Saturday, March 26, 2016

On "common sense" and safe, accessible bathrooms for everyone

My brother and I with my daughters at
Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC (circa 1997)
As the proud father of two (young adult) daughters I absolutely understand the fear and safety concerns associated with leaving small children unattended in multiple occupancy bathrooms. My own fears and concerns now extend to my daughters' places of employment, the mall, the gym, and the tavern. I still want to protect them, but at this point I also have to listen to them, trust them, advise and assist them when I can, but ultimately allow them to venture into this sometimes scary world on their own, make their own mistakes, and hopefully learn from them. So I have tried to nurture in them the ability to distinguish between rational and irrational fears, expose them to experiences that reinforce their trust in evidence, and encourage them to expand their empathy for others. And I have cautioned them to have skepticism about "common sense" or intuition that has not been validated.

Today most of us have safe access to clean, climate-controlled restrooms around the clock, but this has not always been the case. My aunt and uncle had an outhouse when I was in elementary school. In high school one of my favorite teachers, drivers education instructor, and eventually assistant principal was a very kind and wise African American man - Mr. Fuller - who made sure to cover the "bathroom rules" during orientation for every new class. I thought it was odd that he was so passionate about this now seemly mundane (to me) topic as he explained: "You don't need my or anyone else's permission to go to the bathroom. If I don't see you raise your hand and you have to go, then just get up and go. Don't ever let anyone stop you from going to the bathroom." I was reminded of Mr. Fuller's advice this week, and Linda Williams - writing in the News & Observer - provides some insight into the possible motivation for his passion on this topic.

I started public school in North Carolina the year my rural hometown elementary and high schools were first desegregated - almost fifteen years after Brown v. Board of Education. I have never experienced fear associated with going to the bathroom, but I do recognize that some have - and some still do. And I hope that we can all agree that everyone needs a safe and accessible place to pee. In the wake of the shamefulmisguided and disastrous legislation just passed in my state, our governor is calling it a "common sense privacy law." So it is worth reflecting for a moment on what we really mean by "common sense."
"Common sense, and direct observation, tells us that the Earth is flat, that the sun (like the moon) rotates around the Earth and that forces don’t operate at a distance."
 - Barry Jones 
Is it "common sense" to legally force this transgender man - or this one, or this one, or this one - into the women's room because their birth certificate still says female? Should this transgender woman - or this one - have to go to the men's room because their "biological sex" at birth was recorded as male and they have not had surgery or changed their birth certificate? What if they have had surgery but live in a state that doesn't allow them to change their birth certificate? Is it "common sense" to expect people to carry their birth certificates around with them in case they need to pee? Does "common sense" concern about sexual predators in bathrooms extend to sexual orientation in addition to gender identity? Should gay men relieve themselves in the ladies room and lesbians in the men's room? Where exactly should bi-sexual people pee? Or should all these people just go away? What does this new "common sense privacy law" say about these cases, and does it match your "common sense" view of the appropriate way to accommodate this basic need for these human beings?

This law was made public, rushed through the General Assembly, and signed by our governor in twelve hours. The legislature allowed only thirty minutes for public comment. Our governor - who previously served a record fourteen years as the mayor of Charlotte - signed this bill into law overturning Charlotte's recently passed nondiscrimination ordinance without even bothering to speak to the current mayor of Charlotte beforehand. This law goes way beyond bathrooms and will be challenged in court in a matter of days. I wonder what Mr. Fuller would say about it? As a devout Christian and an African American who was raised in a not too distant past that is now unfamiliar to many of us, I suspect he would be concerned about the safety and accessibility of bathrooms for transgender people and the folly of the current situation in our state. I know I am.

Update (April 1): If you live in North Carolina, please contact your state senator and representative and urge them to sponsor and vote for legislation to repeal HB2 in the upcoming short session of the NC General Assembly (starts April 25). You might also consider signing the petitions by the ACLU, Equality NC, and two NC state legislators. There's still time to stop our state from once again wasting taxpayer dollars (not to mention the lost business activity) trying to defend unconstitutional legislation passed by extremists in the state legislature. Meanwhile, you can follow the legal case here. No foolin'.

Hyatt, HP, Northrop Grumman, Ralph Lauren, American Apparel, Qualcomm, Pandora, Starbucks, Citibank, TD Bank, Hilton,...
Posted by Equality NC on Friday, April 1, 2016

Thursday, March 24, 2016

How to #KeepNCSafe from business activity that brings revenue to our state

Well, it actually happened - and it's even worse than we thought. Shame on our governor and the General Assembly. #WeAreNotThis!

Some public responses of note are below, in no particular order....
“Until this hateful law is repealed and LGBT North Carolinians are treated with the equal dignity they deserve, I will not film another production in North Carolina, and I encourage my colleagues in the entertainment industry to vow to do the same. Enough is enough.”
 - Rob Reiner 

#WeAreNotThis #PatMcCrory #trans #HB2
Posted by Jamie Monroe on Thursday, March 24, 2016

Let’s underscore the ridiculousness of NC Legislature's recent anti-LGBT moves with equally ridiculous application for...
Posted by Mark Sandlin on Thursday, March 24, 2016

“You are the thin blue line charged with protecting the gender sanctity of North Carolina’s bathrooms,” the Governor said. "Be careful out there."
Posted by Andy Borowitz on Friday, March 25, 2016

Brought to you by....

Tim Moore, Pat McCrory, Phil Berger


Saturday, March 12, 2016

My "interfaith" journey and next steps

My Evangelical Lutheran foster-grandmother lived with us when I was growing up, but my immediate family were members of the United Church of Christ. I spent summers on my Methodist aunt and uncle's farm, and we had a lot of friends and relatives who were Baptists or Pentecostals. But growing up in rural North Carolina in the 1960s and 70s, I don't think I ever personally met a Jew or a Muslim - much less a Buddhist, Hindu, Sikh, or a secular humanist.

During the 1980s I worked in a local hospital emergency room (ER) while attending community college part-time, and there I met and worked with Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and an ER physician who was into homeopathy, Taoism, and tai chi. I started studying world religions, the New Testament, and philosophy, and eventually learned kung fu and tai chi from a Catholic sifu. My wife and I were married by my foster-grandmother's Lutheran minister, but I wrote the entire service leveraging primarily Taoist literature (although the minister insisted on saying the Lords Prayer at the end).

I got swept up in the idea that quantum physics confirmed Eastern mysticism and was somehow useful in understanding human consciousness - until I finally discovered Carl Sagan, Isaac Asimov, and Vic Stenger. As I finished my degree in mathematics, studied more science and philosophy (including the philosophy of science and mathematics and existentialism), and started a career in software engineering and support, I switched from identifying as a "non-theist" (heavily influenced by Taoism) to being an "agnostic" and a "skeptic." Today I'm still fundamentally a run-of-the mill skeptic, but I also identify as a secular humanist and an atheist - as well as an occasional Pastafarian who agrees that the Satanic Temple's seven tenants are far more ethical than the Ten Commandments.

As an advisor to the Board of the Hickory Humanist Alliance I became involved in "interfaith" work somewhat serendipitously in May of 2015 after a County Commissioner in a neighboring county made some inflammatory comments about Muslims and atheists participating in invocations at their meetings - they now have a moment of silence instead of an invocation. Today I am on the interim Board of Advisors for a new "interfaith and humanist" council in my county, and I have been asked to co-present an "Interfaith 101" webinar with some of my local interfaith partners for a major national secular organization. I'll post about both in a future post, but in the meantime here are some interfaith resources you might find interesting. And you can read more about my own recent interfaith journey here.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

"Christian" legislators in NC want to check you for lady or man parts before you pee

Looking for perverts in all the wrong places...
Image Credit: Font Folly

The dead-enders at the North Carolina General Assembly are at it again - as promised by our governor after the Charlotte City Council approved an ordinance in February to protect LGBT people who just need to pee (among other things that most of us take for granted). This is the same "Christian" legislature that has wasted tens (hundreds?) of thousands of dollars of taxpayer money to (unsuccessfully) defend our state's gay marriage ban in federal court.

This is the same "Christian" legislature currently throwing more good money after bad trying to defend the "right" of court officials in our state to refuse to do their civil duties on religious grounds. This is the same "Christian" legislature that wasted taxpayer funds on passing - and then on (unsuccessfully) defending in federal court - an unconstitutional doctor-narrated ultrasound before an abortion.

This same "Christian" anti-LGBT Motorcycle-Vagina legislature now wants to check you for lady or man parts before you can pee! With representatives like these it's not surprising that Christianity is having some brand issues. But while we're on this topic I would humbly suggest that these "Christian" legislators stop dreaming up questionable laws to protect us from imaginary LGBT sexual predators in public restrooms and start looking for the elephants in their own pews. Sheesh.

To contact NC State Legislators:
: Take action to make sure LGBT protections in NC aren't overturned!
Equality NC: Contact Your Legislators: Don't Legislate Discrimination!