Editor’s Note: The following submission is from Jamie Marich. Have an LGBTQ+ related experience or story to share? Having your article published on this site will automatically enrol you into a raffle to win a $50 Amazon Gift Card. Submit an article today via queerdeermedia.com.
I am no stranger to Facebook “comment wars.” At one time, I was a wannabe golden child in both the Evangelical church in which I was primarily raised, and in conservative Catholic circles where I worked after college and during graduate school. Today, I am a fiscally moderate, socially liberal clinical counselor and educator specializing in trauma. If you want to see an all-sides view of any issue up for social debate, take a scroll down my feed. After finding myself suctioned into a few comment wars on issues past (and hating myself for wasting the time and mental energy), I swore off engaging in such virtual battles. Yet when finding myself lured into debates over bathroom laws and transgender rights I can’t help but engage.
Cloaked in concerns about “safety” and the greater good this fundamental question resounds: Why do you care about those transgender freaks so much? It’s a bold, unspoken question that is forcing me to reflect upon my own experiences with religion, society, gender, and the binary. I cannot directly understand the plight of my transgender friends and I don’t pretend to be an authority on their experiences. I do, however, know what it means to be wounded by the establishment, especially those spiritual institutions that claim to promote a message of love. For this reason, I care very deeply about my transgender friends and their safety. As a young bisexual girl growing up in church, I was labeled less Christian, less normal, and less human than everybody else. I felt the internal horror of being in the “middle” and not fitting into any neat boxes. I listened to your clichés like God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve, and even at age eleven, I knew that if I’d been in the garden, Adam, Eve, and Steve all may have appealed to me! I heard you rant and rave about the culture of life when it came to issues like abortion, yet I never experienced an adequate level of safety where I could come forward and verbalize just how much I was dying inside without fear of being mocked, scored, or worst of all, condemned to hell for my differentness. Of course many of you told me that it was okay to ask questions, yet whenever I wanted to embrace who God naturally made me to be, your tepid validation ultimately came with some hook to steer me back to your version of biblical truth or the teachings of the church. I even participated in such church-sanctioned diatribes until I was about twenty-four because it was an obvious way to look like I fit in—check the “righteous” box, even though the reality is I didn’t feel I should have to check any box at all when it came to my sexuality. This was the only way God would really want me, right?
My relationships with transgender and gender non-conforming individuals served as a major force in helping me identify areas in my own life where I wasn’t being my authentic self. They are in my life as students, clients, casual acquaintances, friends, and even as part of the tribe I consider to be my family of choice. I’ve discovered there is no greater spiritual practice than living the truest essence of yourself in this world in spite of what institutional churches or different interpretations of scripture may tell you. It’s not only transgender individuals who teach me this lesson and have influenced my life for the better (thank the Lord my teachers range the entire spectrum of gender, sexuality, and spiritual belief). However, in the context of these discussions around fear and bathrooms, it’s important for me to highlight their influence.
Fear is a very real thing in this world, and fear tends to emerge in the areas of our lives where we have been wounded. Using public bathrooms with transgender individuals may be leading us to the most important work that we, as a society, have left to do—naming, exploring, and addressing our fears around gender in general. What does it mean to be a man? What does it mean to be a woman? What meaning do such black-and-white descriptors even carry? Have we really stopped to consider how many of us have been wounded because of gender? In all of the comments hurled at me on Facebook, the theme that pierced my heart the most were people telling me that women, especially young girls, deserve to see a woman when they go into the bathrooms. Let’s put the obvious logical flaw aside that if current “bathroom bills” requiring us to use bathrooms congruent with our anatomy are enforced and continue to be enacted, these young girls will be going to the bathroom with plenty of individuals who present with traits traditionally identified as masculine. Or the problem with teaching girls to be afraid of all men just because they are men. The question I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs—which I am screaming here virtually—is who even decides what it means to be a woman?
I’ve posed more questions in these last few paragraphs than I have offered answers… and there’s a good reason for that. These are the questions that we need to personally confront. Then, as a collective society, we can discuss how to heal the festering wounds that divide people of all genders regarding issues so much more important than bathrooms. For me, the most significant issue to address is how we treat each other in all types of human relationships—how do the rules we’ve learned about gender, largely forged in the binary, keep us from respecting our fellow human beings of all genders? Healing our own trauma around gender can usher in a true transformation. Let’s be brave enough to have the conversation.