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  • Pity North Carolina Police

    • Posted on Apr 24, 2016
    Here's this morning's WCF Courier column, in which I discuss a bad joke out of North Carolina:  the birth certificate bathroom law.  

    Pity the police in North Carolina.  As of last week, not only must they enforce laws against real crimes, they’re also policing birth certificates.  They’re required to check for wrongful urination and defecation.    

     If that sounds like a joke, it is.  Only it’s reality based.  

     North Carolina’s legislature recently took twelve hours to pass a “bathroom bill,” which makes public restrooms available only to “real” men and women--meaning birth certificate-certified citizens.    

     Except for “Unisex” stalls—those no-choice-required bathrooms common in jets and homes—most of us habitually find proper toilets.   Only in emergencies do we use the “wrong” toilet, and that has been true since toilets moved indoors.   

     Most of us.  But not all, and there’s the problem.  We don’t all identify with our birth gender, as anyone who recognizes Caitlyn Jenner as the former Bruce Jenner knows. 

     They’re known as “transgender,” and the rest of us are “cisgender.”  “Cis” meaning “this side of,” and “trans” meaning “across” in the Latin prefix source.  

     Last October at an Iowa writer’s conference, I met Ellen Krug, a former male, and except for her voice, she looks, acts, and dresses female.  Ellie spoke about her 2013 book “Getting to Ellen, A Memoir about Love, Honesty, and Gender Change.” It details her frightening realization—she did not identify her truest self as being male. 

     She was female in a male’s body.  She kept this secret for years, which meant living an unbalanced, inauthentic life.  She was miserable.  

     As Ed Krug, she became a successful lawyer, married, sired a daughter, but secretly
    yearned for womanhood.   

     Occasionally I still connect with Ellie via e-mail. She’s articulate, funny, and utterly honest about her life’s journey.  

     Naturally, I had to ask about her reaction to North Carolina’s bathroom law.  With her permission, here’s her reply.   

     “People who know me are very aware that I’m a really strong person. However, this day in, day out barrage of state legislators (and in the case of NC and MS, actual state governments) saying that my rights, my identity, don’t matter really starts to affect you after a while.” 
     
    And this, about her own story:  

     “The reality is that I tried my very best to stay a man; I knew that I’d lose so very much if I ever allowed my authentic true (female) self to show through. Being an “out” transgender person isn’t a choice; it’s just who I am.”

     “I’ve paid a big price for self-acceptance—the loss of my soul mate wife, the loss of a daughter, (who has since come back) the loss of my law firm and much financial security. And now, I have the government telling me that I can’t even use a public restroom.”  
     
    She ends with: “. . .I’m finding that bigotry isn’t very well thought out. Do the hate-mongers really want me in the men’s restroom?”

     Granted, she could legally use a unisex bathroom, or get her birth certificate changed, though not in all states.   

     But why should she?  Equality before the law remains a founding principle, and it’s violated legally now in both North Carolina and Mississippi. 

     The sooner such laws get repealed the better.   

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  • Happy Ending At Last in Cedar Falls

    • Posted on Apr 10, 2016
    This morning's (April 10) Courier column on the Cedar Falls School Bond election last Tuesday.  Good news and a happy ending for a change.   

    Cedar Falls Bond supporters finally got good news last Tuesday.  Their perseverance won.   

    Two previous bond proposals did not—in September, 2014 for 118 million, and June last year for 35 million. The winner last week was for 32 million.  Three million seemed to make the difference.  

     Well, only partly.  The cost to taxpayers was about the same.  

     Actually, the community seemed to change its mind.  Elementary enrollments are increasing, making overcrowding inevitable.  Also schools are visibly deteriorating. 

     You don’t want your schools looking third world, as though public support were unavailable.   Worse, if public support is available but not given, it shows a community turning its back on itself.       

     Yet this time, even hard-core naysayers like Judd Saul, who was loudly and vocally against the first two referendums, supported it.  His reasoning, according to one report, came down to the school using 8 million in its reserve funds. The actual cost will be forty million, with bond funds only covering 32 million.  

     So even to naysayers like Saul it seemed like good money management. 
    When I heard this bare-bones proposal had passed, I breathed a sigh of relief.   If it hadn’t passed with the needed supermajority, those of us who care about public education would have gone into despair mode.  
     
    A loss would have put naysayers in charge, making any real progress all but impossible.  More classes in trailers.   More jammed-up school hallways filled with storage containers. Larger classes, lower teacher morale.  Public education in decline. 

     A deteriorating school system sits right next to a deteriorating infrastructure as visible signs of community decline.  

     When you visit a city as a possible new home, you want to see signs that it’s taking care of itself.  Badly potholed roads, shuttered buildings—College Square, anyone?—bode ill, and deteriorating schools reveal a community that no longer bothers.     

     However, in Cedar Falls, a vibrant downtown Main Street, a saved historic Depot, and as of last Tuesday, a renovating school system, make it all go together. 

     Repairs, remodeling schools, and construction of a new elementary school mean citizens still want a community that cares about its future.   

     And yes, the current repair of University Avenue sits right up there as a sign that yes-sayers are still in charge.  

    Roundabouts are coming here, and in a decade we’ll all be thankful.  The larger world out there happily uses roundabouts, after all.    

     Condition of a school system and roads reveal the future of a city, now and always.  Cedar Falls has some of the best-run and best-regarded schools in the state, and good schools attract families more than most other community features, I wrote in 2014 in support of the first bond issue.  

    In fact, I did despair after that first loss, and immediately contributed to the school system as a token of support.   

     A hearty thanks to Superintendent Andy Pattee, the Cedar Falls School Board, and all the yes voters who look to a positive community future.    

     As a former student and resident of Cedar Falls wrote when he saw the good news:  “The covenant has been nurtured.”   

     Exactly.  
     



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