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Religious Tolerance logo


Transgender and transsexual topics

Two conflicts involving public
washrooms or dressing rooms:
2011: An incident at Macy's in TX.
2015: A student in Gloucester, VA.

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2011-DEC: An incident at Macy's:

Patriot Newswire posted an article titled "Homosexual Rights = Privileged Rights" 1 It described an altercation between an employee of Macy's in Texas and a transgender person.

However, the article's title is unrelated to its content:

  • Homosexuality is a sexual orientation defined by the gender of the person to whom they are sexually attracted.

  • Transgender is a condition defined by a mismatch between a person's perceived gender and their birth-identified gender.

Macy's in San Antonio, TX, has a fitting room for customers. Natilie Johnson, a clerk at Macy's, spotted a male to female [MTF] transgender person walking out of the women's fitting room. According to Liberty Counsel -- a fundamentalist Christian legal advocacy group -- the clerk "politely told him* that he* could not go back in because it was for women only."

The customer explained that she is a female and a transsexual. Liberty Counsel said that some if the customers' friends:

"... argued with expletives that Macy’s is LGBT-friendly, to which Johnson replied that Macy’s is also non-discriminatory toward religion and that it would go against her religious beliefs to lie that he [the transsexual customer] was a woman or compromise with homosexuality."

* In common with most other fundamentalist Christian group, Liberty Counsel identified the MTF transgender customer as a "he."

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It is not clear why the clerk felt that she would be lying if she followed Macy's policies. It is also unclear why her beliefs about homosexuality are related in any way with the events on that day.

The clerk later told Macy's that she could not allow a male to change in a females' fitting room because of her religious beliefs. She referred to the company's policy that protects employees against religious discriminaion.

This is another example of a recent shift in the concept of religious freedom which used to refer to a person or group's freedom of belief, assembly, speech, etc. Increasingly religious freedom is being used to denigrate & oppress others -- often women and sexual minorities. In this case it is a clerk at Macy's wishing to use freedom of religion in order to oppress and denigrate transgender persons and transsexuals.

Liberty Counsel posted an article in their web site titled "Macy's Fires Employee for Protecting Women's Dressing Rooms from Cross-dresser." Again, the article's title is unrelated to its content. The term "cross-dresser" typically refers to a person who identifies as a male and who dresses up in women's clothing.

The article reported that: "Johnson refused to go against her sincerely held religious beliefs and was terminated from her job."

Mathew Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel, concluded:

"Macy’s policy which allows men to use the women’s dressing room is fraught with problems. This policy will cause significant problems and will alienate the majority of Macy’s customers."

Hopefully Liberty Counsel and the employees of Macys, over time, will accept that the customer is female because she identifies as female and presents herself accordingly. 2

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2015-SEP: A conflict involving Gavin Grimm, 16, of Gloucester County, VA:

Gavin, 16, lives in Gloucester County, a rural area located in eastern Virginia, near Newport News, Norfolk, and Virginia Beach. Gavin is a FTM transgender high-school student. 3 His story is very similar to that of other students across the country.

Like many other FTM transgender individuals, he started to refuse to wear girls' clothing as a child -- in his case, at age 6. He told his parents that he was transgender in 2014. His parents helped him legally change his name. A psychiatrist diagnosed him as suffering from gender dysphoria, which is a high level of emotional stress caused by the conflict between his male gender identity and his birth-identified female gender. He has been taking male hormones to deepen his voice and make his appearance more masculine.

Gavin used the male bathroom at school without incident until some parents of other students complained. School officials then created a new policy by a vote of 6 to 1. It require students to use the main bathroom that matches their birth-identified gender. Transgender students who object were given the option of using a single-stall, unisex bathroom in the school nurse's office which is open to any student. Gavin feels that this is stigmatizing and discriminatory. He identifies as male and feels that it is important for him to be able to access the male bathroom.

He said:

"It's humiliating, it's ostracizing and I don't want to take that walk of shame to the unisex bathroom and know that everyone who saw me go in there knows why I'm in there -- because I'm different, and I've been marked different by my school and publicly. ... I'm not comfortable with it whatsoever. I'm not an 'other' and I'm not unisex, I'm a boy." 4

Some other students and their parents object to him using the boys' bathroom. They feel it would be disruptive and a violation of the privacy of the other boys. That may not happen in practice, because Gavin has a boy's name, identifies as male, dresses as a male, and looks like a male.

With the legal support of the American Civil Liberties Union, Gavin filed a lawsuit against the school board.

He commented on the local conflict, saying:

"There's the side that's like, 'Wow, Gloucester is really in the Stone Age with this one — just let you pee and be yourself and be happy.' And there's a lot of people from Gloucester who are like, 'It's the Bible Belt and Satan is in our town'." 4

The MSN article briefly quote remarks from adult residents in Gloucester:

  • "If they're not fixed like a man, they should not use the men's bathroom."

  • "I don't care what bathroom he uses. Just don't go potty on the hallway floor."

  • "I think it's a hard situation, especially for somebody so young. It could also be dangerous. You know those young boys in high school aren't going to understand that."

Some students also had contrasting views:

  • "The way I look at it, gay, straight, transgender, hermaphrodite — I don't discriminate. I don't see why it's such a big deal."

  • "My friends and I are uncomfortable with co-ed bathrooms and locker rooms. Don't we matter too? How is it fair to advance the rights of one by violating the rights of a thousand? The unisex restroom isn't perfect, but it's the best option."

Barbara J. King, an anthropology professor at the College of William & Mary said that there is a lack of understanding in the community about what it means for a person to be transgender. She said:

"A lot of this is based on fear?" It seems to be a continual discussion of privacy. I just have a hard time understanding what the big harm is and what the big danger is. I've never had that explained to me." 4

Larry O'Dell, writing for the Associated Press, said:

"... the dispute, which unfolded in heated school board meetings and spilled into federal court, is not unique to Gloucester. A transgender student's use of the girls' facilities in a Missouri high school triggered a late-August backlash by parents and a protest by nearly 200 students. Last year, Maine's highest court ruled that a [MTF] transgender fifth-grader could use the girls' restroom. 4

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "HOMOSEXUAL RIGHTS = PRIVILEGED RIGHTS," Patriot Newswire, 2012-DEC (exact date not specified), at: http://patriot-newswire.com/
  2. "Macy's Fires Employee for Protecting Women's Dressing Rooms from Cross-dresser," Libety Counsel, 2011-DEC-09, at: http://www.lc.org/
  3. Larry O'Dell, Transgender student's battle divides rural Virginia town," Chicago Tribune, 2015-SEP, at: http://www.chicagotribune.com/
  4. "Transgender student's battle divides rural Virginia town," Chicago Tribune, 2015-SEP-17, at: http://en.wikipedia.org/

Site navigation:

 Home > Transgender here

 Home > "Hot" topics > Transgender here

 Home > Christianity > Christian history, belief... > Beliefs > Transgender here

Home > Christianity > History, practices... > Christian practices > Transgender here

Home > Religious Information > Basic data > Transgender here

Home > Human rights > Transgender here

Home > Morality and ethics > Transgender here

Copyright © 2015 & 2016 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Original posting: 2015-SEP-18
Latest update : 2017-JAN-07
Author: B.A. Robinson

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