So let's go back to the discussion of the development that became public today--namely, the letter from Council Members Barry, Steine, and Cole arguing that the Metro Human Relations Commission has the authority to gather data and provide programming about gender identity discrimination and that they should use it.
One item really bugged me about the coverage in the Tennessean. Someone--whether the reporter or an editor--used this phrase: "It's the latest front in an ongoing and divisive debate about the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender citizens in the workplace."
Is it? Is gathering data and providing diversity programming really that controversial in Middle Tennessee? I don't think it is. We'll soon see, but there's been a change that we ought to note. The story has only garnered about 27 comments as of late this afternoon, which is a lot lower than these kinds of stories got last year during the debate on the non-discrimination ordinance. The fact of passing the ordinance has made the topics of sexual orientation and gender identity less divisive.
And if you look at the rhetoric in the piece, Councilman Hodge's comments were not nearly as inflammatory as things he said on the floor of the Council last year. His comments could have been directed at any kind of issue in a variety of contexts. And that's what equality is becoming--another issue. I suspect that Councilman Hodge has realized that the world is not going to end because the ordinance passed. It doesn't even seem to have produced permanent divisions on the Council. Members (whether left or right on non-discrimination issues) find reasons to work together and work against one another on budget, zoning, and other issues.
Other developments signal a relative calm on gender identity as a public hot potato in our region. MTSU students with little fanfare voted in a referendum to add gender identity to their SGA constitution's non-discrimination policy. We've got Nashville and Murfreesboro representatives who are co-sponsors of the state hate crimes bill that would add gender identity to the current statute. Furthermore, a lot of people in Middle Tennessee work in places that already prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity--AT&T, Bank of America, and so on.
People are starting to get it more than we think. And while there are a few paranoid loudmouths freaking out about bathrooms, most people who even pause to consider the issue realize that discrimination is hard to justify and they've stopped trying.