Just when I think I've heard everything, I find out Maya Dillard Smith, the interim director of the Georgia chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), resigned after finding herself "principally and philosophically unaligned with the organization," specifically its dedication to achieving equal rights for transgender people.
What exactly caused Dillard Smith to flee from the ACLU?
In a statement sent to the Atlanta Progressive News, she writes that during a recent trip to a women's restroom with her elementary school-age daughters, "three transgender young adults over six feet with deep voices entered." She claims her children were "visibly frightened, concerned about their safety and left asking lots of questions for which [she], like many parents, was ill-prepared to answer."
OK. Sure. Explaining what it means to be trans can certainly be a daunting task. I get it. But, instead of trying to talk about what happened or looking for resources to help her do so, Dillard Smith decided she should quit her job and launch a campaign aimed at finding solutions that "can provide accommodations for transgender people and balance the need to ensure women and girls are safe from those who might have malicious intent."
While she says she wants to start a dialogue around the issue, in reality, Dillard Smith is just the latest "concern" troll trotting out the same old tired lies about trans people and she's quickly becoming a poster child for the radical right's anti-trans crusade.
I've said it before and I'll keep saying it: There has never been a single case of a trans person attacking anyone in a public restroom. Instead, 70 percent of trans people say they have been denied entrance, harassed or attacked when attempting to use public facilities.
The fear that some person is going to pretend to be trans just to gain access to a restroom so that they can rape or harm women is just ludicrous. Sick people who do sick things don't need a disguise and aren't patiently waiting for a legal loophole to stage their attacks. As HuffPost blogger Kasey Rose-Hodge so eloquently pointed out last month: Where is all the outrage about women being sexually harassed and assaulted everywhere else -- in their own homes, walking across campus, on dates -- by cisgender people? Why is this the fear that conservatives and religious bigots have chosen to champion? It's pretty simple, folks: this isn't about protecting women and children, this is about transphobia.
And while I'm always ready and willing to rant and rave about and against transphobia, instead, let's spend just a second talking about parenting.
People of the internet love to debate what makes a good parent or a bad parent and share opinions about how kids should or shouldn't be raised. I'm not one of those people. I don't have any children and I'm not a fan of telling other people how to live their lives or what they should do with their offspring but it seems painfully obvious to me that a mother's inability to talk to her kids shouldn't trump trans people being afforded the same rights as everyone else.
The way that Dillard Smith handled this situation is absolutely appalling -- full stop. If her strategy to deal with any question poised by her children that she can't easily and instantly answer is to stick her head in the sand, run the opposite direction -- or worse, take it out on a group of wholly innocent people, I fear for her kids. They're going to meet lots of people in their lives that don't look like them or talk like them or act like them. The sooner they learn that people come in all kinds of shapes and sizes and genders and sexualities, the sooner they can shrug their shoulders, toss a "that's cool" over their shoulders and head back outside to play.
So, what should a parent do if they encounter a trans person while in the bathroom -- or anywhere else -- with their kids? There are a lot of factors to take into consideration including how old the children are and what their specific questions are, but generally speaking: Start by explaining that there are all kinds of people in this big, beautiful world and that everyone is special in their own way. Tell them that being different is a magnificent thing and ask them to imagine how boring it would be if everyone was the same. From there, check out some of the many resources available on the web to get into the particulars of what it means to be trans (see below for just a few). And... that's it, really!
We're incredibly lucky that kids don't come into this world programmed to be bigots -- it's found time and time again that they're the most understanding and least shocked among us -- but one spectacularly wrong move by a parent can quickly ruin that. That's not how we want to raise our kids, is it? We're better than that, aren't we? And as for Dillard Smith? I hope she realizes what a huge mistake she's made and I hope that her shame -- because she should be deeply ashamed of herself -- inspires her to help trans people (and anyone else who is being maligned, disenfranchised and -- yes, murdered, just for daring to live as exactly who they are) to achieve the protections and rights we all deserve.
Resources for parents with questions about the transgender community: