North Carolina is a Disgrace

I’m a married, heterosexual male and I like it that way.  But my gosh, I cannot believe the discrimination against the LGBT community, and against transgender individuals in particular, that still exists in this modern day and age.  It makes no sense to me whatever.

There are undoubtedly some who remain unpersuaded by arguments for tolerance based on love.  In other words, there will always be some who prefer to hate.  I thought things had begun to change, perhaps only because that’s how it looks on the surface when political correctness drives ugly attitudes underground.  So it’s disappointing to me when the black crud deep in some of our hearts shows up in the light of day.

That’s exactly what happened in North Carolina last week when the legislature rammed through House Bill 2 and the governor quickly signed it into law.  As my mother would say, “you should be ashamed of yourselves!”

HB 2 is North Carolina’s Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act.  Broadly, the law bans local governments, such as cities and counties, from enacting nondiscrimination laws.  Only the state can do that now.  The true purpose of the law was to void Charlotte’s city ordinance that allowed anyone to use the rest rooms and changing rooms of the gender with which he or she identifies.  Indeed, HB 2 specifically provides that people may only use public rest rooms assigned to their biological sex, defined as “the physical condition of being male or female, which is stated on a person’s birth certificate.”

So what does this mean for those transitioning to the opposite gender in North Carolina?  They can be arrested for using a public rest room reserved for the gender with which they identify.  Even those who have fully transitioned risk arrest unless they have had their birth certificates changed.

I am proud to say that I haven’t darkened North Carolina’s door in more than 20 years.  I hope I never do so again.  I find HB 2 to be full of hate, blatantly discriminatory and, most of all, devoid of common sense.  The yahoos in North Carolina’s state government think just the opposite, as is evidenced by Gov. Pat McCrory’s tweet to the effect that he had to stop Charlotte’s ordinance because it “defied common sense.”

I’m pretty sure that I’d be thrown in the slammer if ever I visited North Carolina.  As a man who, thanks to an unfortunate genetic condition, has breasts, I fully expect a fellow user of the men’s room to run out screaming and call the cops to arrest me for daring to use the “wrong” rest room.  I guess I’d have to walk around carrying my birth certificate as proof of my gender.  Of course, I could just drop my pants, but even that wouldn’t satisfy the requirements of the law.

A note to the sane Democrats in the North Carolina Senate:  We appreciate your good intentions, but it really did not do anyone a bit of good to walk out in protest and allow Republican bigots to unanimously approve this bill.  Yes, we know you would have lost anyway, but at least we’d have your “nay” votes on record.

In defending the law, North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore referred to the need to protect women from sexual predators who would show up in the women’s rest room if Charlotte and likeminded cities were permitted to enact equal access rest room ordinances.  After all, we know that all sexual predators are men and that they will uniformly take the opportunity to claim that they are transitioning from male to female and identify as women for the sole purpose of stalking women in various states of undress.  I suppose this is borne out by former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee’s comments last year about his wishes that, back in high school, he could have claimed to identify as a woman so that he could shower in the girls’ locker room.  Oh, well, boys will be boys, right?  After all, as comedian Jeff Foxworthy astutely pointed out, the only things we men want to do is “drink a beer and see something naked.”

This patronizing inclination to protect women who are obviously defenseless (even in a gun-loving southern state) is a bit of gender objectification that reminds me of pre-Loving v. Virginia anti-miscegenation laws designed to protect “the flower of [white] Southern womanhood” from being sullied by black men.  I fail to see the difference in gravity between discrimination on the basis of race and discrimination on the basis of gender.

It’s all about fear, of course.  Hate of every stripe always is.  Lack of understanding, fear of the unknown, antipathy to anyone or anything different than we are.

Hopefully, the American Civil Liberties Union, which has been quick to boo North Carolina’s deplorable shenanigans, will see to it that the federal courts find HB 2 unconstitutional.  While the lawsuit is making its way up to the U.S. Supreme Court, however, any Tar Heel State obstetrician who takes seriously the Hippocratic Oath to “first, do no harm” should commit to refusing to fill out the gender portion of any birth certificate.

That’ll royally screw up the state’s vital statistics.

North Carolina deserves nothing less.

 

Unemployed? Employers are Discriminating Against You

While the epic battle over the Emergency Unemployment Compensation Extension Act rages in the U.S. Senate, our elected representatives ought to consider that the “long-term unemployed” are a product of discrimination on the part of employers.

Discrimination?  Say what?

You heard right.

Let’s assume that just as soon as you get over the shock of being laid off, you begin looking for another job in earnest.  Does your chance of getting hired increase or decrease once you are out of work?

Looking at this question from the point of view of the employer, there are at least two schools of thought on whether or not it is a good idea to hire the unemployed.

  • Hire the unemployed! 
    • The unemployed face all kinds of financial pressure and are eager to work to avoid losing their families and ending up out on the street.
    • The unemployed aren’t in a position to be picky and are willing to perform difficult, onerous, repetitive or dirty jobs at which others would turn up their noses.
    • The unemployed are willing to work on the cheap.  After all, something is better than nothing, particularly when you can no longer put food on the table.
    • The unemployed are available immediately — no two week notice and all that!
  • Heavens no, don’t hire the unemployed! (Also known as “to get a job, you gotta have a job.”)
    • Don’t even bother.  The unemployed are so desperate, they apply for jobs for which they are overqualified or underqualified.  What a waste of time!
    • The unemployed are just looking for a stopgap job.  They’ll just leave as soon as they find something better.  Instead, hire someone who already has a job.  If an applicant is willing to leave his or her job to come work for us, you know this person is serious!
    • The unemployed are “scarred.”  These broken, dispirited people have been beaten down to the point where they have lost the will to succeed at any job.  During their time out of work, their skills have atrophied, they’ve missed out on technical updates and the only thing they’re good at anymore is sitting on their asses in front of the TV.
    • The unemployed tend to have health and family problems that will only end up costing the company money.

So, who’s right?

Word is that some employers have an informal policy of turning down the applications of anyone who is out of work.  And there are some employers who make no bones about it:  They have the guts to include a caveat in their employment ads that the unemployed need not apply.

If this sounds a lot like discrimination, that’s because it is.  And it’s perfectly legal.

This is what I call the “purple” type of discrimination.  If an employer loathes the color purple, he or she violates no law by kicking out any applicant who walks in wearing purple.  In other words, unemployment (like wearing purple garments) is not a “protected class” (like race, gender and disability, for example) under federal law, giving employers the right to discriminate to their heart’s content without legal consequence.

In 2012, the legislature in my home state of California voted in favor of a bill that would make discrimination against the unemployed illegal.  However, the measure failed to become law when Governor Jerry Brown vetoed it.

The bottom line is that the unemployed tend to be looked at with suspicion by potential employers.

Not too long ago, when I found myself in a company’s lovely conference room to be interviewed by a panel of managers, I decided to relax and “just be myself.”  After all, I knew that I had excellent qualifications for the job.  So I explained to the panel how I became laid off when my previous employer had to resort to a reduction in force due to severe financial difficulties.  There were three rounds of layoffs, during which I lost most of the employees who I managed before losing my own job in the last of the rounds.

I wasn’t hired.

After all, who knows why an applicant really became unemployed?  Sure, they’ll tell you a good story, but who knows whether they’re telling you the truth?  Could be that the employee engaged in unethical practices, robbed the company blind, committed sexual harassment or was caught sleeping on the job.  You can reference check from here to Timbuktu, but no former employer will ever admit to any of these things for fear of being sued.

With this attitude on the part of employers, the unemployed, who already ended up on the losing end of the stick once, are guaranteed to be the losers again and again.

And our senators wonder why millions of Americans can’t find a job during their initial 26-week period of state benefits?

We must at least consider that employers may be the ones responsible for causing laid off workers to become the “long termers” that Senate Republicans find so repugnant.

References

Cohen, Adam, “Jobless Discrimination?  When Firms Won’t Even Consider Hiring Anyone Unemployed,” Time (May 23, 2011).  http://content.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,2073520,00.html

Gordon, Clare, “Employer Explains Why He Won’t Hire the Unemployed,” AOL Jobs (Oct. 12, 2012).  http://jobs.aol.com/articles/2012/10/12/employer-explains-why-he-wont-hire-the-unemployed/

Lemieux, Scott, “We Don’t Hire the Unemployed,” Lawyers, Guns & Money Blog (Nov. 18, 2012). http://www.lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com/2013/11/we-don%E2%80%99t-hire-the-unemployed

Lucas, Suzanne, “Unemployed?  5 Reasons Companies Won’t Hire You,” CBS Money (July 27, 2011). http://www.cbsnews.com/news/unemployed-5-reasons-companies-wont-hire-you/

Rampell, Catherine, “The Help-Wanted Sign Comes with a Frustrating Asterisk,” New York Times (Business Day, July 25, 2011).  http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/26/business/help-wanted-ads-exclude-the-long-term-jobless.html?_r=0

Smooke, David, “10 Reasons to Hire the Unemployed,” Smart Recruiters Blog. http://www.smartrecruiters.com/blog/10-reasons-to-hire-the-unemployed/

 

California’s AB 1266: Equality, Respect and Peeing

rest room

So I’m still trying to help the niece get through quadratic equations.  Factoring some of these babies is like wrestling with a grizzly bear, I tell you.  Particularly the ones with fourth powers and such.  Just remember to rationalize your roots and use integer factoring before resorting to the quadratic formula.  Oh, and get rid of the variables in those denominators.  Simplify your expressions.  Show your work.

I’m so glad I’m not in school anymore.

My niece loves her psychology class but is stumped on choosing a topic for her final paper.  It has to be a current issue and she must introduce it by expressing her position in a letter to the editor of a local newspaper.  The instructor wants her students to stay away from topics that are “redundant.”  Whatever that means.  “Not gun control” was the example offered.  My guess is that this teacher doesn’t want to see any topic that has been debated to death in the news.

I asked my niece whether she had anything in mind.  She told me she’d like to gripe about why 18 year olds can die for their country in a war but can’t drink legally.  I asked if she’d Googled the topic and she said she had, but found nothing.  I suggested this could be because 18 year olds who are active military can drink legally.

So now we’re back to square one.  I suggested doing something on bullying, a topic that has returned to the news in the wake of last week’s murder/suicide at Sparks Middle School.  But we couldn’t decide whether or not this falls within the purview of the “redundant.”

One topic that interests my niece is California’s AB 1266, the recent law that modified the state Education Code to grant transgendered students the right to use their choice of the school’s boys’ or girls’ rest rooms and locker rooms, even before sex reassignment surgery.  Massachusetts and Colorado already have adopted similar laws, so our Golden State legislators are not exactly being mavericks here.

I rather like this topic, because it exposes entirely unreasonable societal fears for the warrantless cultural bugaboos they really are.  Tell me how this goes now?  As long as the student in the skirt still has male equipment, that student needs to stay out of the ladies’ room?  But as soon as she (yes, I said “she”) has her junk removed, it will be okay?  After all, we wouldn’t want any transitioning male-to-female transgendered people committing rapes in the women’s.  (Say what??)  Preoperative female-to-male transgendered people we don’t really care about, as they haven’t the equipment to rape anyone with.  Does this sound as insane to you as it does to me?

Of course, the conservative right and the evangelicals are up in arms.  That’s okay, go ahead and withdraw your kids from the public schools.  It may reduce the state aid available to our district, but at least it will improve the student-teacher ratio (until they start laying off teachers, that is).  Besides, home schooling rocks.

I went a step further and suggested that the whole issue of who is permitted to use which rest room is little more than a tempest in a teacup.  I am thinking in terms of all public rest rooms, not just those in schools.  Remember, it wasn’t that long ago that rest rooms were segregated by race.  Why should they continue to be segregated by gender?

If rest rooms in airports, stores and public buildings were not segregated by gender, the idea wouldn’t seem so radical in the case of schools. And when is a better time to teach gender equality, respect and human decency than during the formative years?

One thing that all of us of both genders have in common is that, sooner or later, we gotta go pee.  Standards of common decency should be no different in a rest room than elsewhere.  Like so many things, this goes back to how children are raised.  In the home, the bathrooms are not labeled “men’s and “women’s.”

I had to tell my niece a story about the rest rooms in my freshman college dormitory.  Each floor of the dorm had two wings, one for men and one for women.  Each gender had a large rest room and shower facility in the center of its wing.  In the men’s wing, the problem was that many of the guys had girlfriends who liked to stay overnight and didn’t want to have to trudge all the way over to the other wing to go pee in the middle of the night.  The residence assistant called a meeting to take a vote of the men living in our wing as to whether women should be permitted to use our rest room and shower facility.  The “yes” vote would have been unanimous if not for the fact that yours truly took the coward’s way out and abstained.

As I saw it, I no more wanted women walking in on me than the women in the other wing wanted men walking in on them.  So what terrible things happened?  Absolutely none.  I became accustomed to exiting a rest room stall to find a woman in a bath robe coming out of the shower with a towel wrapped around her hair.  It occurred to me that this was not that different from what I experienced with my sisters back at home.

I think the increasing popularity of “family rest rooms” is a baby step in the right direction.  This solves the problem of what Dad should do when his four year old daughter has to pee during a shopping trip to Wal-Mart.  The naysayers point out that family rest rooms are “single occupancy;” if the parent locks the door, no one else can walk in.  As I say, it’s just a step.  But it’s better than nothing.

A rest room should be just that, a rest room.  A neutral location divested of political and religious issues, an equal opportunity place where anyone can go pee.  I suppose there will always be those who obsess over who is a woman, who is a man, and who may legally step into a particular rest room.  I think those people have bigger problems.