by Trevin Wax
Now that President Obama has issued guidelines for bathroom access in public schools across the country, many parents and schoolteachers are suddenly engaged in conversations they never anticipated. Questions about bathrooms, sports teams, locker room access, gender identity, and potential dangers are bouncing around on social media and in blog comments.
Much of the conversation focuses on student safety, not surprisingly. Safety for children in public schools should be of the utmost concern—and that includes the safety of transgender students as well.
But the latest developments have bigger repercussions that we also need to consider. We need to take a step back and look at what the White House guidelines signify about our culture.
Repercussion #1: Blazing a Political Path Toward Tyranny
First, it is striking to see the description of the president’s guidelines as “a decree” (now softened to “directive”), as well as the White House’s threat of withholding funds from schools that do not comply.
Regardless of one’s views on gender identity, no one believes that the intent of the lawmakers who passed the Civil Rights Act in the 1960s and Title IX legislation was to include gender identity as part of their protections. To apply this legislation to gender identity today, apart from Congressional approval, is to effectively rewrite the law without any kind of legislative process. It is to create a new law out of nothing and then use the president’s powers to promote it.
Even if you agree with the president’s guidelines, I urge you to consider the precedent this sets for future presidents to invent and revise new interpretations of laws and then demand compliance. The Founding Fathers put guardrails in place to keep the legislative, executive, and judicial branches from careening toward tyranny. Ever since Woodrow Wilson, those guardrails have been weakening, making it easier for a future tyrant to seize power and have historical precedent for doing so.
Repercussion #2: Co-opting the Civil Rights Narrative
The fact that “segregation” has re-entered the American vocabulary, only this time in reference to bathrooms, is astonishing. It puts gender identity and race in the same category, and then applies the story of civil rights to the societal push to embrace transgender theories. To dissent from this ideology or to question the wisdom and prudence of this revisionist understanding of the human person is to join the ranks of bigots and racists.
In her speech that connected racially segregated bathrooms to gender identity, Attorney General Loretta Lynch claimed that, in both cases, there was merely a “distinction without a difference.” In other words, the fact that a transgender female possesses male anatomy is a distinction, but not a substantive difference.
This is not a scientific statement, but an ideological vision of what male and female mean. The detachment of “sex” from “gender” will have repercussions that extend far beyond the debate over bathrooms, and because of the complexities associated with various forms of gender identity, a soft despotism will be necessary in order to enforce the new tolerance.
Repercussion #3: Promoting a New Vision of What It Means to Be Human
As Christians, we believe that gender is a gift from God and that we ought to welcome this gift (part of God’s good creation), even when it may be difficult (as a result of our fallenness). We believe that true freedom comes within our acceptance of our bodily existence, as given to us by God, and our discovery of how best to glorify God within this finite frame.
Today’s world promotes another “gospel”: believe and submit to one’s own individual desires as an act of self-definition. Another “great commission:” to increase the number of people who affirm every act of self-definition, without question. Another “hope”: to create a world of peace and joy by embracing a queer cosmology that transforms society into less binary ways of being.
The bathroom debate is heated because of what it symbolizes: a redefinition of what it means to be human.
- What does it mean to be a mother in a world in which men can have babies?
- To advocate for medical procedures on the body that have no relation to deeper questions of what our bodies are for?
- To see surgeries that sterilize as the only compassionate option for people experiencing gender dysphoria?