Mothers, Bathrooms, and the Idol of Feelings

Probably by now everyone knows about the Presidential bathroom decree that makes Target’s position look like child’s play.

Following the Target decision I read numerous posts from moms sharing how they intended to navigate using the loo with their little people. The vast majority of what I read from Christian moms were urging a march-in-that-bathroom-and-teach-my-little-one-to-love-everybody-by-smiling-at-the-man-in-the-girls’-room kind of approach. Most were wanting to recognize the humanity and struggle of the man who sees himself as a woman. Some even scoffed and vehemently rejected the idea that this could heighten abuse, instead insisting that men who believe themselves to be women were nothing like child predators, and confusing the two was judgmental and un-Christian.

Here’s where I agree with that thinking: we should recognize the humanity of men who think they are women and are in the women’s restroom. Where I differ is how we do that.

Boiled down, the trans-fiasco is one giant feelings-fest. Feelings are the new Baal. We don’t find our way out of it by teaching our young children that the way to love a man who thinks he’s a woman is by ignoring reality in favor of feelings-only  love.

The thing is, you can smile at the trans person in the bathroom. You can hand him the paper towel in an effort to teach your daughter that you love everybody equally and treat everyone with respect. You can tell her that somehow you’re being Jesus to that man. But you’ll simply be teaching her that reality doesn’t matter, only feelings. Because the reality is, that man can’t tell your “Jesus smile” from an “I think being trans is awesome smile” and your paper towel passing didn’t further him along one iota in knowing the true Jesus.

If moms want to go all WWJD on the trans bathroom issue, then consider what Jesus did with the woman at the well whom he’d just met.

“Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” (John 4:16-18 ESV)

Jesus never played around with reality. He never substituted felt needs for actual ones. His compassion was a compassion based in reality.

You have to ask yourself, do you really believe that the wrath of God remains on all who do not honor God as God? Do you believe that God is the one behind our sex, our gender, our personhood? Do you believe that the man in the ladies’ room is currently in anguish and headed for deeper anguish that will last and last? Because that’s what sin is and that’s where sin leads, no matter how he or you or I feel about it.

And you have to ask yourself, have you met the Savior? Do you really believe that the Gospel is the power of God for salvation? Did he do it for you? Did he save you from anguish and sin? If that’s true, then how can you not believe it’s possible for the man in women’s bathroom? I cannot understand how ignoring reality is a strategy for loving people. Your motivation may be to love someone–to show them Jesus–and you may tell yourself that you’re not ignoring reality, you’re choosing to love in spite of it. But none of that is actually communicated without words and therefore it doesn’t matter how you feel about what you’re doing–it doesn’t translate as God’s love to the trans person.

Could it be that we aren’t really being sensitive to the feelings of the man in the ladies’ room or concerned with loving him at all? Could it be that we’re doing what makes US feel good? Smiling and going with the status quo, feeling like we’re so big and above it all. Are we any different from the trans person in our actions? We do what we feel is right and so do they.

Moms, the only thing that matters is what GOD says is right, how he defines reality.

Have you ever considered why it’s God’s kindness that leads us to repentance? It’s because we first were told about our sin. We first had to recognize an authority and reality that is over us. Only then did kindness look like kindness. Only then did it result in repentance. Without the first part, the kindness would have been cruel niceness, happily ushering us on our way, ignorant of the wrath that remained.

So I don’t think it’s loving to merely smile at the man who thinks he’s a woman in the bathroom. I think it’s unkind. I think, if you have a one-to-one encounter, it would be more loving to say something like, “I think you should be in the men’s room.”  And then explain why you think that, as difficult and long as that may take. As misunderstood as you may be. As much as it will FEEL hard. Do it with Gospel love coming out in words and actions.

Then there’s the issue of our children. Is it kind to your daughter to take her into a restroom where men are present? Again, reality matters. Men are bigger than women. Men are stronger than women. Men are different than women. To knowingly have your daughter use a bathroom stall next to a man (when other options are present) communicates that protecting her is not a priority, and it increases a negative sense of vulnerability. No young girl should be made to use the restroom with men present. Assuming that no trans person is a child abuser (which is a huge assumption that I don’t even make with people at church), the simple act of requiring her use the bathroom with men there is in and of itself a perversion.

So that brings us to the President’s decree over public school bathrooms. I wonder if the same moms who were going to march themselves and their daughters into Target’s ladies’ rooms with men present will be as keen on telling their daughters to march into the locker room with teenage boys present. Are your daughters valuable or not? Are they allowed the protection of their own bodies or not? Are you communicating that to them in reality or only with feelings?

I can relate to the enticement of feelings as the final authority. I can understand it because I’m a human with one million feelings just like you. And hurt feelings may be one of the most powerful forces on the planet. But there is a God who came to redeem us, along with all our broken, powerful feelings. He cares about you. He cares about your feelings. So much so that he won’t let them ruin your life by ruling your life. He’s the only one who can be trusted to rule.