In the Men's Room
Are you paying attention to your Washington State Senate? You should be. The level of tom-fuckery coming from the Senate Republican caucus has reached a new level of absurdity.
With some significant challenges facing Washington State - funding for education to comply with McCleary; fixing our broken mental health care system to comply with a court order; funding the Braam settlement before the State is, yet again, in contempt of court - the GOP is prioritizing bathrooms. Specifically, the geniuses in the Republican Party are working as hard as they can to pass legislation mandating that some men use the women's restroom; that some women change in men's locker rooms.
The "rationale" used is that transgender community members are, apparently, all sex offenders. Even though there is no data to support this assertion, there remains a clear lack of understanding (really, an unwillingness to learn) from the GOP regarding what it means to be transgender. If you listen to senate Republicans, people just wake up one day and say, "hell, I'm a different gender!" The reality, however, is, well...reality. My friend and leader in our community, Danni Askini wrote a fantastic piece for PubliCola on this very topic, debunking the b.s. coming from the other side. Give it a read.
I feel for the trans youth in our state right now. The arguments that are being made by folks opposing the right for all men to use men's rooms are eerily similar to those in support of DOMA when I was a teenager. Perpetuating lies, and fanning the flames of prejudice, Senate Republicans' message to trans youth is simple: you don't matter. Just what a group that has a disproportionate share of suicide attempts and youth homelessness really needs. Congratulations, Washington Republicans. You are dicks.
Frankly, this reinforces the need for greater diversity in places of power. In 2012, I was present during the floor debate on marriage equality, and what stood out: the Republicans speaking in favor - notably Rep. Maureen Walsh and Rep. Glenn Anderson - cited specifically to family members who were LGBTQ. Similarly, U.S. Senator Rob Portman noted his son coming out as the tipping point to his support of marriage equality. Poll after poll reveals that people's attitudes change once they have a friend or family member who has come out.
This is why, in places of power, we must be cognizant of who we elect. Diversity matters because diversity in life experience influences policy making, and that direct peer-lobbying can make for better legislation. We are already seeing this in Seattle, with multiple City Council members who have experienced racism and grown up poor, and the laser-focus they are bringing to inequality in Seattle. We have a younger city council, and one that is more in tune with the direct impacts of local law on young families than there has been since I can remember. This is a good thing.
While our various political institutions are slow on the uptick (looking at you, Washington Democrats), the groups that we see most active on the ground, and most active getting people elected, are the groups that also have the most diverse boards. Those that invite historically disenfranchised groups to the table - and not for a presentation, but to be decision makers.
With the Washington Legislature just two House seats from complete GOP control, and a close Governor's race in 2016, these laws that are being pushed by the GOP (see also: their assault on women's access to reproductive health care access), that are being stopped by the House and would be vetoed, have a real shot at landing on the books. Not only must we ensure we keep the House in Democratic control, but we also need to look to who we are putting up as candidates. The time for "my turn" candidacies is over, and the time for candidates that excite voters, and a statewide message that differentiates us from them, is now.
In order to keep the interest of a more diverse grassroots, and earn the ground game and financial support, I expect our power structures to take a hard look at themselves, and what they are taking for granted. I believe we can counter the conventional wisdom, but I also believe we must do so without relying on straight white guys to fill out our roster across the state. Because it is too important to continue to allow only some voices be on the dais if we want to make meaningful impacts on how we work to treat our fellow Washingtonians.