Toilet terrorists 

click to enlarge Gov. Asa Hutchinson - BRIAN CHILSON
  • Brian Chilson
  • Gov. Asa Hutchinson

President Obama gave Republicans a gift last week. His administration reminded school districts that the law requires that students be allowed to use restroom and locker facilities that match their gender identity.

The president did no more than state controlling statute, rule and legal precedent, including a recent decision of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. He was prompted by actions in North Carolina, particularly, to require students to use restrooms that comport with their genitalia at birth, not their gender identity. (It's unclear what North Carolina would require of the small number of children born ambiguously on the biological spectrum. Do it in the road?)

The president's announcement included this important phrase: "A school may not require transgender students to use facilities inconsistent with their gender identity or to use individual-user facilities when other students are not required to do so. A school may, however, make individual-user options available to all students who voluntarily seek additional privacy." My emphasis.

Republicans already were using bathroom hysteria as a wedge issue in massive resistance to equal rights for lesbians and gays. A black president edges into sexual matters? Strike up "Dixie" and put a 1950s newsreel on the projector. Justice Jim Johnson would have admired how Arkansas politicians rushed to boil race and sex into a hateful stew.

Gov. Hutchinson said the president's announcement was "offensive, intrusive and lacking in common sense." Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin called it "ridiculous." Attorney General Leslie Rutledge called it an "abuse of power." And they claim to be lawyers. Only in the GOP is obeying the law an abuse of power.

The average child is at greater risk from a priest, Baptist minister, teacher or coach than a transgender person seeking a public bathroom stall. See: just about any daily newspaper.

The Republican outcry raised two essential questions: 1) Do Republicans believe there is such a thing as gender dysphoria — the feeling that one's sex is different from one's biological sex? Science says it's real, but Republicans aren't strong on science. 2) Have the protestors ever knowingly met a transgender person?

One study says about three-tenths of 1 percent of people are transgender, or about 1,500 of Arkansas's public school children, an average of one per school. But the number that has made the transition is almost certainly smaller. Personal confusion, fear and fallout — beginning at home — discourage it.

The Republicans are preying on fear about a problem that doesn't exist. There IS evidence, however, of cruelty against trans people, and demagoguery will only encourage more. I was told recently of a woman who tried to enter a Capitol women's restroom. She was challenged by a toilet vigilante because of her slender, boyish build and clothing. She fled rather than drop her trousers.

My trans acquaintances include someone I knew as a child as, let's say, Maxine. Maxine is now a handsome adult named Max, with a neatly trimmed beard. Do Asa Hutchinson, Tim Griffin and Leslie Rutledge really want Max to use the little girls' room?

No, what they really want is to discriminate. Thanks to them, we have two state laws aimed at discriminating against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. The Constitution's equal protection clause means little to them. They want to protect legal discrimination against LGBT people in employment, housing and public accommodations, from restaurants to photo studios.

The desire to discriminate — whether against gays, women, immigrants or black people — is a far bigger threat to individual well-being than the rare trans person hoping to perform a bodily function in a closed bathroom stall.

An acute observation I saw on the Internet: Those accustomed to privilege see equality as oppression. I'd add: The corollary for those without privilege and equality should be obvious.


Speaking of...


Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

Readers also liked…

  • The education legislature

    Republican political control in Arkansas means many things: lots of gun bills, lots of anti-abortion bills, lots of efforts to make religious belief law, such as discrimination against gay people.
    • Mar 10, 2015
  • Asa's team

    It's a measure of Gov. Asa Hutchinson's appointments that the most widely praised appointment so far was of a man ineligible to hold the job.
    • Mar 3, 2015
  • Supremely discredited

    Arkansas Supreme Court Justice Rhonda Wood and her allies continue to discredit the state's highest court.
    • Jul 30, 2015

Most Shared

Latest in Max Brantley

  • Trumped in Arkansas

    After two solid debates and the release of a video and corroborating testimony that further confirmed the misogyny of Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton is favored to win the presidential election Nov. 8
    • Oct 20, 2016
  • So many provocations...

    Another bad week demands a Worst Of listing.
    • Oct 6, 2016
  • State university secrets

    Today's subject: lack of accountability at state universities.
    • Sep 29, 2016
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

Logoly State Park dedicates new visitors center

Logoly State Park dedicates new visitors center

Arkansas’s first environmental education state park interprets the importance of the natural world and our place within it.

Event Calendar

« »


2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29
30 31  

Most Viewed

  • The big loser

    So now the big crybaby says he's losing because his opponent is crooked and the referees are blind.
  • Trumped in Arkansas

    After two solid debates and the release of a video and corroborating testimony that further confirmed the misogyny of Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton is favored to win the presidential election Nov. 8
  • Arkansas 2016: the microclimate election

    In the lead-up to the past four Arkansas election cycles, the forecast has been a fairly simple one: strong winds blowing in the GOP direction.

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: The big loser

    • Upon further investigation: the victim (of course) never knew about Clinton's affidavit, which was denied…

    • on October 20, 2016
  • Re: The big loser

  • Re: The big loser

    • Dear Investigator, if you want to move up the food chain, to reporter, you need…

    • on October 20, 2016

© 2016 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation