Douglas Whaley. Law professor, gay rights advocate, atheist, heart transplant recipient, actor, director, novelist, playwright, bridge player, husband, father, cat owner, storyteller. Much humor and, since the writer is a teacher, advice on many topics.
Today is Trans Day of Remembrance, reflecting on discrimination, including death, of trans individuals.
law has long banned discrimination on sex and gender, a move originally made to
protect the civil rights of African Americans with (a quirk of political history)
women thrown in as an afterthought.When
the question about the scope of the Civil Rights Act was addressed the courts originally
ruled that “sex” did not include “sexual orientation.” But in the last few years a number of federal courts
changed their minds about this and held that “sex” does extend protection to
gays.Other federal courts disagreed and
the matter is likely headed to the Supreme Court.The Obama administration sided with a broad
reading, protecting sexual orientation, and also issued regulations that “gender”
should be interpreted to protect transgender individuals who believe they were
born as the wrong gender and work to change that as they get older.
Barack Obama is no longer our president and the Trump administration, having
already decided that trans soldiers should be tossed out of the military, has
recently circulated a proposed change in federal regulations that would state “Sex
means a person’s status as male or female based on immutable biological traits
identifiable by or before birth,” adding that “the sex listed on a person’s
birth certificate, as originally issued, shall constitute definitive proof of a
person’s sex unless rebutted by reliable genetic evidence.”For the New York Times article on all this
adopted this change would encourage the states to enact so-called “bathroom”
bills that would require transgendered folks to use restrooms of the gender
they were born with, even if they have so dramatically changed themselves that
they no longer conform in any way to that gender.
at this, George Godwyn, who is not himself transgendered, went on Facebook with
I posted a picture of Buck Angel, a transgender adult
film actor, in a few of large, sometimes huge, Trump groups. The picture showed
a very buff, ripped Mr. Angel from the waist up, shirtless, with a shaved head
and sporting a Fu Manchu mustache. He is an extremely masculine looking guy.
With the picture I included the question “This person has a vagina. Which
bathroom should they use?”
is a picture of Buck Angel:
I thought at least some of these
people will realize how silly it would be to want this man to use the ladies
room. How socially awkward and alarming that would be, in so many situations.
Putting aside how dangerous it would be for the man, simply on the basis of the
immediate, practical effect on the other diners in the given Applebee’s or
wherever it was happening.
The post got hundreds of comments,
finally thousands. Immediately. The Trump supporters had a very clear answer
and they were adamant about it. Almost no one answered with “the men’s room”. A few
said things like “if they’ve got a vagina, they use a woman’s room, if they
have a penis, they use the men’s room.” But the majority of the of the
commenters had an answer I hadn’t considered at all. These people had worked
out a very simple solution to the problem of transgender people and the norms
revolving public restrooms.
They wanted transgender people to
They were quite explicit about it,
very blunt. “They should die.” That simple. That concise. “They should die.”
Let me be entirely clear about this
– they knew what they were saying, they knew exactly what they wanted. They
didn't want a trans man in the men's room and they didn't want a trans man in
the woman's room. They wanted the trans man to be dead.
are in fact murdered with horrifying frequency, particularly male to females,
and these crimes often go unsolved or result in ridiculously small punishments meted
out by judges or juries who have little regard for the deceased victims.Consider that current statistics indicate
that 1.4 million people in the United States are transgender.Should their lives be lesser?
have quite a history with the gay rights movement in Ohio, being one of the founders
of Stonewall Columbus, the leading gay group in Columbus (established in
1981).See the Related Posts below for
many of my discussions about the battles to allow to have gays have the same rights as
everyone else—no more, no less.
the gay rights movement was finally getting major traction in the 1970s and 80s
one of the first questions was whether to include bisexuals in the categories of people to be protected.Believe it or not, some controversy
existed as to this.Many studies showed that
there were actually very few true gay male bisexuals. Most men claiming that title ultimately
turned out to be on a path to coming out as a gay man.But the evidence was strong that a goodly
number of women really were bisexual in orientation.And, as someone pointed out to me at the
time, if these folks will join our cause if we let them , why not swell the gathering chorus demanding fair treatment for sexual
it makes sense to say that straight people’s misunderstanding of what is going
on is not grounds for treating sexual minorities—all of them—as subject to
different rules in a civilized world.Sexual
minorities are discriminated against because of an inborn characteristic having
to do with sex that is different than problems encountered by the large majority of people. Plus transexuals have the same acceptance problem as homosexuals.All the LGBT lettered babies are born into a straight-dominated
world that doesn’t understand them, a world that thinks what they want to do
sexually is a choice (and a bad, even evil one at that), and condemns them for
making that choice.The answer to this
mess is the same too:educate the
populace to understand that LGBT individuals should be judged on merits having
to do with matters other than sexual orientation or gender identification.Let's use Martin Luther King Jr.'s standard: the content of their character.
the scientific and sociological evidence supports the biological assertions in
the above paragraph.Gays can’t choose
who to be sexually attracted to; trans people are born knowing what sex they
are even when it does not match the body they inhabit.No one is making this up, and the social
problems caused by misunderstanding these issues must be solved in favor of
treating all people equally.Give
everybody a chance to make the most out of the life they have been handed.
you doubt homosexuality is a natural biological phenomenon, look at the scientific
evidence.Even in the animal kingdom it’s
routine.In the 1999 book “”Biological
Exuberance” Dr. Bruce Bademihl, in incredible detail, explores the more than
450 species of mammals, birds, reptiles, insects worldwide who engage in
are largely winning the public acceptance battle, but---damn it---the trans
community is in trouble.The chief
reason is that the nature of transgender problems sounds too bizarre and foreign for most people.But if you are a mother
whose three year old son tells you that “I’m really a girl, Mama,” you’ll have
to confront a very different future than you had planned.How parents (and society) react to this
statement makes all the difference.Forcing the child to behave and adopt the trappings of the birth sex—the
usual choice—does not work, any more than forcing gay people to marry the
opposite sex does.As soon as the trans
child figures out what is really going on and how to escape, he or she sets out to
do what can be done to become the person he or she knows is the true center of
struggles are huge, scary, and very hard for people who are born into the
“right” sex (“cisgender” people: those happy with the sex assigned at birth,
i.e., most of us) to understand.Or, even
understanding, then empathizing with.Want to see what it would be like?Test your empathy for the dilemma?Hmm.Try this: Watch at least one
episode of the FX show entitled “Pose,” which tells the incredible story of the
trans community in 1980s NYC (eight
terrific episodes so far), acted mostly by trans actors themselves.Season One is available on cable’s FX
or on Amazon Prime.If you watch the
first episode you will watch them all.
Godwyn’s Reddit post on how astounded he was at the hatred he encountered by
supporting transgendered people only emboldened him further.Here is his conclusion:
I don’t care who you are, I don’t care where you are
in the political spectrum, I don’t care how fucking liberal or leftist you are,
I don’t care how feminist you are, if you don’t support trans-rights, you are
not on my fucking side. I don’t give a fuck about your bio–essentialist
arguments, I don’t give a fuck about your history with men, I don't care about
your pissing eight year old or your bigot grandmother. Frankly, I don’t give a
fuck about your traumatic sexual assault if it means you’re going to take it
out on some fucking teenage girl who doesn’t want to have to use a bathroom
with a bunch of frat boys and have the same fucking thing happen to her.
my own final thought.We are in a world
in which decisions are being made about who is worth protecting.Me?I choose
Well, by golly, it sure looks like Trump and the Republicans in
Congress have succeeded in putting a man on the Supreme Court who has a past involving
ugly behavior with women (especially in his early drinking days).But Brett Michael Kavanaugh appears to have
reformed and now is a model of how a man should behave when dealing with and
hiring women, and good for him for that.However, his past is still there, somewhere.It isn’t going away.People are going to find it and display it
for the world to consider.
Almost all of us have some incident or incidents in our personal history where we did not behave in accordance with the image we have of ourselves, nor observe
standards we hold ourselves to in our normal lives.These things are incredibly painful to think
about.And we don’t think about them—or try not to.Now imagine how horrible it would be to have debated on television with millions of
people watching!Yikes!Poor Brett!
Here’s Justice Kavanaugh’s problem.If the allegations against him are true (as
many people, myself included, believe) there are lots of witnesses still around
who saw or experienced this debauchery when Brett was intoxicated
and partying.Women/girls were pawed,
insulted, roughly handled, assaulted, and, in some allegations, even
raped.Now that Dr. Christine Blasey Ford
has opened the door for women to come forward, we are going to hear from lots
more of them.Attorney Michael Avenatti,
a legal bulldog with his jaws firmly clamped around Kavanaugh’s leg, is finding
more and more of these women to speak up, tell their stories, and these tales
are all going have very similar threads: drunken behavior making an otherwise
fine man do indefensible things.
Avenatti is not alone.With a saga this good, a historical event inevitably unwinding day by
day, and a public fascinated by this train-wreck-in- progress, digging into Kavanaugh’s
past will be the favorite sport not only of story-hungry reporters but also historians
(professional or not) who want to see where the trails lead, and thus the unraveling begins.Names, etched in history, are
going to be made from this investigation.Mark Judge, Kavanaugh’s boozehound friend, has clammed up so far, but at
some point someone is going to get him to talk.
Lawsuits are highly likely to be filed against Brett Kavanaugh,
and his status as an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court will
not shield him even slightly from such troubles.
Legal nightmares will take up a lot of his time and keep him in the news
while he gamely tries to concentrate of the legitimate business of the Supreme
Court. In Maryland and the other
jurisdictions in which these events supposedly took place there is no statute
of limitations for rape or attempted rape.
How will it look when People v.
Kavanaugh is on the nightly news for months as the trials takes place?
One of the Justice’s problems (a difficulty, alas, we all have)
is the matter of “confabulation.”Confabulation is the mental trick by which we all rewrite our own history, changing the details, telling the story
slightly each time, building up false memories, often of events that when refigured
are completely the opposite of what really occurred.I’ve written about this before when it
happened to new anchor Brian Williams, causing him to resign from his NBC Nightly
News post [see Related Posts below].Here’s
how it always happens: the first time we relate a story about what occurred it's usually more or less right.The
second time the story changes slightly but we don’t notice it.The third time it’s quite different, and so
on.You can be certain this plays a part
in Kavanaugh’s reactions to the charges against him.His versions of his conduct as a teenager (which
he will believe with all his heart) will omit much that he really did.Everyone does the same cleansing process with
their memories.I do.You do too.But confabulated events in our own minds are not thereby made factually true.And when the evidence of what really happened is displayed for all to see, shocking
us to our core, doom can follow swiftly.
If this happens either Kavanaugh will be forced to resign or
Congress will take steps to impeach him.There have not been many impeachments of federal officials in our national
history, but the majority of those that ending in a guilty vote were of federal
I may be very wrong about this case.Kavanaugh might be totally innocent in spite
of that damning high school yearbook (exhibit A in his trials), and if so there
is nothing worth pursuing.The scandal will
piddle out, or at least be no more than an ugly incident in his past like that
of Justice Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill from 1991 when lesser allegations of
sexual misconduct were made against that jurist.
But I doubt that’s the result here.And I suspect every night when Kavanaugh’s
head touches his pillow he says a silent prayer that he won’t wake up to
morning news with headlines screaming his name.Every night.For years.
I will turn 75 this September so, readers, let me take you
back to a world from the last century where things worked like this:
1.When you called
the phone number of a business or governmental agency a real person answered your call and promptly directed you to the
appropriate area of the entity.This
real person spoke English in a clear fashion and could be reasoned with if there
was a problem.I know this is hard to
believe, but try.
2.Life did not
revolve around a little machine that you were required to carry with you at all
times lest you miss important messages (emails, texts, popup warnings) or be
stranded without entertainment.If you
were going to be detained and wanted something to amuse yourself you carried a physical
book.I know this sounds crazy.
3.You were not
exposed to unwanted advertisements in every direction you turned and
particularly not when trying to do something important like seeking help in an
emergency or troubling situation.It
would have been considered rude to begin a contact with a prospective customer
by forcing him/her to first view and then delete an ad.Businesses doing so would have been shunned
But what I miss most about these “good old days” was that the
entities with whom you had dealings were very good (on the whole—there were, of
course, exceptions) with listening to your problem and suggesting a
solution.Nowadays when you face a
problem, say a difficulty caused by your television cable company, there are a
number of gloomy steps you can anticipate before you ever get to the final
person who might be able to help you.You
can bet you’ll spend something close to an hour before there's any chance of a
Consider my dilemma of last Saturday.
As a certified Chicago Cubs fan since 1968 (see Related
Posts below for the evidence) I have been thrilled since the Cubs finally won
the World Series (after a drought lasting since 1908).My enthusiasm led me this year to signing up (at
a cost of over $170) with Spectrum for access to the Major League Baseball
channels that broadcast most games on a daily basis.Every day I hunt up and record the Cubs game
and DVR it so that I can watch it at my leisure later in that day or the next,
skipping commercials and rain delays and replays and conferences on the mound,
etc.It takes me about two hours to
watch a game, and faster if the Cubs get far ahead or behind.
Every so often the game I have chosen fails to record, but
this is rare, or was until this past weekend when for two days in a row scheduled
recordings failed to materialize.
With considerable dread (since I have had these dismal telephone
battles with Spectrum in the past) I put in a call to Spectrum and encountered
the usual telephone tree, starting with a cheery recorded female voice asking me
to answer a series of questions (“Is this call in connection with the account
listed for the phone number you have used to call us today?”).I endured various mechanical queries until I
was given choices for the next step, and I chose “Cable Box,” hoping it would
be right.Reaching the next branch on
the tree I was told there would be a wait but that they would call me back if I
wanted them to, so I chose that option and hung up.Ten minutes later a real person in the voice
of a woman who sounded like it had been a long day for her asked me to describe
I launched into an explanation of all of the above, adding
that I was paying extra for this service and it was annoying to have it fail
me, and then asking how it could be fixed.
“You’ve reached the wrong department,” was her laconic
response.“Let me transfer you to the
television branch.”Trying not to snarl
I replied, “Please,” and waited through about two minutes of flute solo until a young man with a
confident voice asked how he could help me.I took a deep breath and recreated my story once again, with the same
plea about wasted money, and then waited for his expertise.“Sounds like you should have rebooted,” he commented dryly. This annoyed me.I have in the
past rebooted the cable system when told to do so, but didn’t know it was
expected of me for any and all problems.The man smugly replied, “Oh, you should reboot every two weeks to keep
the system running properly.”I felt
anger rising in me.“And how would I have
known this?” I asked.He ignored by
question and merely repeated, “It’s just what you should be doing.Of course we could send out a man to look
over the problem in a day or two, but if you’ll just reboot regularly that
should solve the problem.”Suppressing
words I first learned in my Navy days and tamping down the urge to demand that
some of my wasted money be refunded, I muttered that I would try it and clicked
I did reboot and since then have successfully recorded one
game, but I’m still pissed.Now I must train
myself to reboot every two weeks to solve problems that Spectrum itself
creates, and (like most consumers in 2018 I'm resigned to accept that it was all my fault) I will probably adapt to this regimen.I abandoned up
any attempt to press Spectrum for a refund of some of my money.The amount is too small and even though I could
make them do it (I’m a Professor of Law and a nationally known expert on
consumer legal rights) it would take more effort than it's worth.Pursuing this with the smug young man I'd been
talking to would have led me further into the Spectrum telephone maze before I
got to their legal department and explained how easy it would be for me to file
a complaint in the Small Claims Court and the joy it would give me to put a
garnishment on Spectrum’s bank account if the company didn’t promptly pay
up.I have done such things in the past
when sufficiently angered, but recovering, say, $4.84 wouldn’t be a wise
expenditure of my time, however pleasurable it would be to annoy Spectrum in
this way.You have to pick your battles,
so I surrendered on this one.
But consider what sheep
we’ve all become in 2018. The
corporations with whom we must deal (and governmental agencies, etc.) really don’t
care if their consumer complaint systems are efficient from the consumer’s
point of view. Their major concern is to
set up a system convenient (and cheap as possible) for the company. The electronic voices get no pay and don’t
drain corporate coffers in the way human operators would. And once most people realize that there is no
simple solution that will help, many of them will just live with the agony rather
than spend an inappropriate amount of time scaling that telephonic tree,
wasting a productive part of the day.
Apparently there’s no profit in making things easy for your customers
once you’ve hooked them.
So, damn it, I’m a sheep because I can’t be anything else if
I want to watch those Cub games.