Happy Pride month! Also, I'm going to need to verify your genitals are what I think they should be before you pee.
That is not a statement that makes a lot of sense to someone with a single toe dipped in decency, but that's where Jim Minnery and the arch-conservative Alaska Family Council/Action would like us to live. After (and, honestly, well before) Anchorage passed a citywide prohibition on LGBTQ discrimination – barring people from being fired from their jobs or evicted from their homes on a basis of sexual orientation or gender identity – Minnery returned to his fever dreams of roving bands of sexual predator transvestites lying in wait for our daughters to use the restroom.
The AFC/A president partnered with the Anchorage Baptist Temple's Reverend Jerry Prevo to fight a similar proposed ordinance in 2009. It passed the Assembly but was vetoed by then-mayor Dan Sullivan – following in the footsteps of his father, who did the same in the mid-70s. In 2012, Minnery led the opposition to Prop 5, a ballot initiative with the same goal.
While Prevo balked at any optics or strategy and instead blurted out words like “abomination” and “pervert,” Minnery has always feigned tolerance while relying on the same argument: “Hide your kids, hide your wife, there are evil cross-dressers in the bathrooms!” During the Prop 5 debate, he dolled out dishonest, crass cartoons of men with five-o'clock shadows in dresses showing up at day care facilities, (falsely) threatening that anyone who objected would be thrown in jail under the new law. Five years later, the cartoons are back, despite the complete absence of any protections for cross-dressers or jail time for anyone found practicing discrimination in the current law protecting LGBTQ residents of Anchorage. There remain criminal laws targeting sexual predators. Nowhere do they say “unless they're gay or transvestites” (which I still am not sure if he understands are two completely different things).
So, after a couple failed attempts, he managed to string together a mostly coherent cluster of words rolling back some of the actual, existing protections for transgender individuals trying to use the bathroom that aligns with their gender identity – meaning the gender they identify with and live as every day (not just on Tuesdays, as he has suggested). Municipal attorney William Falsey reviewed the proposed ballot initiative and certified it, cautioning that it “raises a number of significant legal and constitutional questions[.]” Falsey also noted that the First, Sixth, Ninth, and Eleventh Circuit Courts (or, as Minnery misunderstands the Judiciary, unelected judges) have ruled that discrimination against transgender citizens based on transgender status is discrimination “because of sex under federal civil rights statutes and the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution.”
The initiative is now in the signature-gathering stage. That bar is ridiculously low, requiring an amount of signatures equal to or more than ten percent of votes cast in the last general mayoral election. That pans out to 5,754. To help put that into perspective, in the election that set that number, Eagle River Assembly member and then-mayoral candidate Amy Demboski – who campaigned against equal protections for the LGBTQ community – received more than 27,000 votes.
As soon as next April, Anchorage could be voting whether or not “sex” should be redefined in statute to mean “an individual’s immutable biological condition of being male or female, as objectively determined by anatomy and genetics at the time of birth.” This would be verified by the gender listed on their original birth certificate. Which we totally all carry around on a regular basis, right?
But it's for public safety, warranted in response to the zeroes and zeroes of incidents where an actual trans person has targeted a child in a bathroom. Writing for CNN in March of this year, Emanuella Grinberg and Dani Stewart noted that 19 states, the District of Columbia, and over 200 municipalities have policies protecting use of bathroom and locker rooms according to one's gender identity. They were able to track down one single case in Seattle, Washington, where a man entered a women's locker room. He “made no verbal or physical attempt to identify as a woman,” but cited the law, incorrectly claiming it gave him the right to be there.
Again, current law in Anchorage defines gender as “a person’s gender-related self-identity, as expressed in appearance or behavior, regardless of the person’s sex assigned at birth.” This is not consistent with the altercation in Seattle.
Other than that, there simply haven't been issues.
“CNN reached out to 20 law enforcement agencies in states with anti-discrimination policies covering gender identity,” the authors wrote. “None who answered reported any bathroom assaults after the policies took effect.” That includes Maine, which adopted the policy over a decade ago.
Anecdotally, I have shared a public restroom with a transgender man. A transgender man has used my restroom. Everything turned out fine, I assume. I didn't ask and he didn't fill out the customer feedback form I leave out for guests.
On the flip side, a 2013 survey conducted by the Williams Institute of Law at the UCLA School of Law found that 70 percent of transgender respondents said they had been denied access and/or experienced verbal harassment or physical assault while attempting to use the restroom that correlated with their gender identity. The 2012 “Anchorage LGBT Discrimination Survey: Final Report,” authored by Melissa S. Green, found that nearly a third of respondents had been barred from using “gender-appropriate bathrooms at work,” and 36 percent delayed transitioning to “avoid job discrimination.”
The problem isn't gender nonconformity. The problem is the rest of us not being OK with it and whipping ourselves into paranoid frenzies searching for solutions to a problem we imagined in the first place.
(As I'm writing this, coincidentally, APD texted me an alert informing me that a cisgender male has been arrested for sexual abuse of a minor and “police believe there may be more victims.”)
Moves like this have been popping up with deleterious effects all over the country. North Carolina signed one into law – and then repealed it after the state faced losing a projected $3.6 billion over the next 12 years over lost business and boycotts. The NCAA pulled out of hosting their tournaments there through 2022. Gee, that sounds like a swell idea in the middle of a fiscal crisis for an imaginary problem.
Sixteen states have considered similar legislation, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Six states have considered laws that would preempt municipalities from enacting local anti-discrimination laws. 14 have entertained legislation aimed at limiting transgender students' rights at school.
“Yes, we are collecting signatures to protect women and girls in private, intimate settings,” Alaska Family Action made up in an ad they are pushing on Facebook. “Christians have a better identity to offer the world.”
That last part is a bit chilling. Minnery applies a softer lens to the fire and brimstone antics of Prevo, but the underlying root underneath the drive to “protect freedom of religion” is to adopt one universal doctrinal interpretation of Christianity – his – and declare that we all follow suit. I don't think he understands what religious freedom is. I don't think he cares.
Under His eye.