When The Protest Sign Reveals A Lot More Than Intended

The news coverage of the protests outside a local (to me) YMCA yesterday missed the most important sign the TERFs (trans-exclusive radical feminists) were holding. The one that really revealed how they felt.

Quick side note: While I am aware that "TERF" might not be the most accurate term — I really doubt most of those folks were feminists in any meaningful way — they were attempting to employ feminist language, so I’m going to run with that label for the moment.

The background: The City of Xenia — not the YMCA, to be clear — decided to prosecute a transgender woman for utilizing the female changing room.

To recap the Dayton Daily News coverage, a Fairborn, Ohio woman "was charged in Xenia Municipal Court with three counts of public indecency, for incidents in September, November, and a third incident between November 2021 and 2022." Xenia council president Will Urschel, in a video posted to YouTube in January 2023, "told a meeting of the Greene County Tea Party that if the city is able to successfully prosecute the person involved, they may bring legal action against the YMCA for aiding and abetting the alleged crime." The YMCA, in response, "has said that state non-discrimination laws require it to allow transgender individuals to use locker rooms, changing rooms and bathrooms that align with their gender identity." The organization also says "posted locker room guidelines ask patrons to ‘remain properly covered while in public areas of the locker room.’" The court date has been pushed back due to publicity.

Yesterday, 25 Feb 2023, three to five times as many pro-trans protesters showed up to show support for human rights (across the street in this photo), while a dozen or so TERFs protested against the policy, something you can pretty clearly see in some of the video from the news coverage. For quite some time, there were only four folks protesting against the YMCA – the guy with his cross-on-wheels, one man who kept letting the American flag he was holding hit the ground, one guy who seemed to think he was "owning" people by taking their pictures, and a single woman holding their anti-trans signs. That 3:1 ratio seemed to hold true for the anti-trans protesters, while it was easily the reverse for those protesting for human rights.

There’s a lot I could talk about and unpack there, but specifically, I want to focus on one sign that the anti-trans woman held. It read, "The YMCA cannot give consent for all women." (Or perhaps "Can the YMCA give consent for all women"; I cannot read the text in the photo – The sign is just barely visible below the flag in the photo linked here.)

The assumptions embedded in that one sentence really reveal a lot.

  1. Using "consent" here inherently brings in an implication of prurient (or sexual) interest to a non-sexual action. This was reinforced by the "keep our women safe" sign another TERF was holding.
  2. It absolutely ignores the actual data about who commits sexual assault.
  3. It ignores the YMCA’s own policy of being "properly covered while in public areas of the locker room."
  4. It ignores that gender expression is not — and does not necessarily correlate to — sexual orientation.

The folks I know were all confused by the sign. Because to us, changing in the locker room or using the restroom is an individual act. The idea of "consent" is utterly misused here, and makes no sense whatsoever. I have never asked "consent" before going in the public restroom at, say, a truck stop, and I’ve never seen or heard of someone doing so. Even if you were thinking about knocking on the door before using an individual restroom or stall… well, your gender doesn’t matter, you don’t use the same stall (or individual restroom, or individual changing room) as someone else when they’re using it. Problem solved.

The anti-trans panic does not actually keep anyone safer. If anything, it distracts us from the actual perpetrators of sexual assault. Transgender people are overwhelmingly survivors of sexual assault. On the other hand, it is shockingly easy to find recent cases involving a church leader in Florida, a youth pastor in Mississippi, a youth pastor in Massachusetts, a pastor in North Carolina, a youth pastor in Arkansas, and a youth pastor in Virginia, and, of course, the Southern Baptist Convention’s own released list of "about 380 Southern Baptist church leaders and volunteers [who] have faced credible accusations of sexual misconduct. Of those, roughly 220 were convicted of sex crimes or received plea deals."

If actual "indecent exposure" happens, then it is actually a violation of the YMCA’s rules already, and has nothing to do with a person’s gender expression. Problem solved.

The last point is the most telling to me, though… because these TERFs have already signaled that this is just part of their campaign against LGBTQIA+ people as a whole. The concept of people whose sexual orientation — including asexuality! — is not the same as their own simply did not occur to them.

They were utterly unable to think beyond their own motivations and experiences.

And if you put all that together, that brings us back to something I said at the beginning of the month.

Their actions, their signs, make no sense when measured against observable data. At first glance, it seems nonsensical, even hypocritical.

Then you look at who is assaulting women, is stripping away rights, is denying the existence of others for their identities.

And then you realize.

It is not hypocrisy.

It is projection.

Featured Photo by Lena Balk on Unsplash

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