A Southern Pastor: Ten Things You Need To Know About Bathrooms

There are a number of things I wish to address about the current “bathroom controversy.”

1. The President did not issue an Executive Order.

That’s what I keep seeing everyone post about. The U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Education sent a letter to all schools to clarify federal discrimination laws. The President didn’t create anything new here, which brings me to :

2. Title IX

Title IX states, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” This was passed in 1972, and schools have always had to adhere to it or else risk their federal funding.

3. The 14th Amendment

The 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which is cited in more landmark court cases than any other, states, “No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” This was ratified in 1868, so again, nothing new here.

4. And then there is the Civil Rights Act

The Civil Rights Act states, “All persons shall be entitled to the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, and privileges, advantages, and accommodations of any place of public accommodation, as defined in this section, without discrimination or segregation on the ground of race, color, religion, or national origin.” This was enacted in 1964.

5. Boys cannot use any of these to “put on a dress and go into a girl’s bathroom.”

The recent letter states, “The Departments interpret Title IX to require that when a student or the student’s parent or guardian, as appropriate, notifies the school administration that the student will assert a gender identity that differs from previous representations or records, the school will begin treating the student consistent with the student’s gender identity.” This is a major commitment and a huge risk on the part of the student to request to be treated as a different gender, not just something they can do on a whim. And no teenage boy is going to go through the anguish and turmoil which an actual transgender child has to face just to peek into the girl’s bathroom. They can see all the boobs they want for free on the internet, and anyway, I use the girl’s bathroom all the time and I have never seen another girl’s privates while doing so. On the other hand, a culture which depicts females as sexual objects and glorifies male domination and misogyny certainly creates an environment where young girls are often easily coerced and/or abused by young males whom they normally know and trust. This isn’t happening in the bathroom; it is happening in living rooms, cars, classrooms, and at local football games, and anywhere else where teens struggle to find their own identity and try to fit in to the world around them. I know this because I lived it.

6. Are transgender people a threat in women’s bathrooms?

I spent an hour searching the internet to try to find proof that, in fact, transgender people are a threat in women’s bathrooms. There are simply no facts, incidents, or numbers to support it. On the other hand, I spent five minutes and found numerous cases of transgender individuals being attacked when they were forced to use facilities which were not in line with their gender identity. For just one second, consider that it is your child who may have been born with the genitals of a male, but identifies as a female. Imagine that child being forced to use the boy’s bathroom in a public school facility. What about the safety of that child? That is what the recent letter to schools addresses.

7. Transgender adults and children have existed all along.

They have been using the bathroom which represents their gender identity without incident. It is only when you begin to force them back into the opposite bathroom of their identity which leads to violence, and the violence is against them, not by them.

8. The Arkansas governor

In my home state of Arkansas, our governor has directed the schools to disregard the letter from the federal government. Without addressing the actual issue of the protection of transgender children, once again cultural and moral issues are being used to draw party lines rather than to protect citizens. Arkansas does not need another case of the federal government being called in to force adherence to federal laws. I would like to think that now, almost 60 years later, we are all embarrassed by the hatred and intolerance which was shown in 1957 in our state.  Are we seriously revisiting that same backwardness now, in 2016?

9. Galatians 3:28

There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.

Galatians 3:28

10. And that is really the point: we are all children of God.

We are all made in God’s image. We are all loved by God. Therefore, it is our moral duty to love, protect, and welcome all God’s children, even the ones who don’t look like us, or act like us, or maybe we don’t even understand. They are God’s, and our command is to love them. Figure out a way to be helpful. Volunteer at your local high school. Be present in the lives of our youth. Reach out to the ones on the margin. Let children see you showing grace and mercy to all. Teach by example. And then maybe we won’t be raising young men who would see the issue of which bathroom a transgender person uses as an opportunity to attack women. I have more faith in our youth than that. It is the adult politicians who rally around fears like those to keep us divided and our focus away from working together to create a more loving and accepting world for the children we all want to protect.

Melanie Tubbs is a professor, pastor, mother, Mimi, and true Arkansas woman. She lives with nine cats and one dog on a quiet hill in a rural county where she pastors a church and teaches history at the local university. Her slightly addictive personality comes out in shameful Netflix binges and a massive collection of books. Vegetarian cooking, reading mountains of books for her seminary classes, and crocheting for the churches prayer shawl ministry take up most of her free time, and sharing the love of Christ forms the direction of her life. May the Peace of Christ be with You.