“I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.”
— Evelyn Beatrice Hall/Voltaire
Last week, numerous media outlets, including The Hartford Courant published stories
detailing some outrageous comments made by former Major League Baseball player Curt Schilling and the fallout from those comments.
For those of you who haven’t heard, Schilling, the former Boston Red Sox pitcher turned ESPN analyst, lost his job at the sports network after making some disparaging comments on Facebook.
According to published accounts
, Schilling re-posted or “shared” an offensive image and caption mocking the transgender community. Then he reportedly added his own opinion
saying, “A man is a man no matter what they call themselves. I don’t care what they are, who they sleep with, men’s room was designed for the penis, women’s not so much. Now you need laws telling us differently? Pathetic.”
Although the material has been deleted, Schilling has stridently defended his right to express his opinion, and lashed out at his critics.
I Do Have A Dog In This Fight
Personally I find Schilling’s comments extremely offensive. I think most people do. But unlike “most people” I do have a dog in the fight. For those of you who don’t know, my ex-husband, Adam, is transgender. He fully transitioned after we divorced, and is now Audrey.
I told my story in my memoir, Truth Be Told: Adam Becomes Audrey. As it turned out, the book is a brutally honest account of how I met, fell in love with and married the man of my dreams, only to find out that he self-identified as a woman — and what happened after I learned the truth.
Quite frankly, a lot of people haven’t appreciated my honesty — probably because it doesn’t jive with their politically correct expectations. They probably wanted to read a happy story about a spouse who instantly accepted her husband’s true identity and acted accordingly.
But that’s not the way it was. Not for me. Finding out that the person I once considered my soul mate had kept such a devastating secret from me wasn’t easy to accept and it wasn’t easy to understand.
So I wasn’t always kind to my ex. In fact, I said some pretty cruel things after we got divorced — and I wrote about it. Granted, I am human and that cruelty was born out of resentment, hurt, anger and a colossal sense of betrayal. That’s not an excuse or justification for my behavior. There is no excuse.
Having said that, I must also say that I am fiercely protective of Audrey. Before she completed her transition, I told her that I would never, ever hate her because she is transgender. I never have and I never will. So if anyone has issues with her — or anyone else in the transgender community– they can come straight through me. And trust me, I am an extremely formidable opponent.
Having said that, I would love to give Schilling a piece of my mind. But don’t get me wrong. I’m not angry at him. If anything, I’m sad. Clearly this is an extremely ignorant individual. Clearly this is someone who lacks the ability to express his opinion in an acceptable manner. Clearly this is someone who has no qualms about engaging in what is easily perceived as hateful rhetoric. Clearly this is someone who is emotionally and intellectually incapable of wrapping his head around the concepts of diversity and tolerance.
Piling On Doesn’t Help
Clearly Schilling is paying a hefty price for all of that. He’s lost his job and his reputation is once again taking a beating at the hands of the “polite police.”
While I’m hardly about to condone his behavior or pretend to understand it, I will say that piling on doesn’t help. Castigating people like Schilling doesn’t do a damn thing to change them. If anything it makes them cling to their beliefs even more. It makes them even more defiant. It causes more resentment, more bitterness and yes — more hate.
Instead of wasting considerable time and energy trying to turn Schilling — and those like him — into pariahs, we would be much better off if we simply viewed these incidents as chances to engage in an open and honest dialogue about the important issues at hand.
Here are some talking points:
- What is the clinical definition of a transgender person?
- How does a transgender person differ from a transsexual?
- How many transgender people are there in the United States?
- How many transgender people are victims of hate crimes in the United States?
- What is the suicide rate for transgender people in the United States?
- Do people really “choose” to self-identify as the other gender or are they literally “trapped in the wrong body since birth?”
- My son or daughter has a classmate that is biologically male/female but identifies as the other gender and wants to be treated as such. How do I explain this to my child?
- I know someone who enjoys cross-dressing. Does that mean he or she is transgender?
- Does everyone who self-identifies as another gender fully transition to that gender?
- What does “transitioning” entail?
- What is a “bathroom bill?”
- What do the laws passed in North Carolina and Mississippi really say?
- How do we best balance the transgender population’s rights to access the public restroom of their choosing with the general public’s right to privacy?
- How do we combat misconceptions about the transgender community without alienating the general public?
- How can the transgender community and the general public come together to promote greater tolerance and understanding?
Obviously some of these topics will make people uncomfortable. But then again, making progress is never easy.
To learn more about the issues facing the transgender population visit:
The Human Rights Campaign
The Trevor Project