clinton’s denunciation of overreach by the Obama Education Department? We didn’t think so.
Republican candidates ought to grab this issue with both hands. They should tell voters what the federal government is doing with regard to transgenderism in the public schools. They should promise to stop and reverse it. And they should dare Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders to join them in proclaiming: “No men in women’s bathrooms.”
Remember the Tenth Amendment!