As I went on my 4-mile run this morning, like every other time I run, I think about a lot of different things and I mean a lot. As a writer, most of the time, it’s about that. But other times, it could be how far I plan on running (on a particular day), how long my sore legs and knees will hold up, how the hell a particular song ended up on my playlist, what will be happening at work or what my family and I will be having for dinner that evening.
But this morning, I actually thought about transgender men and women and the use of restrooms. Now people have made their opinions very clear and are not the least bit shy about sharing them. Many simply are not okay with transgenders using the restrooms of the gender they identify with.
I will be totally honest. I had my reservations about this as well. I am a big supporter of the LGBT community, but my mind was more on those who would take advantage of this. It’s sickening that some out there would do that, but that is unfortunately the world we live in. I will honestly say that I can’t entirely blame people for allowing their minds to go here and be more concerned with the bad folks out there than the good.
So again, yes, I did have my reservations. That is, until I realized one thing…
…that I am a black man.
As I will be 37 in a few months, I didn’t exactly forget that I’m black, but in really thinking about it, I am someone who has dealt with quite a bit of discrimination as well; mostly as a black child growing up in Baltimore City.
I refer back to the times I walked into stores and was followed. I’m not even talking about a look here and there. I mean, seriously followed around the store. Asked every few minutes if I “needed anything.” That really bothered me. In the beginning, I didn’t understand why. Here I was, a 10, 11 or 12-year-old who was there to buy something silly, like candy, a rubber ball, a soda or something like that. I had absolutely no intentions of stealing anything. However, I was treated the way I was based on how the bad kids behaved. So, because of what they did, I had to “suffer” for it. It wasn’t a good feeling at all. I felt that I was wrong just for being there.
I was also stopped many times by police officers, even handcuffed on occasion. The reason? Because I “matched the description of” someone else or that I “looked suspicious.” It was basically around the same age and I felt the same way…that I was wrong because of what others did. I tried to really understand this and in a way, I kinda sorta did. Just like the store manager, the police couldn’t really wait for me to do something before they arrested me. They were just being cautious, right? But that was a very small consolation to how humiliated I was to have to endure that.
Now, would it have been fair for me to NOT be allowed to shop at whatever store just because of what the bad kids did? How about not being allowed to play hide-and-seek with my friends on the city streets just because I “looked suspicious” or “matched someone’s description”? Oh yeah…hide-and-seek. Hide-and-freaking-seek. That’s what I was doing when police would stop me as a 10 and 11-year-old. At the time, I didn’t realize there were so many kids out there who were in jail for things like burglary, arson, hell, even murder. The extent of MY juvenile delinquency was taking a pencil off my teacher’s desk one time. So at the time, I had no idea how I could even be looked at the way I was by store managers, police officers and so on.
But again, I ask…would it have been okay for me to not be able to do the things I did just because of the bad people? That’s the way I feel about transgender men and women and restroom use. So yes…there very well can be people who would take advantage of that. But that’s nothing new. People try to take advantage of damn near everything. So, because of those bad people, transgender people should NOT be able to use the bathrooms of the gender they identify with?
I understand that Bruce Springsteen said that he would not perform in North Carolina because of the law being passed that transgender people cannot use the restrooms of the gender they identify with. I haven’t really researched the story or know the specifics in great detail, so anyone reading, feel free to correct me if I’m wrong.
Now, I am obviously nowhere near the level that Mr. Springsteen is. I am merely an Army soldier with 19 years of service. I am largely forgotten about unless it is Veteran’s Day, or maybe Memorial Day as I am in a pool for a several hundred thousand other service members. There is nothing I could “threaten” that would make anyone lose an ounce of sleep. Hell, most people may not even read this.
But passion for something cannot exist only when we think people are watching or reading. It doesn’t matter that I’m not on Springsteen’s level or status, nor how few people will likely read this. Wrong is wrong. Again, I get why some would have a problem with this or wouldn’t agree, but as someone who has been discriminated against many times, I have to say that this is one I had to really look at and think about. I saw that it was absolutely not right to pay more attention to the bad people who might do this or that than the ones who simply want to be treated fairly.
On top of that, I also think about this. When the hell are we going to start holding those “bad” people accountable? Why are we always catering to them? So people don’t deserve certain rights because of what the bad people may do? Let’s take women for example. So, a woman wants to go out one weekend. What do we tell her?
Be careful of the way you dress.
Don’t go out by yourself.
Don’t leave your drink unattended.
Don’t flirt with everyone.
Don’t drink too much.
Don’t be “too” polite to men.
Don’t breathe in a man’s presence or you’ll get raped and if you do, that’s YOUR fault.
Okay, maybe not that last one, but hell…it may as well be that bad. But what do we say to the men who may potentially do this? Nothing. The women have to tiptoe around the city and wherever because of how men may act, while we’re afraid to tell men how they should behave. All these “rules” are created to dictate how the woman should carry herself “just in case,” but not a word said to these men.
I get that we have to be careful. I totally understand that. But there comes a time when we have to stop adjusting everything to those who will do bad things and stop taking basic rights away from those who do not.
Now I’m far from stupid. There will be a ton of people who are 100% against the LGBT community and will only use this as a crutch. No surprise there and many times, it’s pretty obvious as to who these people are.
I don’t expect everyone to agree with me. Hell, I’ve been married to a woman who happens to be white for the past almost 17 years, so to be disagreed with is really nothing new for me. Take a number. But that won’t change what I feel about this.
If we continued to cater to the “bad” folks out there or everyone who didn’t agree with something, then women would never have been allowed to vote. Blacks and whites would still be segregated. Gay marriage would still not be allowed.
The fact is that times are changing and in my opinion, progressing in a great direction. I say all this as a straight man. I would hate for a law to be passed that says that because of the black people who may shoplift, I could not frequent certain stores. That I couldn’t go outside and play catch with my son or teach my daughter how to ride her bike without “fitting the description” of someone else who committed a crime.
You may say, “But Robert, that’s different.” I really don’t think it is. Of course, the circumstances surrounding it are, but discrimination is discrimination. In a transgender person’s case, they are being judged or pre-judged because of what could happen and just as in my examples, mainly because of the prejudices and biases that exist. Again, because of the ones who may want to do wrong, those who do not are being made to suffer for it.
“But Robert, what about your wife and daughter…” What about them? The two most important girls in my life mean everything in the world to me, but I don’t believe encouraging them to be prejudiced, paranoid, or to stereotype is going to stop anything from happening. As I always suggest, I will encourage them to vigilant and mindful of their surroundings. Crimes don’t avoid happening just because we don’t want them to happen. Yes, there’s being careful, but there’s also addressing those who commit the crimes. Here, if the issues is that men may sneak into a women’s bathroom, well hell, they could’ve done that before.
People love to say, “We’re just worried about the perverts who will use this as an opportunity to use the women’s bathrooms.” That’s a tired argument. It’s as if perverts were all just sitting around and NOT being perverts, as they waited for this to happen. Not like this was EVER considered before, nor will there be other ways they can continue to be perverts. Let’s think about this: So a man decides that he wants to dress up like a woman to sneak into the bathroom. Do you seriously think a law would give him the “green light” to do so? It wasn’t at all possible that he’s wanted to or even did it before? Maybe we should address how people like this behave rather than to make it a problem that those who do nothing wrong have to deal with.
The bottom line is and has always been this. You can either get on board or get left behind.
Because change IS happening, whether people want it to or not. And I for one, as someone who has and is still at times, discriminated against, will NOT be the person who says it’s okay to do the very same thing to transgender people that I didn’t feel it was okay to have done to me.