There are still some lines in the sand on transgender equality

In Maryland, you’ll no longer have to worry about anyone telling you what gender you are, where to go to the bathroom or which dressing room to use again. The legislature there has just passed a new bill mandating Transgender Equality across the land… or at least as much land as you can find in Maryland.

The Maryland House of Delegates on Thursday approved a bill banning discrimination on the basis of gender identity, positioning the Old Line State on track to join 17 others and the District of Columbia in protecting the rights of transgender individuals.

Senate Bill 212, otherwise known as the Fairness for All Marylanders Act of 2014, made it through the Democratic-controlled House by a vote of 82-57, after more than two hours of floor debate. It passed the state Senate earlier this month, 32-15, and now heads to the desk of Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley for signature.

“I’m thrilled that we’ve been able to accomplish this,” Democratic state Sen. Rich Madaleno, the bill’s sponsor and the only openly gay member to have ever served in the state Senate, told msnbc. “It took a lot of effort, many years of outreach and education, but it’s remarkable how much progress we’ve been able to make in Maryland, especially over the last four years.”

There have been a lot of stories on this subject crossing the transom lately, and it’s gotten me to thinking about the various designations of “rights” we seem to be pigeonholing for every demographic subdivision you’d care to name. This one in particular raises some rather personal questions in terms of where we draw the line between what the government must recognize and what the individual citizen must recognize. The government part is fairly easy, as long as we stick to the fundamental rights which are already assured to all citizens.

It doesn’t matter how you dress or what pronoun you demand when people refer to you, at least in terms of your basic rights. You should be free to speak your mind, worship as you wish (or not) or keep and bear arms, regardless of which pair of chromosomes is swimming around in your biological stew. And that doesn’t change whether you’re shopping for your clothes at JoS. A. Bank’s or Lady Bug Plus. Of course, when it comes to government recognition, there are still a few folks out there who will try to take it too far.

This story came to my attention this morning. A person on trial for a series of killings is using a unique defense: s/he has had a sex change, is now a woman and so, as Donna, cannot be held responsible for crimes that s/he committed when s/he was Douglas.

Words fail me somewhat, but I wonder if this brings us to the limits of the madness of a world where we are whoever we think ourselves to be and where an operation is enough to justify changing birth certificates.

Well, that’s clearly a case of trying to run the play long past where the whistle has blown. But in our day to day lives, there are other potential cases which are far less beyond the realm of imagination and again beg the question of just how far the rest of your fellow citizens are obligated to go in accommodating you. When I was researching this, a colleague pointed me to – of all places – and advice column at Slate. And while I realize that this takes the newsy level of this discussion down a few notches, it’s still worth reading what one advice seeker was dealing with.

Dear Prudie,
Several years ago I dated a woman named “Rhonda” for three months. I broke up with her after her sister “Amy” revealed to me that Rhonda was born “Ron” and showed me ample evidence. When I confronted Rhonda about her being a transsexual woman, she broke down and confessed that she was going to tell me, but only after we had been intimate! (Luckily we hadn’t been yet.) It wasn’t her transsexuality that ended the relationship, but her deception; I am not a transphobic person. Rhonda took the breakup badly and stopped speaking to Amy, and on top of that their parents took Rhonda’s side and accused Amy of trying to ruin Rhonda’s life out of jealousy. Later, Amy and I began dating and eventually married.

I’ll just let that one sink in for a minute. And I won’t torture you with the helpful “advice” which was dispensed in return by Emily Yoffe.

Surely we can admit – and if need be, ask a court to confirm – that there are limits on the personal interactions you have with others in a situation like this. Honestly, I have to admire the letter writer a bit for not writing this missive from jail after punching his date in the nose. But what of “Rhonda” in this story? Have you no obligation under the law to let an obviously heterosexual dating partner in on the fact that you are not biologically of the gender you are advertising before you … “become intimate” with them?

I don’t care if we’re not talking about the Full Monty here (if you’ll pardon the pun), but even so much as a kiss at the end of the date. I suppose I’ll set myself up for all sorts of hate mail on this one, but as I see it, a person who engages in a goodnight kiss on the stoop under these circumstances should be potentially subject to arrest under sexual assault charges. There is simply no way that any rational court of law could expand the definition of “rights” to the point where you can pass yourself off as different gender than the one you were born with and demand that a prospective suitor accept that to the point of engaging in intimate activities with you. And if things have gone that far, we’ve arrived at a mad, mad world indeed.