Friday, May 13, 2016

Could The Transgender Bathroom Debacle Been Avoided?

Shocks And Aftershocks Rock Politics

The latest shot across the bow in the transgender bathroom access debate was the Obama administration telling schools and colleges nationwide that they must allow transgender students access to bathrooms consistent with their gender identity. This action, while in line with evolving social justice mores, doesn't appear to take into consideration any sense of empathy for those who recently experienced the social equivalent to a natural disaster.

In nature, tectonic plates generally move slowly and steadily, with little noticeable effect on their surroundings. Yet, when the shift on a fault line suddenly moves faster than expected, there are a myriad of effects including a violent disruption in the foundation and status quo -- an earthquake. If you happen to be close to that fault line, earthquakes can be incredibly scary situations: the ground that you once found safe and secure is suddenly moving right underneath you. And, as nature tries to settle in with the new normal, aftershocks follow as the fault line continues to adjust.

The recent spat consisting of laws and ensuing lawsuits over transgender people's access to public bathrooms in North Carolina is clearly an aftershock from the political earthquake created when the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage in 2015. This Supreme Court ruling was an unexpectedly robust achievement for the marriage equality movement. The speed of which gay Americans gained this right was nothing short of astonishing to all observers, detractors and advocates alike.

While progressives cheered and celebrated this sudden and abrupt social justice win, there seemed to be precious little concern -- nevertheless empathy -- in the progressive community for people who happen to live on that fault line who were shocked by the sudden societal shift. For these people, the ground under them shook hard, and the ideals they built up upon that fault line abruptly came crashing down around them. Yes, those on the losing side of the fault line did treat gay Americans like second class citizens with regards to marriage, but that doesn't change how it feels when a belief system -- wrong-headed as many may feel it is -- is overruled by sudden and clear national mandate.

Yet no one from the winning side of this social debate came to help calm fears or help make sense of the change for those whose foundations were rocked by this earthquake. Yes, in the arc of social justice, these people were inevitably going to feel the shock of social progress (they almost always do), but that doesn't change the real anxiety, fear and even anger that occurs when a foundation you've lived on has suddenly been so disrupted.

So it should be of no surprise that there are now aftershocks coming from those who experienced the earthquake. The transgender bathroom laws are just one of many aftershocks that will be felt in response to the initial quake.

In cases like this where social earthquakes occur, wouldn't it behoove the people on the winning side of the fault line to show some compassion and empathy to the losing side that took on the sudden and unexpected collateral damage? While it is understandable that the social progressives may not have much compassion for the views of social conservatives, shouldn't progressives at least feel compelled to have empathy for how these conservatives must feel now that they've lost a sudden, crushing defeat? Or is it all warfare now, where everyone's a soldier?

Would all of these LGBT-related laws and lawsuits transpired if more empathy and care were directed toward the social conservatives who were shocked and shaken by the gay marriage ruling? Probably. But if proper concern were given to the losers of this debate, the aftershocks may have been just a bit more muted, and the rationale slightly less justifiable.