Heavyweight companies like Google and Microsoft recently joined forces with concerned citizens across the state to declare their opposition to Initiative 1515, which seeks to repeal the state rule requiring businesses to grant bathroom and locker room access on the basis of gender identity.
The groups came together under a common banner, expressing compassion and concern for the marginalized and promising that “Washington Will Not Discriminate.”
Unfortunately, as long as Washington Administrative Code 162-32 is in place, discrimination will reign supreme.
When the Human Rights Commission enacted the rule in December, the intentions were good; desiring safety and dignity for the transgender community is a worthy cause. But in an attempt to secure protections for a few, the new WAC, written entirely on subjective terms that no one can prove or enforce, effectively stripped those same protections from the majority, creating more confusion than clarity, more harm than help, more problems than protections.
Of course this might have been relatively obvious if the commission had actually involved the majority in the discussion. Instead, with input from a grand total of 46 people, the commission hastily enacted a rule that would govern all 7 million state residents.
It stands to reason, then, that those whose voices were not considered should wish to speak.
But the “Washington Will Not Discriminate” crowd does not seem too eager to listen. And I have to wonder why. Equality, after all, means everyone’s needs are considered, not silenced, invalidated or mocked.
If we are going to be inclusive, then we are going have to come up with a better response than “Just hold it” when Benita asks where she’s supposed to use the restroom now without violating the tenets of her Muslim faith. It’s not as though she doesn’t encounter enough discrimination already.
And where is the compassion in forcing a ministry that rescues girls from sex trafficking to open its doors to anatomical males who may be trying to cause these girls harm? Christine Gilge and her husband aren’t feeling the love. Their ministry, Adorned in Grace, is dependent on their ability to provide shelter and healing.
“The new law only escalates the problem of vulnerability,” Gilge says. “We’re teaching these girls that they have the right to set firm, clear boundaries. This law negates our work. It is further exploitation, not progress.”
If we are actually committed to not discriminating, then when rape survivors speak out in defense of their safety, it doesn’t cut it to call them bigots and compare their concerns to a circus sideshow. Of the 20 million Americans who have experienced attempted or completed rape, 17 million are anatomical women. That’s more people than the combined populations of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Utah, Montana, and Wyoming.
That’s an epidemic. Trying to convince them that predators don’t prey is like trying to convince a combat veteran that bombs don’t kill. They know better than you. They’ve earned the right to speak. And under the new law, they can’t – not until it’s too late.
If we are going to preach diversity, then we must stop employing bully tactics like name calling and victim shaming to shut down ideas different than ours.
In the name of compassion and inclusion, important voices have been silenced. Proponents of I-1515 think those voices matter. The effort doesn’t force anyone into any bathroom. It merely repeals a bad rule until we can collectively determine a solution that includes everyone’s voice in the conversation. It is, after all, what true equality requires.
Kaeley Triller Haver of Gig Harbor is communications director of the Just Want Privacy Campaign.