Answering questions that are painfully obvious.
The answer, of course, is painfully and blindingly obvious.
Because without the fig leaf of a mandate from the Federal Government, the Governor of Minnesota would be directly responsible for any policies he promulgates that his voters dislike. Notice how carefully he phrases his “disagreement” with Trump basically hanging him out to twist in the wind if he decides to be a state-level champion of transgender rights:
“I strongly disagree with the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw the protections that his predecessor provided for transgender students in being able to use school bathrooms which match their gender identities,” Dayton said during a news conference Thursday.
But remember: the Fed only offered guidance, not federal-level protection. The States provide the actual framework on which to protect (or not) gay and transgender rights. But the federal guidance does provide political protection for state-level politicians who fail to split the proverbial baby–and in this case, the problem of transgender rights is a very slippery one.
Let’s be entirely clear. I have always been a fiscal conservative and a social liberal, precisely because I believe people need more economic and social liberty, not less. Unfortunately economic freedom means you lean conservative on economic issues, and liberal on social issues–and I say “unfortunately” because it just illustrates how hypocritical and dysfunctional our political parties have become.
I am also a strong support of LGBT rights, in part because I believe that we all should be able to determine our own path, to cut our way through the jungle as we so choose, without interference from others.
Up until “transgender rights” started showing up on the radar, we’ve been handling the problem posed by transgendered individuals in an informal and ad-hoc way. A man but well on the path to becoming a woman? Just slip into the bathroom at the restaurant and ignore any busy-bodies who inevitably intrude. A woman but well on the path to becoming a man? Just wait until you get home before using the gym so as to avoid any unfortunate stares in the changing room.
And we allowed these things to slip on the understanding that busy-body nosy assholes exist for everyone, who seem to find perverse pleasure making others miserable on technicalities and by enforcing some sort of code of moral conduct only they seem to believe in. This applies well beyond transgendered individuals. (By the way, I always hated using the shower at the gym, so I’d slip home to use the shower at home instead. So the price to fail to accommodate a transgendered individual is a price many of us voluntarily pay for other reasons.)
Now that there is a push to codify our interaction with transgendered individuals in a single and uniform set of rules, we’ve hit a series of roadblocks. Advocates of those rights seem unwilling to address many of the issues which arise, thinking that in some utopian world sexual behavior can be regulated and normalized to the point where co-ed showers (like that in the film Starship Troopers or in the TV show Legion, episode 3 are social norms. (Though notice that even though they are supposed to be normalized and thus, non-sexualized, non-the-less they are portrayed in the most lurid sexualized manner possible. How many screen minutes were devoted in the Legion episode on a woman rubbing soap on her body?)
We aren’t there yet, as the irony of how we depict co-ed showers demonstrates.
That’s where the transgender rights folks are running into trouble: not with private bathroom stalls in a restaurant, but with group showers in high school gyms. For example, in 2015, in an debate over the rights of a transgendered girl (a boy seeking to become a girl), the state of Illinois was cited for violating the law by not allowing the transgendered girl (again, a boy who is seeking to become a girl but who still has boy plumbing parts) from using the girl’s locker room. In Arcadia, a transgendered boy (a girl with girl parts but seeking to become a boy) was granted the right by the Fed to use the boy’s locker room and showers.
Because as we all know, teenager boys are the most enlightened and self-aware and kind human beings on the face of the Earth.</sarcasm>
This is the battle line. And this is what social conservatives are complaining about: under-age naked gender mixing in the showers in public schools.
It’s not to suggest that transgendered individuals should be discriminated against. But the issue of high school shower use is a delicate one, and unfortunately it would take the wisdom of King Solomon to figure out how to split the baby. Certainly our more mortal politicians lack the skill, though ironically the way it had been handled prior to President Obama’s intervention (in an ad-hoc way with individual coaches permitting the use of their personal private showers or making other ad-hoc accommodations) were generally more sensitive to the needs of students on the ground.
Because, in an ironic twist to the entire progressive-liberal experiment, in general individuals are far more sensitive to the needs of their fellow men than are faceless bureaucracies controlled by an out-of-touch elite thousands of miles away.
This failure–the desire to take the theoretical ideals of protecting transgendered individuals and turn them into practical policies that actually can be implemented without unexpected consequences–requires local and state-level leaders the political protection of Washington. Because inevitably any implementation will create serious problems, if for no other reason than our current infrastructure was designed for a binary world, and deliberately wedging in a third case is like trying to push the square peg through the round hole.
So it requires local politicians to have the fig leaf that “they had no choice but to implement the guidance of the Federal Government.”
Because their inevitable failures and the inevitable problems that will arise require political protection.
I am well aware, by the way, that one of the basic arguments for transgendered individuals is that, like gay rights, like equal rights for blacks, like women’s rights, like calls for acceptance of muslims, that we need to expand public acceptance and encourage people to afford equal acceptance for minority and disadvantaged groups.
And by forcing a school district to allow a teenage girl undergoing hormone therapy to be able to use the boy’s locker and shower room, it somehow “forces” acceptance.
But, unlike racism or sexism or religious acceptance, this intrudes beyond cultural issues and starts impinging on sexual issues. It’s why even the most famously accepting countries in Europe, where nudism is legal and accepted, generally tend to be limited to specific parks or zones. (Germany has its “Urban Naked Zones”, for example.) It’s akin to nude beaches in the United States: if you go there, you will see naked people, so only go there if you are willing.
The level of acceptance we would need in the United States to allow transgendered children to use the locker room and shower with people whose plumbing are different than theirs would require a far greater shift in cultural acceptance than we see even in famously liberal Europe.
Besides, even after decades of supposed “women’s rights” and “civil rights for minorities”, we still see significant problems in those areas. Even in the most famously liberal-progressive places like California, in places like Silicon Valley, areas which believe themselves the most progressive, the most culturally advanced in the world, sexism is still a significant problem.
So, Governor Dayton, you want to step up to the plate and navigate the minefield?
Maybe you’ll even get it right.
But put your own damned neck on the line. Don’t pretend you had no choice, and hide behind that lack of choice if and when you fuck it all up.