Conservatives are clamoring to highlight the story of Maya Dillard Smith, the Interim Director of the ACLU’s Georgia chapter who quit over her position on transgender issues. Under the guise of having “questions” about trans issues, Smith has fully embraced a new public role as an advocate against transgender equality.
The crux of Smith’s objections to the ACLU’s transgender-inclusive positions is an experience she claims she had with her two youngest daughters in a bathroom back in California before making the move:
I have shared my personal experience of having taken my elementary school age daughters into a women’s restroom when shortly after three transgender young adults, over six feet [tall] with deep voices, entered. My children were visibly frightened, concerned about their safety and left asking lots of questions for which I, like many parents, was ill-prepared to answer.
If Smith sincerely just didn’t know enough about transgender people to answer her daughters’ questions, that’s one thing. But she has indicated that she herself was uncomfortable and concerned for her family’s safety, and she has since used the idea of asking such questions to reinforce anti-trans talking points. In fact, she seems to be embracing a new public persona as an anti-trans pundit.
In an interview with Fox News’ Megyn Kelly last Thursday, Smith explained, “Since my arrival at the ACLU, I have been actively seeking out information and asking questions as simple as, ‘As there is an effort to advance transgender rights, what are the implications on the rights of transgender women and girls? What are the implications on the rights of parents?’”
Now that she has left the ACLU, Smith is still asking those questions. She has launched a new website called Finding Middle Ground, which so far only contains a YouTube video called, “A Safe Space.” It features a young girl on a swing set and asks many more questions that Smith still has, such as:
- How can I get educated about trans issues if I can’t ask the questions?
- How do we KEEP OUR LITTLE GIRLS SAFE and PREVENT TRANSGENDER DISCRIMINATION?
- How do we prevent PREDATORS from PREYING on kids in bathrooms?
- Bathroom safety is a real concern for ALL parents, not just parents of trans youth. So what are the SOLUTIONS that make all youth safe and comfortable?
- How can we ask these kinds of questions… without being called a homophobe?
If all Smith were doing in her video was asking questions, that might not be a problem. It’s the video’s non-question statements — including deliberate misgendering of transgender girls — that reveal Smith’s biases:
- There’s some boys who feel like they’re girls on the inside, and there are some boys who are just perverts.
- Boys [sic] in the girls bathroom? I don’t know about that.
- I don’t want him [sic] to be uncomfortable in the boys’ bathroom, either. I don’t want them to be uncomfortable anywhere. But what about me too?
- What makes it scary is that sometimes strangers take advantage of kids.
The girl in the ad can’t even say the “perverts” line without laughing.
Many of the questions could be answered quite simply with responses like “Google” or “PFLAG.” It’d likewise be easy to point, for example, that gender identity has nothing to do with sexual orientation, so “homophobia” isn’t really an accurate term anyone would use to describe someone who opposes transgender equality.
But the entire premise of the need to “find middle ground” could be obviated with the simple fact that there has never been a single incident of transgender people assaulting someone in the restroom or otherwise abusing their access to those spaces. That’s despite the fact that dozens of cities and states have had transgender-inclusive protections for years. Moreover, conservatives’ attempts to show that non-transgender men have tried to abuse bathroom access for nefarious purposes — and been caught — only proves the point that these trans equality laws do nothing to enable illegal behavior.
In a blistering post indicting Smith’s “absolutely appalling” handling of her daughters’ encounter with trans women in the bathroom, HuffPost Queer Voices editor Noah Michelson points out that it is transgender people who experience various forms of discrimination and harassment when attempting to use public restrooms. There’s no way to “create safe spaces for everybody,” like the girl in the video implores, if trans people continue to be misgendered and denied access to the facilities that match their identities.
Indeed, the one thing Smith doesn’t question is why she or her daughters felt discomfort in the first place. Smith’s suggestion that civil rights law should bend to accommodate uncomfortable children is an unusual one. There were no doubt many white children in Jim Crow Alabama who were uncomfortable the first time they saw a black person in a public restroom. That doesn’t mean that segregation was correct — just as requiring transgender students to use separate single-use facilities hasn’t resolved the injustices those students experience.
Smith accused the ACLU of being “a special interest organization that promotes not all, but certain progressive rights” and catering to a “hierarchy of rights.” The ACLU has not commented, describing Smith’s departure as a personnel matter.
It’s unclear what Smith hopes Finding Middle Ground will become, if she is being supported by any other organizations opposed to transgender equality, or if there is any answer to her many questions that will motivate her to change her positions. The ACLU’s commitment to transgender equality, such as its involvement in a lawsuit challenging North Carolina’s HB2, remains unquestionable.