Colleen Francis made himself right at home in the locker room at Evergreen College in Olympia, Washington. The forty-five year-old student showered, used the sauna and walked around naked in front of the other people using those facilities.
Now if you’re having trouble squaring the name “Colleen” with the male pronoun “himself,” you’re not the only one. Those present in the locker room also had trouble with the combination that the locker room in question was the women’s room and “Colleen” is anatomically a male.
Thus when he showers, sits in the sauna, and walks around naked, Francis is exposing himself not only to his fellow students but students from local high schools and families who also use the college’s swimming pool and locker room. Thus, among the females he has exposed himself to are minors, some as young as six.
If you’re wondering, “Why doesn’t someone stop Francis,” well, they tried to, and that’s when the story became surreal. The swimming coach from the local high school and the mother of one of the team members called the police. When the police arrived Francis informed them that he was a transsexual and that, under Washington State law, he was entitled to use the women’s locker room.
If that sounds ridiculous to you, well, it worked. The coach apologized and the college informed parents that state law, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of “gender expression or identity,” tied their hands. The best they could do was to provide screens for those made “uncomfortable” by Francis’ presence.
The Alliance Defending Freedom is representing the parents of the children and has promised to take action if any of the girls is harmed, but absent a change in the law, it may not make a difference.
That’s because what’s happening in Olympia is the logical outcome of two very potent and destructive trends in American society.
The first is what Harvard professor Mary Ann Glendon famously called “rights talk.” This “talk” is characterized by “its legalistic character . . . exaggerated absoluteness . . . hyper-individualism . . . and its silence with respect to personal, civic, and collective responsibilities.”
Despite these deficiencies, it’s the “language” Americans, more than anyone else, speak when they discuss important issues, especially social ones driven by a culture increasingly marked by a sexual free-for-all camouflaged as sexual “freedom.”
The second trend is the transition from talking about the sexes to talking about gender. Until very recently a person was either male or female and the determination was based on objective physical criteria. While it isn’t always as simple as I just made it sound, the rule generally held.
Today, we speak in terms of “gender identity,” which “refers to a person’s private sense . . . and subjective experience.” It doesn’t matter if Francis has had sex-reassignment surgery or not—all that matters is his self-identification as “transsexual.”
It’s not an exaggeration to say that there are potentially as many gender identities as there are people. And under Washington law, each of these is protected from “discrimination” by state agencies such as Evergreen College.
When Francis walked into the women’s locker room, he was a rights-bearing individual whose “right” to use the facility trumped any other interest. Even the mental and sexual health interest of six-year-old girls.
Obviously this is absurd, but it didn’t come out of nowhere—it is where American law and culture have been headed for some time. And there aren’t enough screens to cover this damage.