This past Monday saw a debate before the Gainesville City Commission on the subject of “gender identity,” or the ability to add transgendered individuals to the list of those not to be unfairly discriminated against. It was a scary look into the institutionalized and politically acceptable bigotry that still passes as the norm in this country. Through an ordinance, those who had gender identity will now be protected from such institutionalized discrimination thanks to a 4-3 vote by the commission last Monday evening.
Such a vote did not come lightly. One after another, supposed men and women of God approached the podium during public comment, denouncing the passage of this legislation. Pastors and reverends alike repeatedly equated the condition of transgender to those that engage in pedophilia, incest, bestiality, and other despicable acts. Others insisted that the passage of this legislation would be a one-way ticket to Sodom and Gomorrah. Some stated that they were taught in school that they were a man or a woman and that was that.
Excuse me, but who the hell are you to apply your personal experience to the arc of existence of everyone else on this mortal coil?
Before the commission, there was much talk of inconveniencing “us” and giving “special treatment” to certain individuals in society. Apparently, this “us” they speak of consists of people intolerant of others and their situations - the very same people that consider the act of giving transgenders the same rights as others as “special treatment.”
Given, at least some of you were more honest than others last Monday night. One woman talked of straight people being brought “down to their moral standards.” Which way does your moral compass point, anyway? Do you not think that transgenders are capable of morality? Imagine someone of questionable gender identity being able to go into the restroom of the gender they most identify with on their own volition. Gender identity with a moral compass? Truly shocking stuff!
Equally disappointing was the overwhelming commentary from members of the African-American community, who quoted various passages of scripture in an effort to prove that commissioners who voted for this ordinance would be condemned to hell. Commissioner Henry was even informed that he was no longer “a man of God” due to his previous, nonbinding vote on the subject. To watch fear of the unknown manifest itself as fire and brimstone pronouncements from the bully pulpit was truly the frightening part of these proceedings. One speaker even went as far as to say that God would bring his wrath down on all of those with questionable gender identity. This isn’t 1930s Germany, folks – it’s Twenty-First Century Gainesville!
And as for bible verses and scripture, let me remind you of one myself: it’s Matthew, Chapter 17, Verse 1: “Judge not, that ye be not judged.” Luke Chapter 6, Verse 37 goes a little deeper: “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” It continues in the book of Luke, Chaper 14, Verses 10 and 13: “You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we all stand before God’s judgment seat. … Therefore, let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way.” Most of the religious speakers last Monday evening conveniently forgot these passages. Some way to treat your “brothers” and “sisters!”
Some of these same people said that they were justified in condemning this commission because they were the ones that elected them. Churchgoers are the ones that voted these commissioners into office? Are they the ones who gave Jack Donovan 70% of the popular vote the very next day at the city commission election? Somehow, I think not. Commissioner Donovan remains an ordained minister, despite the wicked and outrageous pronouncements you sent in his direction.
Also, I never had any idea that people of allegedly high religious conviction had such an obsession with bathrooms and genitalia. The last time I checked, public bathrooms still have stalls. If you’re so obsessed with what types of organs people have between their legs when you’re in a public restroom, you may want to seek a mental health evaluation. Many of the speakers expressed concern for their children being exposed to transgendered individuals in public restrooms. How about having talks about such things with your children and explaining to them what those with unsure gender identity go through on a daily basis? I know – it’s just a little too much to ask for by today’s parenting standards.
Talk such as this makes me surprised this wasn’t some sort of twisted bathroom ordinance. But no – this was a matter of extending equal rights to an unprotected segment of the population. What about matters such as housing and credit protection? These were only mentioned sparingly, if at all. And then there were the so-called “businessmen,” who felt threatened by this new legislation, saying that it would severely cripple their day-to-day operations. Despite repeating this mantra, these businessmen failed to give even a single example of how such crippling would occur – which brings us to one of the major cruxes of this situation: how many transgendered citizens actually reside in Gainesville? You’d think it was some massively growing cult from the words of many speakers that evening. Hell, if people concentrated on burning issues such as health care and social security as much as they did about transgenders last Monday, this would be one helluva place – almost a utopian-type society.
As Sierra Club president Rob Brinkman noted in his public comments, there is an already-high suicide rate among the transgendered. Surely threats of violence and other forms of intimidation couldn’t possibly be the cause of this. And, of course, extending equal rights to such people would be taking away the privacy of normal, heterosexual, law-abiding citizens. Give me a break!
Throughout its history, Gainesville has been a city that has prided itself on doing the right thing, even in the face of a small, vocal minority that has been persuaded to speak with the threat of excommunication or worse by their faith or religious organization. Those that have done the right thing instead of bowing to the pressure of a vocal minority deserve our tremendous respect and gratitude. I would like to personally thank Mayor Hanrahan and commissioners Donovan, Lowe, and Mastrodicasa for standing vigilant over the rights of all of Gainesville’s citizens.
And, as for those that think the addition of gender identity to the list of those who enjoy the protection from discrimination is wrong, just keep in mind that Interstate 75 runs both north and south from here. Pick an exit – that is, if you really know where you’re going…