Thursday, May 28, 2009

Men Jerry Prevo Would Ban from Anchorage Schools

[Note: The pictures in this post are NOT mine. To see the source of the picture, click on the picture.]

In his ADN letter opposing the addition of "sexual orientation" to Anchorage's anti-discrimination ordinance, Reverend Jerry Provo wrote:
Maybe, worst of all, this ordinance would allow a man who teaches a second grade class or any grade to show up as a woman in the classroom and the School District could do nothing because of this ordinance.
I confess that I laughed when I read this letter last Friday. Phil had an overview of some of the blogs that showed how each point in the letter was dead wrong. The letter is ludicrous. His biggest worry was about men dressing like women. Where are his public crusades against drunk drivers? Against redlight runners? Against heterosexual adulterers? It seems to me that murder and adultery are both prohibited in the Ten Commandments, not in some obscure passage in Deuteronomy along with other obscure prohibitions that we no longer observe. After all, what is the big deal about men who want to dress like women?

Men have a long tradition of wearing clothes that are more like women's clothes than the "pants of the family" we associate with men in the US.

Religious men, particularly, seem to like to wear gown like clothing. Probably foremost is the Pope who wears some of the most elaborate clothing of anyone in the world. But this trend of dressing in garments more like women's clothing isn't confined to Catholics. Protestants also find this appropriate for the leadership.

Like these Episcopalians.

And Russian  Orthodox.

Muslims clerics don't wear trousers either.

Nor Buddhist monks. They wear robes.

Nor Hindu priests

Even rabbis.

All the religious leaders I know of are also considered teachers. Would Rev. Prevo protest any of these people teaching in an Anchorage school wearing their work clothes? (I know some people are thinking "separation of church and state," but it's ok. If they are teaching ABOUT their faith and NOT teaching their faith, it's ok. And most such religious leaders also have expertise in other areas they might teach.)

And it's not just religious leaders who wear clothing that would be more closely associated with women than men.

Surgeons wear gowns at work.

And academics also have a tradition of wearing gowns. Even our former President whom Rev. Prevo supported so strongly.

And would Rev. Prevo prevent these two gentlemen from coming to class dressed this way to talk about Scotland?

OK, these men aren't exactly dressed as women, but my assertion that what they wear is more like women's garments than men's is much closer to the truth than Prevo's various assertions about the 'horrible' things that would happen if the ordinance passed.

And what should we do about all the women teachers who come to school already wearing pants? Prevo doesn't raise this 'serious' problem. My belief is that in our society it's less of a problem for a woman to dress like a man, because it's natural for people to want to be mistaken for the people who have the most power. But it seems perverted, to some people, for people with power, to try to be like those with less power. So men shouldn't dress like women. It's giving away their male based privilege.

Sorry I can't let go of this quite yet. I suspect Prevo knows this is ludicrous, and he probably knows that those who introduced the ordinance did so because they think they have the votes to pass it. Last December, Frank Schaeffer was interviewed on National Public Radio. You can hear the interview at the link. From the NPR page:

Frank Schaeffer's parents, Francis and Edith, were best-selling authors who were instrumental in linking the evangelical community with the anti-abortion movement.

But after coming of age as an evangelist and helping to organize religious fundamentalists politically, Schaeffer had a crisis of faith: Though he is pro-life, he decided that abortion should remain legal.
One of the things he says in the interview is that abortion and gay issues were no big deal with his father when Frank (the son) was little. They became big issues for evangelicals because whenever they talked about them, they got lots and lots of donations.

So, I'm guessing that Prevo has a knee jerk reaction to the word 'gay'. It's less about stopping the ordinance than it's about raising money. This letter isn't aimed at the vast majority of people in Anchorage. It's far too silly. It's aimed at the rabidly ignorant who will open their wallets to fight the 'perverts.' So when Prevo writes:
It would allow any man to dress like a woman and use any public women's restroom. Ladies, do you want that to happen?
it's to alarm those folks who don't think into supporting Prevo's high lifestyle.

Of course, thinkers would shake their heads in disbelief. What's to stop men from dressing up as women now and going into women's bathrooms? The law? It's illegal to go through red lights, to litter, to beat up women, yet people do these things every day. And when the ordinance has passed and is law, I promise you that it won't prevent the police from arresting men who dress as women to get into women's restrooms.

First, the ordinance says:

The assembly finds that invidious discrimination in the sale or rental of real
property, financing practices, employment practices, public accommodations, educational institutions, and practices of the municipality, based upon race, color, sex, sexual orientation, religion, national origin, marital status, age, veteran’s status, or physical or mental disability, adversely affects the welfare of the community. Accordingly, such discrimination is prohibited.
Only the bold is new language. It is already illegal based on sex. So using Prevo's logic, men already can't be prevented from using the women's room. But simple practical logic tells us that since men already have an equal, alternative place to wash their hands, they aren't being discriminated against. In fact at big events, the lines are usually longer at the women's restrooms, not the men's. Sexual orientation doesn't change the fact that gay men are still men. So the same logic that applies to "sex" will apply to "sexual orientation." If it didn't happen when 'sex' became a protected class, it won't happen now.

Second, even if the ordinance did what Prevo asserts, the sexual orientation clause wouldn't save men who dress up as women to get into the women's room. Why not? Simple. Gay men aren't sexually interested in women. It is only straight men who would try to see women's private parts exposed. And they couldn't claim they were being discriminated against because of their sexual orientation.

There is one serious issue here though. Transgender folks. Despite what we've been taught, the distinction between men and women is not as clear cut as we tend to believe. This topic is far too complicated to start after I've already written so much here. My advice is for people to read Eugenides' Middlesex. Wikipedia says:

Middlesex is a novel by Jeffrey Eugenides. It was published in 2002 and won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2003.
The narrator and protagonist, Calliope Stephanides (later called "Cal"), an intersexed person of Greek descent, has 5-alpha-reductase deficiency. The bulk of the novel is devoted to telling his coming-of-age story growing up in Detroit, Michigan in the late 20th century.
I'm not an expert on this topic, but this novel gives at least one view of the topic in a way that makes the issue understandable to people who otherwise might dismiss people having a sex change as crazy. And it is a well written and interesting story. I would say this is the easiest way to get a good understanding of the topic.

I raise this because there are people who, as they are transitioning from one gender to another, will be using new restrooms. (I notice that Prevo isn't worried about women coming into men's rooms.) If someone reads Middlesex, and their mind isn't totally shut down, they will understand that these people pose no threat at all to women in the restroom.

I'm not satisfied with what I've found on the topic online for those who want to know more, but are not ready to get Middlesex from the library. Here's the Mayo Clinic's take on ambiguous genitalia.


  1. This Jerry Prevo grossly underestimates the ability of children to accept what is explained to them without shame or disgust. One of our friends transgendered. We live in a heavily gay neighborhood. Our sons are heterosexual, and so are their parents.

  2. You missed one, that carpenter's kid, what's his name? You know, always making trouble in the synagogue, wore his hair long, hung around with losers, rejects and whores. Ask Jerry, maybe he remembers him. Then again, maybe not.

  3. As a female, I plan on wearing pants and using the mens restroom at the Anchorage Babtist Temple... just to see if Prevo or any of this followers like it...

    Good read, good photos.
    Thank you for the laughs.

  4. Great post about the 'gender' of clothing! A good video on trans people at work and the need for trans-inclusive legal protections is posted at Bent Alaska:

  5. I fell unto this blog on accident while I was looking for a picture of a church. I started to read the beginning since I listen to Jerry Prevo on the Radio. Many people do not like him because of his firm beliefs but you are clearly not taking the right approach by trying to "make fun of" every religion. Just because you do not believe in something does not mean that the whole world has to agree. Jerry Prevo has his opinion and you have yours. For follower many believe that men dressing like girls and wanting to be something they are not is a sin. In religious outfits they are not trying to be something they are not and trying to act and look like a girl. I am sure the Mr. Prevo is against drunk driving and other things but his voice can make a difference in this situation and you should respect his opinion as you have yours as well.

  6. Anonymous July 16:

    I appreciate your visiting the blog and even more so that you left a comment. But I hope that you will come back, read my response, and leave another comment.

    You'll have to point out where I was making fun because this was intended to be a very serious post. What I did do is to question Jerry Prevo's logic. I wasn't making fun of the other religions, I was simply pointing out that men of those religions where clothing that is much more like women's clothing than men's clothing as we know it today and suggesting that Mr. Prevo would ban these men from schools because they were dressed like women. Then I continued and made other serious points about his logical argument.

    Mr. Prevo's actions are having very serious detrimental effects on gay men and women in this community. He's causing many of them serious harm. His opinion is hurting other human beings. Even if I were making fun, I wouldn't have done near the damage to other people that Mr. Prevo is doing.

    So, if you are serious here as a commenter, explain where you think I was making fun and where my argument is faulty.

  7. LMAO! I loved your response to Jerry Prevo's letter! I know-forever ago. I'm doing a paper for a class and have been looking for opinion pieces. I just found this! Awesome job-great pics (even if they aren't yours!)

  8. His Bebe - I looked at your blog and I'd really like to ask you some questions. I couldn't find an email link, so perhaps you can send me an email.


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