The "Year of the Bathroom"
By Matthew Castro
I wonder if people will look back fifty years from now, and call the year 2016 as the year of the bathroom. I am not a presidential campaign historian, but this has to be the first time candidates have debated on the issue of public bathrooms. As you my know by now, Target and the state of North Carolina have been trending in the news lately over the issues of bathroom policies/laws. Target has publicly announced that anyone can use either gender specific bathroom if they self identify with that particular gender. Some find this liberating. Others are indifferent to the issue. While another group finds it completely ludicrous. An example of this would be the state of North Carolina, who is facing a lawsuit over their stance against the views and policies like that of Target.
This would be a simple issue if everyone agreed to a similar worldview, but humans since the beginning of time have never been in complete agreement about anything. So it is not surprising that even who should use what public bathroom, there are sharp disagreements. Philosopher John Frame said in his book, A History of Western Philosophy and Theology, “In a truly free society, people in every field would be free to express their views whether he called religious or not, and the marketplace of ideas would be free to sort them out.” We must first understand how people are interpreting this issue through their individual philosophical system, so that we as Christians can communicate the biblical view on gender identification. Only then can we truly sort the distinct views out in the marketplace of ideas.
There are three distinct perspectives in the field of philosophy that come together to define a person’s personal philosophy. Take a moment to envision three distinct points on a triangle, and each of these subdivisions within philosophy are one of the corners of the triangle. So the philosophical task is developing your personal view on metaphysics, epistemology, and value theory. You can start with any of the three, but each builds off the next. Now let’s start understanding the LGBTQ worldview in the area of gender identification, which is applied to the area of public bathroom use.
1. What do they value?
As I mentioned before, these distinctions within philosophy build off one another. Let’s start with value theory. It asks: “How should we make value judgements?” We know that the LGBTQ community has argued that they should have the right to do what they most want to do in their hearts. They should be able to express what they believe they are. For example, if a biological male, meaning someone born as a male, self identifies himself as a woman, then he should be given the freedom to do that. Therefore, he should be able by law to use the women’s bathroom in a public place, because he feels and desires to be considered a woman. Some may think a person, who interprets gender in this way, is being irrational. However, they are using a value theory that is not new. Sophist in Ancient Greek society had a similar view of ethics and values. The great French existential philosopher, Jean Paul Sartre, argued for a similar perspective. You define you.
2. How do you find meaning and knowledge?
Based on their values, we can properly deduct the next corner of the triangle, which is epistemology. This is their theory of knowledge. It asks: “What is knowledge?” “How is knowledge possible?” “How should we go about knowing?” “How do we distinguish truth from falsity, reality from appearance?” One question that is discussed: “Can we know anything objectively?” The Greek Philosopher, Protagoras, said, “the individual man is the measure of all things.” He was saying that there is no universal truth only individual truth claims.
The LGBTQ community is abiding by the general subjectivity view of epistemology like Protagoras and the Sophist. Meaning and knowledge is within each individual person. Our feelings, will, and intuition tell us what we know. Therefore, a person’s feelings, which might be in disagreement with their biological composition, may tell them who they are. Gender identification is framed as a position of self: “Who am I?” This is a knowledge based question. Based on my feelings and desires, I know myself to be this gender. A biological woman, meaning someone born a female, may know themselves to be a male. Therefore, they want the freedom to use the men’s toilet at a store or airport.
3. What about God?
The final corner of the philosophical triangle is metaphysics. This is the study of the most general features of the universe. There are several issues to answer within this principle, however the most defining category is god. Is there a god? A better way to phrase the question is what kind of god is there implying there are no atheists only different forms. Everyone believes in a non-dependent autonomous divine that they are therefore dependent on.
The philosophical system of the LGBTQ community is built on the foundation of individual autonomy for value and truth. This presupposes a subjective view that places human will as the divine. Feelings and personal intuition becomes divine activity. The world is god essentially. It is a form of pantheism. We are connected to the divine, because we are it. The universe created by natural or materialistic forces created the world, and humanity is a part of the divine whole.
As you work through the different aspects of philosophy, you start to understand the core of the LGBTQ belief system. The bathroom issue is only an application of larger worldview that is centered around individual will. As Christians, we must begin to engage individuals in the LGBTQ community within these three principles. When gospel truth enriches their metaphysics, it will go round and round the triangle: enriching their epistemological and value theory. Now we can begin to redeem the cultural issues of our day like public bathrooms with the gospel.