This week a Texas father made national news as he respectfully made the case for the need to protect the privacy of girls—including his own daughter.
The bathroom wars are not a fuss that will ever go away, not with a mountain of legislation. As a therapist, I want to ask the question: why all the ruckus?
A friend wrote me not long ago about something I posted concerning the North Carolina bathroom wars, when it was in full scream. “Why would you involve yourself, Paula, in something that prevents a person from using whatever bathroom they choose? You’re a smart woman.”
I would like to be a smart woman.
On a hot evening last July, I drug myself to a well-known bookstore in Durham called The Regulator to hear Lee Smith read from her wonderful memoir. The owner introduced Lee with a remark that met with laughter and great applause. And remember, here you can use any bathroom here you d--- well please.
When it comes to bathrooms, tensions run high. But why?
What appears to be a picky point (bathroom signs) is actually the first large visible wave of an effort to end the binary distinction of being male or female. That most basic of human categories. The first words spoken by the doctor who delivered you. “It’s a boy!” Or “it’s a girl!” And then, pink or blue balloons were ordered for the mailbox.
Wouldn’t we be happier people if we had more choices on the menu?
That most ancient temptation is before us--to fashion my self in any way I choose. It’s really the demand to be our own gods. The ultimate holy grail seems almost within our reach—to define one’s self on every level. From the bottom up, literally.
But this is a “freedom” that will end in slavery.
You can see, though, why it’s an oddly attractive venture. It’s so much easier to control people minds and hearts if everyone is his or her own atomized Self, cut-off from archaic ties of family and the responsibility of marriage and children Just me, defined by me. Sitting in Starbucks sipping the latte I prefer in the body I choose, which I require others not just to accept—but to celebrate.
The bathroom wars is the first piece of a series of dominoes, carefully stacked. What's harder to grasp is that the effort to neuter gender invites chaos into the core of life.
If gender distinctions don’t matter, then the roles of “father” and “mother” can be changed around as easily as children’s dress-up costumes.
As a therapist, I often think about a scene that will be played out in a thousand ways in a neutered world. Ten years from now, what will anyone say to the 11-year-old boy sitting in a pastor or therapist or school counselor’s office, the son of two mothers, who looks down at his hands and sheepishly admits that he longs for this thing called…a father?
How will a counselor respond in a neutered world? “Oh, honey, you don’t need one of those, really. Fathers are so over-rated.”
Or when someone talks about the Father love of God, will people have a reference point?
Or when you read what God says through Isaiah, that even if your mother forsakes you—that primary, endless, sacrificing mother-love—even if your mother leaves, He will not forsake you…will you identify those words with the inescapable love of a mother who would never willingly leave her child? (Isaiah 49:15)
The bathroom wars are butthe first move in the dark drift toward a gender-fluid world. A recent quote of Rod Dreher’s summarizes it well:
What comes after transgender? Surely no gender at all, but only the lone self, wandering trapped in a labyrinth of endlessly binary forking paths, by which it is more controlled than it can ever be controlling. With gender vanishes sex, save for self-pleasuring, and with both sex and gender vanishes the most fundamental mode of eros and relationality: that between man and woman.
So, yes, I am willing to fall on my sword and march in the streets for a gender-specific sign on the bathroom door. Ideas have consequences. They lead somewhere.
To claim one’s biological self as a man—or as a woman—created in the image of a God who reveals his glory through us…yes. Yes to the beautiful binary. Yes to helping people find the liberation of their gendered identity.
Yes to whatever sort of intelligence will withstand the pressure to pretend we can define ourselves from the bottom up.