The Portland Phoenix

Politics & Other Mistakes: Bias transit

These are tough times for bigots.

It’s no longer acceptable to make crude remarks about women, let alone trying a little unwanted fondling. Such behavior could cost a sexist pig his job or even get him tossed in prison.

Blacks, Asians, Hispanics, Jews, Muslims, immigrants, and other minorities can make life difficult for racists, anti-Semites, or xenophobes. A slur here or an insult there and the perpetrator will likely find themselves unemployed and shunned by everyone except the Proud Boys.

Even gay men and lesbians have finally found some measure of acceptance. Exceptions may apply in rural areas, fundamentalist churches, and the Republican Party.

But take heart, haters. There’s still one class of outsiders you can freely disparage:

Transgendered people.

Patch up those old Ku Klux Klan sheets, unfurl those moth-eaten Confederate flags and soak those wooden crosses with gasoline for burning. The bad old days aren’t gone yet.

Republican state Rep. Beth O’Connor of Berwick is sponsoring a bill in the Legislature titled “An Act to Ban Biological Males from Participating in Women’s Sports.” O’Connor told the Maine Sunday Telegram, “I absolutely feel it needs to be talked about. That’s why I want to have a conversation in a controlled setting.”

That makes what might otherwise appear to be outright bigotry seem almost genteel, sort of the way Georgia handled the passage of a bunch of new Jim Crow voting laws. Just trying to disguise deplorable behavior as something semi-civilized.

What this legislation would do is ban any transgendered woman (O’Connor insists on the term “biological male”) from competing against cis-gendered women in all sporting events from elementary school through college. She claims these ex-men (mutants?) have cost real women trophies and even scholarships because they’re bigger, stronger, and faster.

It doesn’t seem to have occurred to O’Connor that some men are smaller, weaker, and slower than lots of female athletes. It also seems to have escaped her notice that no matter what physical traits a person is born with, excellence in athletics comes mostly from perseverance and practice. Apparently, she thinks men – even transgendered ones – are better at that than women, but in reality, gender identity is pretty low on the list of qualities that win races.

This state already has a reasonable system in place to make sure that people who have switched their gender identities and want to play scholastic sports are dealt with in an even-handed manner. According to the Sunday Telegram, the Maine Principals’ Association’s Gender Identity Equity Committee holds hearings “focused on confirming that a student’s gender identity has been consistent and that allowing the gender identity waiver would not create an unfair or unsafe competitive situation.”

So far, there haven’t been any major issues – except for O’Connor and her ilk.

This probably shouldn’t come as a surprise. O’Connor has a long history of wildly skewed attempts to alter reality. She favors any restriction that stops women from choosing to have abortions. She opposes the state law that requires all school children to be vaccinated except for medical reasons. She doesn’t think churches should have to abide by pandemic emergency restrictions on indoor seating.

Back in 2011, she was one of only three legislators who voted against banning the toxic chemical BPA in babies’ sippy cups. Let the kiddies decide for themselves if they want to be poisoned.

Sadly for the prejudiced crowd, O’Connor’s bill is unlikely to pass for several reasons.

First, it conflicts with existing state law that protects the human rights of transgendered people. Second, because it only addresses restricting transgendered women, it’s at odds with sex discrimination statutes. And then there’s the matter of Democrats controlling both chambers of the Legislature.

Nevertheless, it must be reassuring to those with a lifelong commitment to oppressing somebody – anybody – that there are still opportunities to air out their fetid prejudices in a public forum such as the Legislature.

It’s almost enough to restore their faith in humanity – by which they mean that narrow little band of it they find acceptable.

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