A Letter to HB2 Supporters#WeAreNotThis
Facts Not Fear: A Letter to HB2 Supporters
By: Trey Greene
It is my hope that this letter will reach one person who needs to hear it, whether it is a protester of LGBTQ equality who takes the time to consider my words, someone who wants some talking points when educating others, or someone who is questioning or in need of support and wants to reach out to us at Transcend Charlotte. I wrote this to the protesters at the original ordinance vote when it passed in Charlotte, so I will not address HB2 specifically, but my points still stand. I am deeply saddened by what has happened in our state.
First, I want to say thank you to the very angry man at the Nondiscrimination Ordinance vote who called me “queer boy” for correctly recognizing my gender. I’m sure it was quite by accident, but I appreciate your support nonetheless for the acknowledgment that some men do in fact have vaginas. But I must say I was equally confused when you and your friends proceeded to yell for the rest of evening that I should use the women’s restroom or more confounding that I don’t exist at all? If you will allow me, I’d like to try to clarify a few myths from my perspective as a sexual assault educator, clinician at a rape crisis center, graduate student with a degree in religion, and a man of faith.
There are four myths I want to address:
- If transwomen are allowed to use the women’s restroom, sexual assaults will increase, and women and children will be less safe.
- Transgender people are such a small minority….
- LGBTQ people do not really exist (i.e. God doesn’t make mistakes).
- The Bible says nothing about transgender people. (It does!)
Myth #1 – If transwomen are allowed to use the women’s restroom, sexual assaults will increase, and women and children will be less safe.
Let’s break this down. I work with survivors of sexual assault, and both stranger and bathroom rape is rare. We want to believe that stranger rape is the norm, but it is not. 90% of sexual abuse and assaults are committed by someone you know, most often a family member or a good friend. People you trust are the ones who are most often assaulting your children, not strangers in the bathroom. We have a hard time with this is our society because it feels better to think of attackers as some shadowy person in an alley or sneaking into a bathroom, but those cases are the exception to the rule. It is much more likely that the adult who you have entrusted to take your child to the restroom will be the perpetrator than a stranger. But that is terrifying to us and impossible to believe, so most everyone’s response is, “No, no one I know would ever do that.” But almost every child who is sexually abused has family members who said the same thing, who never thought their child’s priest, counselor, uncle, sister, or teacher would do that to their child. 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused, and 90% of the time, you know the perpetrator, and it is often someone you trust with your child.
Second, a perpetrator who is seeking to sexually assault someone in a bathroom is not going to stop because the door says for women or men only. This ordinance is not protecting anyone but the transgender people who, surprise, are already using the bathroom in public. This is so there is legal backing when I or any person who may be mistaken for the wrong gender may be faced with arrest when we were simply trying to pee safely. It is not such a simple matter for many of us as you believe. I was assigned female at birth, but you would call the police immediately if you saw me in the women’s room. You will never likely do so because I pass as male and go to the men’s room where I belong, but for those who don’t pass, the majority of transgender people, who can’t afford to transition, are in the middle of the process, or do not wish to alter their bodies, it is not so simple. We are all aware that people exist who we look at and cannot determine for sure what their gender is. These people, transgender or not, are often faced with the choice not between those little male and female symbols as cisgender people are but between potential assault or arrest. This ordinance is for those people, so they can choose the “arrest” door knowing that if the police are called, they have legal standing to pee safely without going to jail. They are not exposing themselves. They are going into the stall and peeing just like everyone else. If they exposed themselves to you, that would still be a crime. There is no reason in a women’s room that anyone should be seeing anyone’s genitals anyway! There are no urinals there, and no one is suggesting that there should be. In fact, I’d be all for eliminating them altogether…
Third, the scenario of a man dressing like a woman and trying to rape someone in the bathroom makes no sense. I understand that some people who understand trans issues are truly fearful this will happen, but people do not typically try to rape in bathrooms. It’s not private, and someone can come in anytime. As a location, it’s a poor choice for a perpetrator. Parking garages are much more common. And if a man is trying to sneak into the wrong bathroom, the last thing he wants is to draw attention to himself, so why is he dressing up like a woman? Men who dress up like women do not often pass very well. Transwomen who pass without surgical procedures put a lot of work, time, and often money into doing so. Ordinance or not, a cisgender man in women’s clothes is going to draw a lot of attention. If you see a woman who doesn’t pass, most likely, she’s just trying to find a safe place to pee. For the hypothetical attacker, it’s much easier to just take a quick right into the women’s room than to dress up or claim being trans. If he touches someone or exposes himself, he’s still committing a crime. If there are multiple women in there or he aborts the assault for whatever reason, he can much more easily just back out of the room and say he went in the wrong door than going to the trouble of saying, “Oops…I’m actually transgender, and I’m supposed to be here.” That explanation is going to be treated a lot more harshly than the former one by most people.
Fourth, there is ample evidence that trans people are being assaulted and none to support that trans people or people pretending to be trans are the perpetrators of these crimes. Statistics show, depending on which study you look at, that 50-70% of transgender people have been sexually abused or assaulted. And bathrooms are a common area where this happens because this is the most common place where a person’s being transgender becomes an issue for other people. Does this ordinance mean that will stop happening? No, of course not. But it does mean that transgender people have the option of going into the bathroom where they feel safest without being arrested for it which can prevent some of these incidents.
Myth #2 – Transgender people are such a small minority…
I’m not sure what this is supposed to followed with… We don’t matter? First, it doesn’t matter if there is only one of us. That one person deserves to be safe. No one is arguing that the small percentage of women and girls (or men, boys, and others for that matter) who are assaulted in bathrooms don’t matter. What if that one person who was such a minority was your child? Each transgender person’s life matters, and our lives are in danger. Transwomen of color are especially vulnerable to assault and attack. And these are the very people you are fighting to keep from having a safe bathroom to use. I would think that especially followers of Jesus who told the parable of leaving the 99 sheep to save the one would understand the value of each person. And we are not such a minority. I cannot tell you how many people have contacted us at Transcend Charlotte needing help, people in their 50’s and 60’s who have been unable to come out or tell anyone of their being trans out of fear until now. My mom, who several years ago believed just like you and was disgusted by LGBTQ people, has started paying attention. She said on the phone just this week that trans people are everywhere. We are. We are your therapists, preschool teachers, pediatricians, police officers, and exist in any role you can name. We are everywhere and are just choosing not to remain silent anymore. So if you are out there, trans or questioning and need support, know that you are not alone. It doesn’t matter your age or where you are in the process, send an email to Transcend Charlotte or to me personally, and we will connect you with others and people who can support you. Every life matters.
Myth #3 – God doesn’t make mistakes, so LGBTQ people and particularly transgender people do not really exist. I understand that this is based on the belief that LGBTQ is an acronym to many that represents people making choices that are contrary to the will of God, unnatural, and perverse. First, I can assure you that I exist and would argue that I am not a mistake. J But I cannot tackle that in a meaningful way that you will hear or have not already heard. But this “God doesn’t make mistakes” business is problematic to me. There are children born with diseases and disabilities every day who prove that we cannot know the mind of God. You can think of these as mistakes, that there are reasons for this that we cannot see, or that God doesn’t exist, but any explanation feels lacking for believers. Transgender people are a different thing altogether, but the principle of being born different from what is considered normal can be applied. Do you also deny that intersex people exist? In them, you can physically see ambiguity in internal organs, genitalia, and/or other characteristics. Doctors sometimes cannot determine the sex of a baby at birth because of this. How do you categorize this person? Are they a mistake? Should they be celebate for life to be “safe” as was suggested to me by a Jehovah’s Witness who knocked on my door a few years ago? If a person can exist physically and naturally with this ambiguity, is it such a stretch to think that some people are born with these gender ambiguous characteristics in ways that you cannot see – brain structure, the mind, etc.?
Myth #4 – The Bible says nothing about transgender people.
Note: I will be addressing Christian concerns because that is my background and who I most see protesting. I understand some other religions may have objections as well and hope some of this is applicable to your chosen faith.
First of all, I was raised by a Southern Baptist deacon and believe in “God”, which I put in quotations out of simple respect for the many ways people define this greater force in the universe, one that I believe cannot be summed up in a single book or three-letter word. I am speaking to Christians in your faith as I was one of you and still greatly respect the words of Jesus. I hope to show how I believe the Bible speaks extensively about the issues we were grappling with at the ordinance vote and feelings that continue on because of it.
“Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” -Matthew 22:37-39
Someone at the meeting had argued that the first commandment trumps the second, so to speak, that you were somehow showing love of God in your actions towards me and my peers. The second commandment though is “like” the first. To love God is to love his children. In fact, if you read on, Jesus says himself that all the laws are hinged on these two commandments, love. I felt only your hatred at that meeting. You were not trying to save me. In fact, many of you told me to my face that I was not worth saving. There was darkness in your words and in your actions, so much so that it was suffocating in that room. You spoke ironically of evil masking itself as good, and I can’t imagine how you cannot see how you are being eaten alive by hatred and self-righteousness.
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” – Matthew 7:1-2
Even if you are correct, and I am committing this abomination you speak of, I ask you to remember the people who Jesus sat with and showed love to, those who self-proclaimed religious people had deemed unworthy. And he never once put his hands on them in anger and screamed in their faces. In fact, I know many who want to believe, people who you are driving as far away from that as possible with your venom because you lead them to believe that you represent Christ, and you are perhaps as far from that as humanly possible. Some of you may come in good faith and truly believe I am on the wrong path, but the ones representing you, the majority of those I saw remind me of who Jesus had the most rage towards.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness…you blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!” – Matthew 23: 23-24
If your goal is to bring people to the church, as you say, you are failing in your mission. You await the second coming of Christ, and it is you who would not recognize him by your own teachings. I hypothesize that you would cry “blasphemy!” And then you would have him put to death all over again, just as many of you do to my transgender peers who you do not try to hear or understand.
“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, and do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all that I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.” -1 Corinthians 13:1-5
Without love, everything you stand for is meaningless. I was most saddened of all at the meeting when I heard many of you laughing at a woman who had nothing to do with us, a woman obviously suffering from mental illness and hallucinations who stood up to speak in the open forum. How can you sit in your place of privilege and snicker at someone who is ill? Is that compassionate?
“He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” –Micah 6:8
I will not forget the subhuman way you treated me and my peers at that meeting. I will not forget that a large and angry man laid hands on that woman in anger trying to drag her out of the line, the man who called me “queer boy”, who said I wasn’t worth it. And then you all proceeded to almost trample my girlfriend and all the other people in line because you clearly thought we meant nothing, that we were not worthy of the respect and dignity you were charged with showing your fellow humans. I will not forget that I have heard people having panic attacks, having suicidal thoughts, and feeling intense depression because of exposure to your hatred. You can disagree with me. You can believe that LGBTQ people are all going to hell. But you cannot by your own code deny our collective personhood, and that whatever you believe our origins are, we have the same one. I will support your right to believe whatever you wish, but I will never support your using those beliefs to harm other people. I leave you with this.
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” – Galatians 3:28
You see, the Bible does talk about transgender people, and not just in saying that there will be or is neither male or female, but it speaks of it throughout because transgender people are just people. We are just as human and worthy of love as you are. I listened to you at the meeting, and I heard no kindness, no humility, and certainly no love. If there was any there, it was drowned out by those louder voices, the ones so filled with spite that it literally made me feel sick.
While I do not consider myself religious anymore because of the poison it breeds and because I believe that whatever force exists is greater than any single person or group can lay claim to understanding, I do respect the teachings of those who have come before and spoke the truth. You claim to speak for Jesus, and yet your words and actions violate everything he stood for, and I believe with all my heart if he is somewhere watching, he is ashamed, because you are sanctioning hatred and harm to people he loves.
If you would like to share your thoughts or if you need support, reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. And if you are able to do so, please support our efforts to overturn this law and create safe spaces for all people – attend a rally, contact your representatives, or donate to our organization and others who are fighting for this cause.