Thursday, February 23, 2017
We were reminded this week of an old George Carlin quote that was printed on the Monitor’s Forum page not long ago: “Save the planet? We don’t even know how to take care of ourselves yet. We haven’t learned how to care for one another.” It’s true, especially that last part, and if you need evidence just ask a transgender person.
On Wednesday, Donald Trump withdrew federal protections for transgender students who want only to use the school bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity. The move was driven by Trump’s evangelical base, which fallaciously argues that the Obama administration directive that granted those protections placed students in harm’s way. A spokesman for the conservative Family Research Council told the New York Times that “the federal government has absolutely no right to strip parents and local schools of their rights to provide a safe learning environment for children.” This is bigotry poorly disguised as states’ rights, and it’s disingenuous to claim otherwise. Even Trump’s handpicked education secretary, Betsy DeVos, seemed to recognize it as a civil rights, not states’ rights, issue – or at least she did until Trump gave her a choice between her own principles and his. Judging by the speed in which she returned to lockstep, it was an easy decision.
In New Hampshire, lawmakers are attempting to go in the opposite direction of Trump’s White House by proposing a bill that would prohibit discrimination based on gender identity. As it stands, it is illegal in New Hampshire to discriminate based on age, sex, race, color, marital status, physical or mental disability, religious creed or national origin. “Gender identity” clearly belongs on the list, and passage of House Bill 478 should be a slam-dunk. But here is what those who want to protect the transgender community from bigotry are up against: One woman who testified against the bill said she would be “too frightened to use a public bathroom” if she “knew there could be a man in there.” That is a tired argument based on an irrational premise, yet somehow it is given legitimacy every time such a bill is debated. And then there was the therapist from Texas who testified that the bill attempts to “redefine what it means to be human.” We couldn’t disagree more. The bill represents the finest, most advanced traits of humanity: empathy, compassion, fairness and goodwill.
Day after day, Trump proves that as a society we haven’t learned to care for one another. State lawmakers have the opportunity to make that a little less true.