Anti-Trans Activists Admit It: We Don’t Like Trans People Because of Our Religion

Like opposition to same-sex marriage, opposition to trans rights is rooted in religion.

Photo by David McNew/Getty Images

On Wednesday, I laid out the case that anti-trans leaders can’t really believe in the “bathroom predator myth”—after all, the notion that trans-inclusive laws increase the risk of sexual assault in bathroom facilities has been thoroughly debunked time and time again. Rather, I hypothesized, anti-trans advocates are likely using the bathroom predator myth as a secular pretext to disguise their real objection: Their religious beliefs, mostly Christian conservative, counsel them to believe that the trans identity is aberrant, disordered, and even invalid.

In a case of cosmically perfect timing, the anti-LGBTQ Alliance Defending Freedom decided to bolster my theory later that day, filing a religious lawsuit designed to exclude trans students from using the bathroom that aligns with their gender identity. The suit is an attempt to reverse an agreement between Illinois’ Township High School District 211, the Justice Department, and the Department of Education, which reached an agreement last year to let trans students use their preferred restroom facilities. This agreement, the ADF argues, is illegal, because it violates the rights of non-trans students.

How, exactly? The gravamen of the ADF’s complaint is that trans tolerance violates anti-trans students’ religious freedom. Any policy that allows trans students to use the same bathroom as non-trans students, the suit alleges, interferes with parents’ ability “to freely live out their religious beliefs.” Such a policy also interferes with parents’ “preferred moral and/or religious teaching of their children.” Many parents have “sincerely held religious beliefs about modesty and other religious doctrines,” the suit explains; if their children share bathroom facilities with trans students, these beliefs will be violated.

As ThinkProgress’ Zack Ford points out, this is an astonishing admission. For years, anti-trans activists have insisted that they oppose trans bathroom usage out of fear of sexual assault. Now the pretext is fallen away, and the ADF concedes that the real objection is fundamentally religious. It isn’t hard to guess what the “other religious doctrines” alluded to in the suit are: Every conservative Christian denomination in America has put forth some reason why the trans identity violates God’s will. As I explained on Wednseday:

The Southern Baptist Convention has declared that “gender identity is determined by biological sex and not by one’s self-perception—a perception which is often influenced by fallen human nature in ways contrary to God’s design.” The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod insists that the sex we are assigned at birth is “a God-given identity” and that gender confirmation surgery “will only mutilate the body God has given.” Pope Francis has suggested that gender transition “does not recognize the order of creation.” Most anti-trans religious reasoning falls along these lines: God created us male or female, and we must remain locked into one side of that binary from birth through death.

Now, thanks to the ADF, we have a pretty straightforward admission that, yes, it’s these sectarian beliefs that are driving the legal fight to dehumanize and delegitimize trans people. After so much obfuscation and mendacity, the candor is frankly refreshing.