The world is going to Hell in a handbasket.
Well, at least according to a friend of mine, who was recently lamenting the concept of Critical Race Theory, discussion of gender identity in public schools and the “whole gay marriage thing.”
Maybe you’re thinking, why are you friends with someone like that? Well, to be honest, I have several friends who feel the same way. They are not racists or bigots. They are decent, hard-working, kind and generous people. For the most part, they ascribe to a “live and let live attitude,” but many of them also cite their own religious beliefs and convictions as the foundation and the basis of their concerns.
On the other side of the coin, I have some friends who are somewhat trigger-happy with the “politically correct” gun. In their view, racism and bigotry can be found around almost every corner. They seem to be perpetually “offended,” and generally have a dim view of religion, NASCAR and the Second Amendment.
However, the vast and overwhelming majority of my friends can be found somewhere in the middle of that spectrum. It’s also where I find myself . . . at least most of the time.
Regular readers of this blog and those who follow me on social media already know that I am a political centrist, and that I ping back and forth between conservative and liberal thought as easily as a blade of grass is bent by the breeze. According to some people, I have no convictions or moral compass. I have also been accused of being a kiss-ass and guilty of “virtue signaling.”
Let’s pause here for a moment and think about that last sentence. Virtue signaling? Apparently, from what I have been able to gather, this is a term used by conservatives to describe someone who publicly discusses racism or liberal attitudes. People who use this phrase, apparently, don’t like people talking about virtues. Is it bad to have virtues? I don’t know, let’s move on.
Man of the year
Several weeks ago, I apparently made a comment in the public square about the issue of gender identity. I can’t seem to find it now, but I think that I basically wondered why gender identity was all of a sudden a thing. In my view, it was the just the latest in a trend to continually prove that we are each special and unique and need new ways to pronounce our self-absorbed identity to the rest of the world.
That post/comment prompted a call from a friend I have known for nearly 30 years. He said, “We need to get together for a beer and talk.” I drove into Portland a few days later to meet him for lunch. He told me that he had recently come to understand that he was a member of the LGBTQ community, specifically that he is transgendered.
I was knocked back on my heels. Look, I consider myself to be an open-minded and tolerant guy. I have several very close friends who are either gay or lesbian. In fact, one of my most dear friends (a man I lived with for several years) is openly gay. But I never before had a friend who is transgendered.
I had a ton of questions. Of all the people I know, this particular friend was the last person I would imagine to be transgendered. He is a successful professional, happily married to a beautiful woman with a gorgeous daughter, a beautiful home . . . you know, the whole nine yards of normalcy.
So, over the course of an hour or so, I peppered my friend with questions. Does his wife know? How did she handle the news? What about his daughter? His family?
When did you choose to be a man, he asked me.
I didn’t choose. I was born that way, I replied.
Exactly, he responded. When it comes to gender identity, none of us choose. It’s not like a hobby or joining the Elks Club. It’s who you are.
Yeah, I responded but you’re born with certain genitalia, which determines if you’re male or female.
“Gender identity is about a lot more than genitalia and it’s not about sexual preference,” he said. “As far back as I can remember, I was always more comfortable playing with girls. By the time I hit middle school, I was constantly bullied because I wasn’t like most of the other boys in my class. Society drills into you what is expected if you are a boy or if you a girl. Those expectations are relentless.”
Our conversation went all over the place. I questioned him about natural law and defiance of God’s will.
“What if I don’t believe in God?” he responded. “Do you really think the world is going to come of its axis if some people choose to identify with a gender that is different from the one to which they were assigned? Trans people have been around since the beginning of time. How does it impact you or anyone you know if I choose to identify as a woman? Who is being harmed?”
I have been thinking about that conversation for almost a month, and here’s what I have come to believe. [Pause here. Disclosure: I do not have any advanced degrees, including psychology, religion or political science. I’m just a bald, overweight, underachiever from Biddeford, Maine. My opinion, plus $4.25, will get you a small coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts. So, relax. This is just my opinion and it carries no more weight than your opinion]
I think my friend is mostly right. Some hardline conservatives tend to get all worked up about individual rights when it comes to things like wearing a mask in public during a global pandemic, but they are quick to judge individual choices and preferences. They want you to subscribe to their values.
Furthermore, I don’t want to live in a government that is controlled or motivated by certain religious beliefs. Those guys who flew airliners into the World Trade Center were convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that they were doing God’s work.
Now, I can almost hear what some of you are thinking. What about professional/collegiate or even high school sports/competitions? What about boys who want to use the girls’ bathroom?
I confess. I don’t have the answers to all those questions. But I am convinced that a nation that figured out how to put a man on the moon can figure out some common-sense solutions to these questions or dilemmas. For example, we could have a third restroom that could be used by anyone. It’s not rocket science. Hell, we have only had the Americans with Disabilities Act for a little more than 30 years (1990).
Today, just about anywhere you go, you can find accommodations for people with physical disabilities. We figured it out. Despite some protests about the cost impacts to Joe and Jane Taxpayer, businesses and institutions were able to adapt. I happen to think that the world is a better place if people with physical disabilities can get on the bus, do their own grocery shopping or attend a sporting event.
Hey, teacher! Leave them kids alone
Now here’s where I part company with some of my friends on the left side of the political aisle.
There is absolutely no need to develop curriculum for kids in grades K-3 to foster classroom conversations about gender identity, sexual preference or gay marriage.
For Pete’s sake, we’re talking about kids aged 5-8 years old. At this age, kids will gladly eat paste, crayons or their own snot. In most cases, they don’t yet have the intellectual or emotional capacity to determine which socks they should wear. They should be allowed to be fun-loving kids without concern for adult subject matters. You only get a 3-4 year window of just being a kid, why muck it up for them?
I mean really. There is a reason we don’t let kids vote until they are 18 or drive until they are 16. There are appropriate age barriers for childhood development stages. Here in the state of Maine, the age of consent is 16 years old, which means a child under the age of 16 cannot consent to sexual acts. I don’t know about you, but that makes sense to me.
I remember one particular day when I was in the fifth grade and all the girls in our class got to go to a special assembly and the boys were left behind in the classroom. I remember asking our teacher, Mr. Flaherty, what was going on. He replied curtly, “nothing you need to worry about.” Boom. End of conversation. I went back to whatever I was doing to pass the time. The girls returned to the classroom about an hour later and they all had gift bags.
What a rip-off, I thought. It just wasn’t fair, I reasoned.
The next year, in health class, the mystery was cleared up for all of us. Some of us giggled, others let their minds drift someplace else and others just accepted what we were being taught. It was really no big deal. I don’t recall any pending legislation or parent protests. We were 12-year-old public school students and we learned about sexual intercourse, pregnancy and menstruation. Upon learning these things, we didn’t run out and start fornicating like jack rabbits. (Well maybe the other kids did, but it would be another 35 years before I experienced sexual intercourse.)
If a seven-year-old asks his teacher “why does Johnny have two daddies,” an appropriate response is: because Johnny’s parents are different than your parents. Boom. End of conversation. I’ll bet you dollars to donuts that kid will simply shrug his shoulders and move on to the very next thing that catches his attention, like wondering how much money the tooth fairy is going to leave under his pillow.
And for those of you who are worried that the gay/transgender lobby is out to recruit your kid. Relax. Your kid already knows if he/she is gay or straight. Again, it’s not something you just randomly choose. Hey wait, I think I’ll try being gay for a while. No, it doesn’t work like that.
As for corrective/trans-gender surgery options, I believe you should be at least 16 years old before you can make that decision. Even then, I think it’s dicey because you’re talking about a medical procedure that is pretty much permanent.
If your son is gay, it’s not because of something he learned in school. Are you going to still love him after he tells you that he is gay? Are you gonna try to have him fixed? If your daughter tells you that she is attracted to other women, what’s your response? Frankly, I don’t think kids should be having sex until they are 18, but it happens. Once, they are grown and out of the house, however, the less I know about their sex lives, the better.
I know I promised to also discuss gay marriage and Critical Race Theory in this post, but we are pretty much out of room for today. I will tackle those lightweight subjects in the near future. In the meantime, focus on being a nice person and stop being offended about every little thing.
We’re all different, but we are also all the same. Let’s spend more time focusing on what unites us rather than worrying so much about what divides us.