Friday, February 24, 2017

Who do bullies bully? Whoever bullies can.

     Like a toddler casting aside a toy he has tired of playing with, the Trump administration has tossed xenophobia out of its crib, for the moment. That’s good. But it then picked up sexual panic as its guide while casting government policy. That’s bad.
     The issue of students using bathrooms they are comfortable with exists only in the minds of hysterical parents worried about crimes that never actually occur. And, of course, religious fanatics looking for someone to oppress. But that’s enough for our new alt-right federal government, meticulously working its way down the list of cheap symbolic victories, to turn its attention to a new enemy: transgender students.
     After the Justice Department on Wednesday revoked federal guidelines that schools must allow transgender kids to use bathrooms according to their sexual identity, it’s a good idea to pause, step back and play connect the dots. President Donald Trump’s first month was roiled by his bigoted, unnecessary and illegal order restricting travel from seven Muslim countries. His second month now starts out by addressing another non-problem: the tiny percentage of children using bathrooms assigned to a gender they consider their own instead of ones belonging to the gender they were born into. In between, he announced that undocumented immigrants will be rounded up and deported by the millions.
What do these actions have in common?
     Well, the administration would say that Trump is addressing the nation’s most pressing problems, which apparently involve the risk of Syrian families finding refuge here, migrant workers picking strawberries unmolested, and fifth-graders struggling with gender issues using the bathrooms they would like to use.

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  1. And now the suggestion of a crackdown on recreational marijuana use in states where it's legal. An odd set of priorities, indeed.

  2. Good column.

    As are most bullies, Trump is motivated by deep insecurity. And that very insecurity might be an important aspect of the bond he has formed with some of his supporters, especially the younger, more tech-obsessed ones---the backbone of the 4chan community.

    This provocative essay does an excellent job of breaking down the growth of 4chan (birthplace of "Pepe the Frog") and how it aligns with Trump's narcissism, hollowness and overall preposterousness. It's very long; this post at Lawyers, Guns & Money is a good summary.

  3. Don't know why bathroom use should be a religious issue. It's been a while since I looked, but don't recall any passages in the good book dealing with the matter.

    Tom Evans


  4. So, kids aren't old enough or mature enough to drive, vote, smoke, drink, get married, get a tattoo or abortion before a certain age, but they are allowed to decide they are a boy living in a girls body or vice-versa? Isn't it possible that the vast confusion and uncomfortableness accompanying adolescence is contributing to their not fully developed brains quality of decision making and just maybe some intervention or stay processes could be instituted to help them?

    1. I don't think kids should be allowed to decide if they are right or left handed, either. Parents or clergy should decide for them.

    2. Mark, I understand your question. It is a reasonable question for a person who has never experienced gender dysphoria. I have experienced it. I experienced it at a very young age, and my teachers became aware of my cross-gender feelings in second grade. I am now a 62-year-old out transwoman lawyer. People don't "decide" that they are or are not transgender. They either are or are not transgender. What transgender people decide is what we need to do about our gender dysphoria.

      Intervention, or therapy, has been tried in the past as a means of helping transgender people deal with their gender dysphoria. It has been tried for years, but has almost always proven to be ineffective in assuaging gender dysphoria.

      If you, as a little boy, had been required to use the girls bathroom in school as you were growing up, how would that have worked out for you? And I mean how would it really have worked out for you? What if the other boys in school teased you day in day out for having to pee with the girls? What if you had been required to wear dresses to school, and instead of allowing you to dress like a boy, the school hired a psychologist to do an intervention on you to help you adjust to having to use the girl's bathroom and wear dresses to school. I suggest that you wouldn't have liked it. But that is what you are suggesting we do to trans kids.

  5. Heres why I find the actions against transgender youth particularly frightening: Trump personally has antipathy torwards Muslims and Mexicans. They push his personal buttons of fear of others. He is taking action against them because he genuinely hates them and wants to keep them away and cause them harm.

    But transgender people? That's not Trumps thing. Look at his answers around Caitlyn Jenner amd bathroom use. He doesn't care about transgender people using a certain bathroom. These actions are a clear indication of just how not in control he is and how much he is simply following whatever Bannon/Miller/other reprehensible people tell him to do.

  6. I liked your column today, Neil. You are right that their hand holds the whip. But we still have a government of laws, and no laws have been changed, only the "guidance" drafted by the prior administration. Because under our system it is the responsibility of the judicial branch to interpret the laws, the removal of the "guidance" is not as significant a legal event as it might seem. There is still a significant contest going on as to the meaning of the word "sex" in Title IX and Title VII and how it applies or does not apply to transgender people. But that contest will be resolved in the courts as it would have been resolved whether or not the "guidance" existed. As you noted, this is a symbolic "roughing up" of my community, done to make the Republican altrighters feel better about themselves. As a group, they seem to have such a fragile sense of self. Otherwise why the need to constantly stroke their sense of self by demonizing immigrants, Jews, queers, etc.

    There was an interesting blog by Jennifer Boylan, a transgender English professor, in Huffington Post this week in which she wrote, among other things, "And I’m completely done with engaging with anyone who has a clever theory explaining why they actually understand my soul better than I do." I feel the same way, although I suppose that it is, in part, because, in the age of Trump, there is no point in trying to explain oneself to his supporters. We would be trying to take away the salve they find for their own fragile sense of self, and it should be obvious that they will not be open to that.

    In fact, the whole Trump phenomenon can be understood, in part, as a collective psychological dysfunction--people finding scapegoats instead of being capable of self-critical analysis. The good thing is that people like that eventually crash and burn. I don't think this phenomenon can last longer than four years. At least not as long as open, decent, thinking and caring people keep fighting.

    1. Thanks Joanie. The flip side of the shame of the Trump administration is the reaction of the decent American public against it.


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