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Right Rallies Against Transgender Bathroom Access

Jan13

transgenderBy Chuck McFadden
Special to Calbuzz

Yes, it has come to this.

Republicans in California have come up with a new way to get their voters to the polls in what appears to be an otherwise somnolent 2014:  Get them excited about which restrooms transgender students should be allowed to use.

“Right has hopes up for a new hot issue,” proclaimed the San Francisco Chronicle on January 6.  “Transgender-student fight seen as energizing the base.”

Higher taxes?  Lower taxes?  Fracking?  Huge tunnels to move water around the Delta?  High-speed rail?  Never mind.  Let’s energize the base with something elemental.

The right is hoping to get an initiative on the November ballot that would upend the “School Success and Opportunity Act,” signed into law in October by Gov. Jerry Brown.  It allows students to use restrooms and locker rooms in accord with their own gender self-identity.

bi-magazineIf a student is born with apparent male physical characteristics, for instance, but consistently and exclusively feels female internally, the student would be allowed to use the girls’ restroom.  San Francisco and Los Angeles school districts have had similar rules for years.

The Privacy for All Students campaign wants no part of it.  They say, disparagingly, that the new law allows students to use “… intimate school facilities such as showers, rest rooms and locker rooms based on their so-called gender identity and not their actual sex.”  The California Republican Party wants to overturn the law as well.  They see an initiative fight as useful for firing up right-wingers who might otherwise be discouraged and lethargic.

“This could get voters who wouldn’t get out on other issues, but will for this,” said Karen England, a conservative activist who is co-chair of the initiative effort.

It may be a new issue that is far afield from what used to be the customary arena of political battle, but it’s part of a time-honored California political tactic:  Get your folks riled up about something, see if you can get it on the ballot via an initiative of some sort, and then pray that your concerned citizens will swarm to the polls to do the “right” thing — and vote for your guy while they’re at it.

huckabeeEngland and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee both say they’re worried that horny high school boys will simply declare themselves transgender so they can shower with the girls.

“How long have guys been trying to get into the girls bathroom?” England asked the Chronicle’s estimable Joe Garofoli.  “Now they just have to assert that they were the opposite gender and they get access.”

Huckabee told a conservative audience last October that if the law had been in effect when he was in high school, “… I’m pretty sure that every boy in my high school would have suddenly felt that he was just a little more comfortable showering with the girls, no matter how uncomfortable the girls might have been with it.”

The fact that Huckabee, a Fox News commentator, has already weighed in increases speculation that the issue might go national, adding another chapter to the nation’s ongoing culture wars.  It would not be the first time the California led the way to Sodom, in the view of cultural conservatives across the nation who deplore “San Francisco values.”

mcfaddenAnd so it goes.  Whether England and her allies will ultimately be successful in getting their initiative on the ballot is an open question.  They need at least 555,236 valid signatures. (It appeared last week that the initial drive to qualify a measure had fallen short or maybe not.)

One thing is for sure:  For those among us who fret that California has been settling into a boring trough of conventional politics, help is on the way.

Chuck McFadden covered politics for The Associated Press in Sacramento. His biography of our very own governor, Trailblazer: A Biography of Jerry Brown is out from the University of California Press. Read here for more on the transgender teen pictured above.


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There are 8 comments for this post

  1. avatar JohnF says:

    Yes, the crazy right will always come up something that really excites them and manages to hide how horrible they are at the act of real governing. Should be good for laughs for us, but it also very sad that these people are just lead around by their fears.

  2. avatar tonyseton says:

    It’s offensive — intellectually as well as politically — that this is couched as a right-wing move. There are myriad people with sound, open minds who believe that this new policy is not a good one. Particularly because it leaves it up to teenagers to make decisions for which, for the most part, they haven’t the intellectual, emotional, or spiritual maturity to make them. We talk about “brain-dead” teenagers as axiomatic, and with their hormones running wild, we expect them to decide on their sexuality? That doesn’t make a lot of sense to a lot of people who aren’t right-wing; people who support gay marriage and other progressive causes. It is not right or reasonable to tar them with the neo-con brush.

    • avatar Donald from Pasadena says:

      Speaking for myself only, I’d much rather trust that teenagers can figure their own sexuality for themselves, than allow adults like you or me to figure it out for them.

      Because to be bluntly honest, until we start developing our own collectively healthy and realistic attitudes about the nature and breadth of human sexuality, all we’re really doing is bequeathing our multitude of phobias and hang-ups about the subject to the next generations. And I don’t find that a good thing at all.

  3. avatar smoker1 says:

    I think a little compassion is called for here. What we have is a church housed in the body of a political party and, naturally, it is very confused. And did Mike Huckabee go to a transgender high school? I didn’t know they existed.

  4. avatar chuckmcfadden says:

    In fact, it is transparently a right-wing move to fire up their base. The opposition to the bill comes from the right, not the left. Take a second look at what Ms. England had to say — “This could get voters who wouldn’t get out on other issues, but will for this.” She doesn’t mean members of the Democratic Party. There may be myriad people with sound, open minds who think it’s a not a good policy, but the political opposition is coming from the right.

  5. avatar Noozeyeguy says:

    I’ll agree to a great extent with Tony, with this caveat: I don’t *personally* have an issue with this, but I can’t believe that this was such a pressing issue within California school districts that a state law was actually required. What the Legislature has done is to institute rigid codification into a matter best handled delicately and on a case-by-case basis. I’m not inferring that school administrators always make the most sound choices, but legislation like this removes any potential for flexibility in seeking solutions. It’s the flip-side of zero-tolerance policies that the Administration just slammed as ineffective, if not counter-productive.

    Added to that is the ready ammunition it provides to the far-right self-appointed guardians of American morality. Like “gay marriage” and “welfare queens” and “death panels,” this complex issue is readily distilled into a dog-whistle soundbite targeted to an emotional response. It’s irrelevant that the gross oversimplification of the issue ignores many aspects that most reasonable people would tend to agree with. This is not about nuance and justice, it’s about winning in the zero-sum game of politics. This will be an effective wedge issue for the Limbaughs and Huckabees and FNC talking heads at least through 2014.

    • avatar Donald from Pasadena says:

      I don’t necessarily like the fact that the state legislature felt compelled to draft a law, but lawmakers were responding to a given situation. This would never have been an issue in the first place, had we but taken proactive steps in our own households to teach our own children that social diversity is a concept to be embraced and not feared. All children, regardless of their physical appearance or sexual orientation, deserve to be treated with dignity, respect and decency, rather than targeted for ridicule, physical abuse or much, much worse, simply because of who they are.

  6. avatar kpminott says:

    Geez, Louise! I mean, Louis … Lou …

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