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Herman: On the bathroom bill, good points on both sides


It’s a simple choice, sometimes creatively expressed in signs on bathroom doors: Cowboys or Cowgirls? Pointer or Setter? The Johns: Olivia Newton- or Elton?

Make your choice and do your business. Simple, right? Or so many of us thought, perhaps ignorantly, for many years.

The enlightened thought among some today is that gender doesn’t always align with biology at birth. Of course not everyone believes this.

“We have not been confused about this in 6,000 years of human history,” Pastor Charles Flowers of San Antonio told state senators Tuesday.

“A bathroom is not a room for a choice,” Pastor Hernan Castano of Houston testified. “God made a difference between male and female, and God made no mistakes.”

The clergy’s not unanimous on that. And neither was the Legislature on Tuesday as the Senate State Affairs Committee considered Senate Bill 6, the so-called bathroom bill. The Senate seems primed to approve it. Its fate is less certain in the House, where Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, on Tuesday said he’s “not a fan” of SB 6, which would require, in government and school buildings, that people use facilities of the gender listed on their birth certificate.

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SB 6 supporter John Kelly, Pearland’s school superintendent, reminded the committee that SB 6 is more than a bathroom bill. It also involves locker rooms where students undress in view of others. That is, Kelly noted, “the much more serious problem.”

That’s a good point, as were many points made by witnesses on both sides of the issue. I’m telling you this was the unusual legislative hearing at which you very easily could have been sympathetic to folks on both sides — that includes Shiloh Satterfield, 10, a Dripping Springs student who said she’s uncomfortable with boys in the girls bathroom, and Marilyn Morrison, a born-male, Dallas-area third-grader who said she wouldn’t be comfortable using the boys bathroom.

It was an often emotional hearing at which bill supporters used phrases like “Differentiation isn’t discrimination” and “Biology isn’t bigotry.” There also was discussion — to no consensus — about how many genders there are. Also at the hearing, Pastor Seth Wynn testified he was born female is now male but doesn’t have the money to hire a lawyer to change the gender on his birth certificate.

“I guarantee there is going to be a problem if I showed up in the women’s bathroom,” said the bearded Wynn, who, if SB 6 passes, would have to do just that.

Gender, it seems, has become a self-declared trait, though I understand that trans folks believe they always were what they transitioned to. To many folks, when it comes to gender, there are biological facts involved.

Trivial though it might seem to some, this battle is far from over. And there are places where gender designation matters more than in bathrooms — athletics, scholarships, single-gender schools, awarding of government contracts, etc.

At some point lawmakers (and probably courts) will have to deal with this. And that makes gender a political issue that divides politicians and families. State Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr. of Brownsville this week became the first Democratic senator to support SB 6, citing his Catholic faith. His comments sparked calls of protest, some misdirected to his son, state Rep. Eddie Lucio III, D-Brownsville, who differs with dad on this issue.

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SB 6, the younger Lucio posted on Facebook, “targets the transgender community” and is “nothing more than a political ploy to appease certain narrow-minded constituencies at the expense of some of the most vulnerable and marginalized people in society.”

“The people that this bill targets are just trying to live their lives and have a safe place to use the restroom,” the younger Lucio wrote.

How is a state supposed to reach consensus if a family can’t?

At the hearing, the elder Lucio asked a Christian transgender psychologist: “You believe in God and you believe in his creation. Do you also believe in altering his creation, changing his creation?” On Monday, he said, “Some see this bill as a bulwark against society’s moral decline or society’s moral evolution.”

It’s a subject on which we’re clearly evolving, much as President Barack Obama did on same-sex marriage during his tenure in the White House and much as America has on interracial marriage during my tenure on Earth.

The point is there indeed are places where gender matters. Far be it from me to sort this out for you, beyond believing the bathroom/locker room question is best left to local control and that it’s the leading edge of more important questions to come.

Maybe much of this is generational. The elder Lucio is 71. His son is 38.

“My father preached love and service in my house growing up,” the younger Lucio wrote, “and although I sincerely believe that his position is not rooted in hate, it is still wrong and will create adversity for many.”

“We hugged and agreed to disagree,” he recounted. “I hope that, regardless of your position on this or any issue, you would approach your views and discussions with the same love and respect that my father and I displayed this morning.”



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