Saturday, June 11, 2016

The long, hard trek of progress...

Science fiction tracks the millennial progress of future societies, following them into very strange places.

But, truth is stranger than fiction.  In real life, social progress moves at a crawl.  More than half a century has passed since the days of bus boycotts and struggles over segregated lunch counters, water fountains, public swimming pools and restrooms.  And, racism is still alive and well.  Laws may change, but the evolution of human cultures and mindsets is glacially slow.

Today, a new battle is being fought.  The players have changed, but it is still over something basic to everyday life.  Again, the battle for civil rights is waged in the dingy field of the rest room.  Again, conservative politicians in the American south are trying to pass a law making it a crime for certain people...certain people unwelcome for their share the same rest room as the other, more "normal", more valued members of society.

The proposed law, absurd on its face, would require transsexuals to use the rest room corresponding not with their identified gender, but with the gender listed on their birth certificate.  This law is not only impossible to enforce (short of having security guards check everyone's birth certificate upon entry) but impossible to obey.  Try to imagine transsexual men...who look like men, who wear beards, who wear male clothing and may even have post-operative male genitalia...using a women's rest room.  I'm guessing it wouldn't be popular.  Nor would transsexual women...who look like women, who wear dresses, nylons and high heels...using a men's rest room.  (Try to picture what would happen to them.)

The proponents of this law would have us believe it's about protecting the privacy and safety of women and girls who feel invaded by males entering "their" rest rooms.  (Just as white people may have felt similarly invaded.)  That's not a male next to you, Miss.  That's another female, whether you know it or not.  That, of course, is not the real issue.  The proposed law goes much further than that, in forbidding the passage of all forms of anti-discrimination law, not only affecting transsexuals, but gays and lesbians as well.  The law simply legalizes discrimination.  Not only in the rest room.  Not only at the lunch counter or swimming pool.  But, everywhere.

The fact this law comes on the heels of the Supreme Court's historic decision on marriage equality is no coincidence.  It's a retaliatory assault on the entire LGBT community.  An attack on the simple human dignity of those who are different, preying on fear and ignorance.  The cowardly bigots behind the law, as usual, cry "victim" and equate discrimination and alienation with religious freedom.

Lacking the advantage of time travel in real life, we can't see how this will play out in the future.  But, if recent events are any indication of the tide of history...In twenty or thirty years, this issue will have gone the way of racial segregation.  But, the ghosts of the past will, alas, linger for generations beyond that.  Fear of the unfamiliar and all the cruelty it spawns is ingrained in the human psyche.  It will take evolution, not revolution to change that. 



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