Why This Progressive Leader in the ACLU Just Quit is Surprising. Hint: Transgender People and Bathrooms

Posted on June 14, 2016 in Public Policy, Sexuality by

Trans bathroom policyYou know you’ve adopted a bad policy position when a leader in the ACLU decides to call it quits because of that policy. President Obama’s push to normalize transgender bathroom laws is having a chilling effect.

I never thought I’d see the day when a progressive person, a leader in the ACLU no less, decides to quit over the implementation of a progressive idea. Yet that is exactly what Maya Dillard Smith did after her young daughters were shaken by having men in the women’s bathroom.

What makes this an interesting story is that a self-described liberal is seeing first hand just how bad the transgender bathroom policy really is. Many voices have shared concern for the safety of women in light of Target’s decision to allow transgender people to use whatever bathroom they choose. And greater concern was shared when President Obama decided to ask all public schools to allow transgender students to use whatever bathroom and locker room they choose.

The public has pushed back against the idea that grown men should be allowed into the locker room and bathroom with young girls and women. The boycott against Target has grown and Target has watched their stock price drop. Fundamentally, people know that grown men and women should not be in the same bathroom or locker room together. But this progressive, liberal idea has become a central focus in our culture.

The ACLU has been front and center in this debate. They have supported Target, supported President Obama, and done all they can to advance the idea that transgender people should be allowed access to whatever bathroom they choose. For this reason, it’s strange that Maya Dillard Smith, a leader in the Georgia chapter of the ACLU has decided to resign her position.

Perhaps it was her personal, first-hand experience that helped her decide to quit. When a mother takes her young daughters into a bathroom only to have three very tall, very male transgender people come in after; things look differently. When your kids are scared and feel unsafe, things look differently. Suddenly, the world you thought you were fighting for is not the place you want to be.

Ms. Smith shares her experience:

“I have shared my personal experience of having taken my elementary school age daughters into a women’s restroom when shortly after three transgender young adults over six feet with deep voices entered. My children were visibly frightened, concerned about their safety and left asking lots of questions for which I, like many parents, was ill-prepared to answer.”

Thankfully nothing happened. Her children were scared and had a lot of questions, but that was it. What if someone taking advantage of the bathroom laws had been waiting for her? What if a privacy issue or assault had taken place? The fear and discomfort Ms. Smith and her kids felt that day would be magnified a thousand times and bring long-term repercussions. While there was no incident in the bathroom for Ms. Smith that day, many others have had terrifying experiences as a result of these terrible laws.

The question that needs to be asked is, “Where does this all end?”

At what point do we stop letting feelings dictate reality? Suppose a young man decides he’s a horse and demands to be fed hay and carrots at school. Will the school accommodate him? If the school refuses, on what grounds will they refuse? If a biological male can simply decide he feels like a female and demand to be treated as such, where do we draw the line?

Already we are seeing biological boys demand to be on girl’s sports teams. Biologically speaking, that is simply not fair. I’m not downplaying the athletic ability of any female. But it is a reality that a team of biological boys will beat a team of biological females at virtually any sport. It’s one of the reason male and female sports have been kept divided. Until now.

I don’t think Ms. Smith will be alone in her frightening experience. Unfortunately there will be more. And some of those experiences will include videotaping, peeping, and assault. As the father of a little girl it is terrifying to think of the consequences of this terrible policy position. And while I am sad that Ms. Smith and her girls had to go through this experience, I am hopeful that this real-world experience will propel her to change course and fight for the privacy and safety of women and little girls everywhere.

Ms. Smith has begun a new website called Finding Middle Ground. This site is dedicated to creating a “safe space” (I’m not a fan of that term) where people can respectfully and civilly ask honest questions about how we move forward concerning the transgender issue. A video on the site asks questions like “How can we ask these kinds of questions without being called a homophobe?” and “How do we prevent predators from preying on kids in bathrooms?”

Ms. Smith is also being honest about what the ACLU has become. She recently said:

“[The ACLU has become] a special interest organization that promotes not all, but certain progressive rights.  In that way, it is a special interest organization not unlike the conservative right, which creates a hierarchy of rights based on who is funding the organization’s lobbying activities. I believe there are solutions that can provide accommodations for transgender people and balance the need to ensure women and girls are safe from those who might have malicious intent.”

She may not be a conservative, but she is thinking like one. All along, conservative voices have offered compromises that seek to respect transgender people while protecting women and little girls. Liberals seeking to push their agenda have rejected those compromises. Maybe a voice like Ms. Smith will bring a little more clarity to the conversation. Hopefully, conservatives will reach out to Ms. Smith and seek to bring her into the conversation as a bridge builder to a common sense solution.

It’s sad that Ms. Smith and her kids had to experience something that no mother and child should ever experience. But there may be some good that comes of it. I certainly hope so.

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