I saw a Cruz-for-President bumper sticker yesterday, and I couldn’t shake the thought it evoked. “The person in that car hates me.”
Not necessarily, of course. The driver is merely exercising his democratic rights, expressing support for a candidate for public office. Who is spreading hate. Toward me.
This is not the first time I’ve wrestled with the question of when support for a particular candidate or political action represents legitimate participation in a democracy and when it is hate. Before the Obergefell decision affirmed the right to marriage, I couldn’t help but see opposition to same-sex unions as an expression of hate.
Listening to the public debate about transgender bathroom rights has convinced me there are two levels of discourse, one expressive of concerns and the other hateful.
Take for example, Ohio Republican State Representative John Becker who, Cincinatti.com reported yesterday, wants to introduce legislation similar to North Carolina’s recent HB 2 restricting bathroom use based on sex recorded on a birth certificate. “My concern is sexual predators posing as transgender people to gain access to women’s facilities,” he is quoted as saying. “I’m not suggesting that transgender people are sexual predators. I’m sure the vast majority are honest citizens going about their daily business.” When faced with the question of why he is introducing a bill to address a situation that pretty much never happens, he responded, “Someone needs to step up before this becomes a problem.”
Mr. Becker’s efforts are clearly misguided. In contrast to sex offenders falsely claiming to be transgender, harassment of transgender people in public restrooms actually is a problem. A big one, every study on the subject has shown. His intentions might be hateful — we can’t know — or he may feel he is doing his duty as a representative of the people, giving voice to a concern his constituents hold. As strongly as I disagree with what he is doing, I can’t label his words as hate. I see his statements not as an occasion to level an accusation, but instead to provide a clearly stated counterpoint. Such a bill adds misery to transgender lives already made difficult by so many factors. Transgender people now use public restrooms corresponding to their identity pretty much everywhere, and unless they’re not passable, nobody bats an eyelash. A law like that would further put pressure on trans people to undergo medical procedures they may not want in pursuit of passability, and marginalize those who can’t or don’t want to. And finally, if transgender people are forbidden to use the restroom they identify with, and can’t safely visit the only restroom they are legally entitled to use, where do they “go”? Becker’s statements are easily countered in reasoned debate.
Which brings me to Ted Cruz. Mr. Cruz brings anti-trans bathroom rhetoric to a new level. “Every one of us has the right to live our lives as we wish,” a video shows him telling a crowd. “If any one of us wants to dress up as a woman or man and wants to live as woman or man and believes that we might be something other than what we were born, God has made each of us with free will and the ability to choose to do that if man to wants to dress as a woman, and live as a woman, and have a bathroom at home.” He takes pains to refer to transgender women as men in this and a later statement, where he says, “You don’t have a right to intrude upon the rights of others because whether or not a man believes he’s a woman, there are a lot of women who would like to be able to use a public restroom in peace without having a man there.”
Ted Cruz’s stand on the issue is hateful. His insistence both on denying us our identity and in encouraging his followers do the same is libelous and demeaning. He would never dare call a cisgender woman a man unless his intention was to insult. It is every bit as insulting to us. I see a clear distinction between the Ohio representative with whom I merely disagree strongly and Senator Cruz who is spreading hate. One raises a concern. The others sees me as such an inferior being deemed unqualified to know my own gender and himself supreme arbiter of who is a man and who is a woman. His identity policing is a clear case of hate and all who support him are complicit.
Video of Ted Cruz speaking to a crowd, during which he consistently misgenders trans people.