(619) 505-7777

‘Family’ group member can’t answer simplest question about trans bathrooms

Travis Weber of the Family Research Council
Photo credit:

Chris Matthews tackled the controversy over transgender people using public restrooms on his MSNBC show “Hardball” just hours after the Obama administration directed public schools to allow transgender students to use the restrooms and locker rooms that correspond with their gender identity.

Matthews welcomed two guests with opposing viewpoints on the matter, Jennifer Finney Boylan, a trans activist and writer who has appeared on E!’s “I Am Cait,” and Travis Weber, a member of the right-wing Family Research Council, which adamantly opposes orders like the one announced on Friday.

Boylan explained that trans people are not looking for “special rights,” but rather only want “equal protection under the law,” and “mostly ... to be left alone.”

She further argued that there have been “no reported signs of any incidents [regarding transgender people attacking others in public restrooms] over the last several years” and noted “a law very much like the one which President Obama put into action last night has been on the books in California for two and a half years now with no incidents whatsoever.”

She also said she suspects the backlash against transgender people has more to do with hate than actual public policy.

“Maybe the issue is really not bathrooms at all,” she said. “Maybe because now gay men and lesbians can get married, and they’re no longer the whipping boys and whipping girls in this country, now maybe they’re trying to rile up people against transgender people. And it’s not right, and it’s not fair.”

Weber’s contribution to the show was nothing short of spectacularly embarrassing. When Matthews repeatedly asked him which bathroom Boylan should use, he could not give a definitive answer to the simple question.

Weber finally offered, “They can use the bathroom of their biological sex, except when there’s a genuine issue and an accommodation can be made,” but couldn’t explain what that meant for trans people like Boylan when they need to use a restroom at a location like an airport.

“Can you answer the question?,” Matthews asked Weber. “Should Jenny go to the men’s room or the ladies room?”

Weber’s response that Boylan could “use an accommodation bathroom that is a single use bathroom that would protect the privacy interest of the students on the other side,” led Matthews to ask, “Did that mean anything to you, Jenny?”

It didn’t.

“That’s gobbledygook,” she responded. “That means nothing. I am a woman. I have an F on my driver’s license. I have the anatomy of a woman, but because my birth certificate says M, I would have to go to the men’s room. And that makes me unsafe.”

In an email sent to The Huffington Post on Saturday morning, Boylan said her “only intention on that show was to be respectful and loving to a person who I knew did not understand me.” She continued, “I hoped if I showed a little kindness, it might make him stop and think, Hmm, well what is the proper Christian response to someone who is vulnerable and in trouble?

Boylan says she didn’t expect her strategy to work. “I figured that my own humanity is of so little reality to these people that nothing would make any difference,” she noted in her email. But she was surprised that “it appeared to completely shut him down.”

“I can’t explain it,” Boylan said. “Is it possible that for a moment he recognized me as someone human, someone just like him who deserves love and understanding?”

She ended up walking away from the experience with an outlook that translates into what might be some of the best advice we’ve heard in a long time: “Love your enemies. It messes with their minds.”

(Editor's note: This post was originally published on our media partner  HuffPost Gay Voices)