Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Rep. Jesse Kremer should back off of his discriminatory crusade

Wisconsin must reject bigoted bills proposed by conservative lawmakers

I wrote late last week about Rep. Jesse Kremer’s outrageous attacks against working Wisconsinites. In an op-ed he wrote earlier in the week, Kremer decried the state’s “jobs crisis” as being manifested by unskilled workers, demanding college students and individuals who were on public assistance.

Those accusations were baseless, and Kremer refused to acknowledge his own party’s role in creating a slower-paced jobs recovery. But as outlandish as his statements on jobs were, they pale in comparison to what else he wrote last weekend.

On his Facebook campaign page, Kremer decided to sound off on a hot topic in conservative circles as of late: transgender individuals who want to use the restroom that corresponds to their gender identity.

Kremer's original Facebook post
Responding to a request made by Dane County Executive Joe Parisi asking Gov. Scott Walker to promise to veto any discriminatory transgender bill that may reach his desk, Kremer posted his thoughts on the whole matter.

“I am proud of North Carolina,” Kremer wrote, which passed a law recently banning local municipalities from recognizing the rights of trans people including the use of restrooms that line up with their identities, “and disgusted that our own Republican legislature couldn’t take the high road and pass [similar legislation] in Wisconsin.”

The issue is an important one to Kremer, who submitted a bill last year that would have banned school districts from allowing students to use bathrooms that corresponded to their gender identities. He had even suggested that trans students had invited bullying unto themselves in asking that their gender identities be recognized.

“If you're making a big deal about it,” he said, “[transgender students] obviously are inviting harassment and bullying already.”

In his most recent commentary, Kremer went further, stating that “there must be social boundaries and individuals who will stand up for the privacy and protection of women and girls in a ‘sexless’ society.”

To round it out, Kremer goes “all caps lock” on liberals -- “This is what the far left is advocating - NO MORE PROTECTION AND PRIVACY FOR WOMEN! Period.”

That’s a rich assessment -- the legislator who has authored bills seeking to set stricter limits on abortion and limit women’s access to contraceptives now thinks himself a protector of a woman’s right to privacy.

Kremer couldn’t be more wrong about what he’s ranting about. We don't live in a sexless society. Instead, we live in a society that is recognizing that gender isn't necessarily indicated by what organs you are born with. Gender isn’t even a binary option -- science tells us it is more of a spectrum.

These changing attitudes about gender don’t “remove boundaries” when it comes to privacy, either. Rather, it allows everyone to seek privacy in restrooms and changing rooms -- allowing trans men and trans women those same rights as well.

This isn’t opinion, but regarded as fact by psychologists. Individuals can identify as a gender that’s different from what they were assigned with at birth, and often this identity is discovered at a very young age (not on a whim as some conservatives contend).

Additionally, there is no evidence to suggest that opening up restrooms to trans individuals is going to increase harassment. Looking back to Kremer’s Facebook post, he asks, “what will [a man pretending to be a transgender woman who harms others] be charged with? Sexual harassment, disorderly conduct?”

The answer is, yes, he should be charged on those counts! And anyone who acts inappropriately in the restrooms -- including transgender individuals -- should face consequences fitting their criminal activities. But that’s the whole point, really: fair treatment for everyone.

Yet the evidence behind Kremer’s suppositions just isn’t there. As it turns out, men are more likely to enter a woman’s restroom in cities where such laws don’t protect a transgender person’s right to enter the restrooms they identify with. From Politifact North Carolina (emphases in bold added):
After spending hours combing through conservative blogs and family values websites dedicated to news about transgender bathroom ordinances, we were able to confirm three cases in the United States in the last 17 years in which a biological male was convicted of a crime that involved him in a women’s bathroom or locker room and dressed as a woman.

It’s unclear if any of the three identified as transgender women, but none of those cases happened in cities where it would have been legal for a transgender woman to use the women’s room anyway. And none involved sexual assault or rape.
The “transgender scare” that Kremer is attempting to roil up is even more profound when you consider that you’re more likely to get harassed in restrooms by men in the Republican Party than by a member of the transgender community. In fact, transgender individuals face MUCH MORE harassment today thank cisgender individuals, harassment which often results in depression and even suicidal tendencies (those who have faced discrimination in such a way have reported attempting suicide at a significantly higher rate than the general population).

Rep. Jesse Kremer says he is proud of North Carolina for passing such legislation. In striking contrast, the citizens of North Carolina are not proud of their own government’s efforts to discriminate -- 53 percent of citizens feel that the law will have a negative impact on the state, and only 36 percent support the law according to recent polling.

It is likely that, if a bill similar to what Kremer proposed before is passed in our state, Wisconsin’s economy would suffer more than it already has under Republican leadership, likely seeing the same types of boycotts that are impacting North Carolina currently.

Many fear that Kremer or another member of the state legislature will bring a similar bill up for a vote in the future. “We know that this bill may likely be seen again in Wisconsin at some point,” Rep. Melissa Sargent (D-Madison) wrote earlier this month. “Businesses, politicians, and progressive groups must raise their voices against this legislation in Wisconsin, much like they are doing in North Carolina now, so that it is never successful in our state.”

Indeed, the people of Wisconsin must speak out against these types of bills, which deprive people of their basic freedoms. Rep. Jesse Kremer needs to back off of his crusade to codify bigotry, educate himself on the issues, and perhaps even advocate for more acceptance for transgender citizens of our state.

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