“The biggest obstacle”

I do not really want to address the topic of the transgender movement in the United States but it appears I do not have much choice because it is an issue that is not going away. According to studies by the Public Religion Research Institute only 9% of Americans say they have a close friend or family member who is transgender. And that number may even be a bit high, because other studies indicate that only 0.5% of the American population is transgender. And yet, the issue of accepting the choices of transgender individuals and granting them special privileges and “rights” in accordance with those choices is potentially going to impact us all.

In South Dakota, where I live, the state’s high school activities association just last month approved a policy whereby students shall have the opportunity to participate in the association’s activities “in a manner that is consistent with their gender identity, irrespective of the gender listed on the student’s records.” Therein, of course, we find the root of the problem. For millennia human beings have identified, within moments of birth, the gender of the baby just born. Ever since the advent of birth certificates that information has been recorded officially. And rarely, if ever, has there been any question as to whether that identification was up for debate. Now, apparently, it is.

The June 9, 2014 issue of TIME featured a cover image of a transgender individual who stars on the television show Orange Is the New Black and a feature article entitled “America’s Transition.” This individual, Laverne Cox, has become, according to the piece, “a public face of the transgender movement.” I am going to elaborate later on why the entire notion of transgender is a problem. First, though, I want to touch on a statement Katy Steinmetz includes in the second paragraph of her TIME article. Here it is…

Almost one year after the Supreme Court ruled that Americans were free to marry the person they loved, no matter their sex, another civil rights movement is poised to challenge long-held cultural norms and beliefs. Transgender people–those who identify with a gender other than the sex they were “assigned at birth,” to use the preferred phrase among trans activists–are emerging from the margins to fight for an equal place in society. This new transparency is improving the lives of a long misunderstood minority and beginning to yield new policies, as trans activists and their supporters push for change in schools, hospitals, workplaces, prisons and the military.

There are an incredible number of problems contained right there in those few sentences. First of all, the Supreme Court did not, in fact, rule that Americans are free to marry whomever they love, but I’ll get way off track if I follow that tangent, so let’s just leave that one there. Secondly, as I have argued repeatedly in the past, homosexual “marriage” is not a civil rights issue. Neither are transgender rights. In fact, as I will argue later, the entire notion of transgender individuals being entitled to any special privileges or treatment at all based on their “gender identity” is ridiculous. Third, the paragraph above does accurately link the tremendous strides made by homosexual activists to achieve “rights” for homosexuals to the now-burgeoning movement among transgender activists. Again, as I have argued before, once we redefine what has been accepted for the entirety of human history as marriage we are, for all intents and purposes, jumping onto a slippery slope that will result in all kinds of redefinitions and changes.

Fourth, the notion that gender is “assigned” is a very clever and subtle choice of wording that is designed to convince us that gender and body parts are in no way connected. More on that later, too. Fifth, Steinmetz states that transgender individuals are emerging in order to “fight for an equal place in society.” This is clever wording, too, because who would not be in favor of someone receiving equal treatment and an equal place? After all, equality is a major part of what our nation was founded on, right? Transgender individuals, however, do not want an equal place in society. Instead, they want a special place. They want to receive unique and privileged treatment based on their personal choices. Sixth, and finally, whether or not this “new transparency” is really yielding any improvement in the lives of transgender individuals is debatable, but the policies being adopted to cater to transgender folks are indeed going to touch us all eventually.

A few paragraphs later Steinmetz writes that “the biggest obstacle” faced by transgender individuals is that they “live in a world largely built on a fixed and binary definition of gender.” Very subtle, and intentional, wording there, too–notice that the “binary definition” by which mankind has lived since God created Adam and Eve is an “obstacle” to these individuals living life the way they want to live it. Guess what? There are plenty of obstacles that prevent every one of us from doing things we would like to do on a regular basis. For example, I would like to be able to jump off of the roof of a building a fly–or at the very least enjoy a relaxing downward descent and a soft landing. The “obstacle” of gravity seems to prevent that, though. I would prefer to drive to town doing 100 miles an hour. The road is straight and flat and there is seldom any traffic, but the “SPEED LIMIT 65” signs that stand along the road are obstacles to me doing what I want. I would prefer to have a Porsche in my garage without the cost of buying, insuring or driving one, but life simply doesn’t work that way. Maybe those are silly examples but I challenge you to take a moment and think about all of the “obstacles” that you have to live within each and every day. Take me up on that and I suspect you will literally find dozens of them.

This is a discussion that I am, sadly, just beginning. The next several posts will address this topic, so stay tuned.

“It’s just the logistics…”

Earlier this week the school board of Sioux Falls, SD decided that it would not make the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance a daily requirement in high schools. This was not a new policy; students in Sioux Falls high schools have not been saying the pledges daily for some time. However, a group of veterans asked the board to reconsider that policy. James Boorman, one of the veterans who spoke to the board regarding their request, summarized what they wanted this way: “This is what we are asking, ten seconds a day from standup until sit down. Ten seconds to recite the Pledge of Allegiance each day.” In case you’re wondering that’s a literal ten seconds, too, not hyperbole. Go ahead and try it–watch the second hand on your clock or watch and recite the pledge. At a normal cadence it will not take you ten seconds.

Addressing the reasons why the school board voted–unanimously– not to make the Pledge a high school requirement school board member Kate Parker said, “We felt that we wanted to make that clear that at the high school level, we don’t [recite the Pledge]. There’s not always an opportunity to have the Pledge of Allegiance spoken every day.” Really? There is not an opportunity to find ten seconds that students could recite the pledge? That seems awfully far-fetched to me, and it did with the veterans making the request, too. Said Dave Saunders, “Tonight we had a wounded veteran, it took him longer to get out and get up and get his crutches, then it would have taken the students to say the pledge of allegiance to the flag.”

Another school board member, Doug Morrison, said, “Just the challenge of being able to find a period within a high school day to be able to say it consistently appeared to be a challenge.” Among all of the things that high schools have a literal challenge figuring out how to do, scheduling ten seconds to recite the pledge should not be one of them. Apparently high school students in Sioux Falls do not have home rooms, and the fact that they do not means it would just be too hard to make room for the pledge. That’s absurd. At the school where I serve the high school students do not have home rooms, either. That was a problem that was solved in about–oh–ten seconds. What do we do? The students recite the pledge at the beginning of the first class they have each day. (In fact, our students recite the pledges to the Christian flag and the Bible, too. Somehow we manage to survive despite the thirty seconds that takes every day).

The Argus Leader, the local Sioux Falls newspaper, reported the board’s decision this way: “Board members said the flurry of activity that occurs first thing in the morning at the high schools isn’t conducive to giving the Pledge the reverence it deserves.” In my mind, though, that’s pretty flimsy. Regardless of whatever activities occur at the beginning of any school day there has to come a time when students focus and get down to learning. If there are other things that need to be done before reciting the pledge–announcements or attendance or whatever else–go ahead and do those things first. But to say that there is not time, or that it is not possible to create the reverence the Pledge deserves, is disingenuous and silly. The simple fact is the school board does not want to require it and there is no other logical explanation for it.

Interestingly enough Sioux Falls requires that elementary students recite the pledge every day and in the same meeting that they decided high school students would not they expanded the elementary policy to include middle school students. The message they are sending, whether intentionally or unintentionally, is that the schools have time to encourage younger students to pay respect to their country and the men and women who serve, and have served, to protect it, but at the high school level that commitment of time is no longer convenient. Here’s the thing, though–when it comes to honoring the country and the men and women of the Armed Forces convenience should have nothing to do with it. It should be a priority.

Said James Boorman in the Argus Leader story: “Such reflections help us appreciate not only the veterans, but the freedoms we enjoy as a consequence of their service, taking time to reflect on how we are doing with our use of freedom, helps us to appreciate all the more where it comes from, and the heavy price that is paid to defend and sustain it. … Ten seconds to recite the Pledge of Allegiance each day, throughout all of your grade levels. This is not too much to pay, considering the sacrifice that others are standing in harm’s way for you.”

School board member Kate Parker said the board’s decision is not meant to show any disrespect. “It doesn’t reflect a lack of our appreciation or respect for all that our veterans do, it’s just the logistics of the high school day.”

All due respect to Ms. Parker, I think it takes incredible chutzpah to say with a straight face that when weighing the possibility of reciting the pledge each day or not–dedicating just ten seconds to honor the country, the freedoms we have and the men and women who protect those freedoms–deciding not to do so is just “the logistics of the high school day.”

That’s nothing short of incredible in my mind…and I do not mean incredible in a good way, either.