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A Response to Montel Williams on Bathroom and Locker Room Privacy

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

I appreciate Montel Williams taking the time to respond to my “Open Letter to Megyn Kelly,” in which I referenced his appearance on The Kelly File last week, discussing North Carolina’s Bathroom Privacy Act (H.B.2). I also appreciate him notifying me via Twitter of his article and then immediately accepting my invitation to join me on the air for further debate on the relevant issues (our teams are currently working out a time he can do this).

In his response, he claimed that my letter “lacks substance, deliberately misstates the facts, and makes entirely false assumptions,” also claiming that I’m guilty of “spouting one wildly dramatized half-truth after another” while stating that my letter “conveniently ignores parts II-III of H.B.”

He further claims that my letter is a “desperate attempt to move the goalposts” and that I’m “stirring up fear of a vast ‘left wing conspiracy’—and hoping that conservatives don’t dig into the issue” and that, “unable to argue the facts raised in my segment, he resorted to emotion and wrote his grand and conspiratorial rebuttal to distract conservatives from a substantive and important argument.”

He is mistaken on each and every point, while his rhetoric distracts from the very real concerns raised of multiplied millions of Americans, as echoed by the majority of the population of North Carolina.

To respond, then, to Mr. Williams, my letter focused primarily on Megyn Kelly’s responses to Mr. Williams rather than to his statements, but I did note that last year he “compared conservatives who oppose gay ‘marriage’ to ISIS and the Taliban.”

Can I assume that Mr. Williams still defends these statements? If so, we must read the rest of his comments in that light, while also pointing out that it’s a shame that he did not take the opportunity to denounce this ugly and dangerous misrepresentation of tens of millions of caring, loving Americans who simply believe that marriage requires a man and a woman.

In his response, Mr. Williams asks why I would “attack Fox News” for having him on to present an opposing view on the bill, even claiming that I’m engaging in left-wing tactics in doing so.

Actually, I always urge networks to present both sides of issues, which is why I wrote, “I encourage you [Megyn Kelly] to regain some lost credibility by doing some more study on the issue and having on some guests who can refute the Montel Williams talking points.”

As a viewer, this is what I saw on TV: Kelly had North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory on to discuss H.B.2, as a major participant in the story, after which Mr. Williams joined Kelly as the only in-studio guest to rebut him. Had Gov. McCrory remained on the air with the opportunity to rebut Mr. Williams, that would have been fair. Instead, the governor functioned as part of the news story, Mr. Williams came on to rebut him, with Kelly’s support, and there was no rebuttal to Mr. Williams.

That is one-sided, not two-sided, and I simply called on Fox, which is allegedly conservative, to balance the issue. How is that an attack?

More importantly, Mr. Williams wrongly claimed that, “Brown argues that I demeaned ‘the idea that we are born with a biological sex.’ I did no such thing.”

Actually, I did not say this. I said that Megyn Kelly, not Montel Williams,demeaned this idea, and I quoted her words to that effect, including a relevant video link.

As to the substantive differences between us, Mr. Williams notes that, “The proponents of H.B. 2 argue this bill will allow for much-needed privacy and for restroom-goers to feel ‘comfortable.’ They ignore the fact, however, that many (if not most) transgender individuals look like their affirmed gender,” and he illustrated this by showing pictures of two individuals that back his claim.

Actually, H.B.2 did not simply pertain to bathrooms but to school locker rooms (which include changing areas and shower stalls), and there is certainly the rightful expectation that a 15-year-old girl in a public school will not have to change and shower in the presence of a biological male peer (with male plumbing!) and that a 50-year-old woman at the YMCA will not have to change and shower next to a clearly biological male wearing a dress and wig.

Let’s not forget that the federal government is threatening to withhold $4.5 billion in educational funding from North Carolina schools unless they make these bathrooms and locker rooms gender neutral. Does Mr. Williams really support this? And does he support the complete misreading of Title VII and Title IX in Loretta Lynch’s statement in which “sex” was conflated with “gender identity”?

Does he also think it’s fair that 7-year-old girls who last year knew a classmate named Johnny will now have to welcome Johnny into their bathrooms as Jane? Does he deny the documented instances where these girls have voiced concern over this to their parents – surely this cannot be attributed to them being bigoted transphobes; they’re just recognizing that Johnny isn’t really Jane – only for the school to tell the families there’s nothing they can do about it?

Does he mock the concerns of 63 girls (ages 14 to 17) in one Illinois school district who have been forced to share locker rooms and bathrooms in their schools? According to a lawsuit filed by the ADF, the girls “experience embarrassment, humiliation, anxiety, fear, apprehension, stress, degradation, and loss of dignity because they will have to use the locker room and restroom with a biological male.” (The ADF has also filed a lawsuit on behalf of North Carolina students upset with the Department of Justice’s intrusion into their state.)

As an activist who is concerned with the rights of all people, why does Mr. Williams deride, dismiss, and even deny the reality of concerns like this? Why are the very valid issues raised by these young women ignored (and even mocked) so as to show solidarity with a gender-confused teenager?

And what does Mr. Williams tell the mother who wrote to me on Facebook, stating, “This is VERY real. This new policy that was recently adopted by our local YMCA in WA allows for people to use whatever locker room they self-identify with. Just two weeks ago a boy around the age of 13 walked right into the girls side of the women's locker room. All he did was sit down and scroll through his phone. Little girls where surprised when they came in from showering with their towels wrapped around them to see him sitting there. My daughter was one of those girls. This policy opens the door to those who have malicious intent.”

Along with many LGBT activists and allies, Mr. Williams effectively trashes the needs and concerns of the vast majority of the population in order to accommodate the less than 0.5 percent of the population who struggle with gender identity. (I don’t for a moment demean the reality of those struggles, to be clear.)

In my experience, most of the transgender individuals I have met are clearly transgender, but let’s say that Mr. Williams is correct and many (or even most) do not appear to be transgender. Obviously, then, we would have no idea that “Sally,” a biological male who had sex-change surgery at 20 and who has been on hormones for 10 years, was a woman, was not a woman, and so, when Sally uses the ladies’ bathroom, not a single woman would notice her. Presumably, that would be the case with the two individuals whose pictures Mr. Williams presented.

But here, again, is where he missed the point. I could just as easily show pictures of very masculine-looking transgender male-to-females, whose presence in women’s locker rooms, changing rooms, and bathrooms would make the vast majority of women and girls I know terribly uncomfortable, to say the least. What about those cases? (Surely Mr. Williams must also know that at least 20 percent of women claim to have been raped or sexually abused, yet here too, he seems unconcerned about how the transgender bathroom access laws affect them.)

Mr. Williams is correct to state that, in a certain sense, H.B.2 is unenforceable in that the government cannot (and would not) have “bathroom monitors” checking everyone’s birth certificates. Once more, however, he has missed the reality on the ground.

In short: 1) North Carolina was not having any type of crisis concerning transgender bathroom access, meaning that, if, to all outward appearances, the male-to-female individual looked female, that person used the ladies’ bathroom without incident. At the same time, a clearly biological male would not be welcomed in the ladies’ locker room at the YMCA. 2) The city of Charlotte passed a radical bill that would have effectively rendered all public locker rooms and bathrooms gender neutral, opening the door to all kinds of abuses, not to mention opening the door to heterosexual male predators who would pose as transgender women. (There are numerous examples of such abuses in recent years nationwide.) 3) The state of North Carolina overturned Charlotte’s radical bill, introducing additional language to preserve privacy and safety.

Practically speaking, then, since no one is checking birth certificates at bathroom and locker room doors, if you look like a woman and have female plumbing, you use the appropriate facilities, and no one will bat an eyelash. If you look like a man and have male plumbing, you use the men’s facilities.

Is this so objectionable to Mr. Williams? Is this really fear-mongering or moving the goal posts, or appealing to emotion or stirring up false concerns about a vast leftwing conspiracy? Isn’t this simply a matter of common sense?

Mr. Williams then claims that I conveniently ignored the parts of H.B.2 that deal with larger discrimination issues. Actually, I did not ignore them at all. I was addressing specific comments made by Megyn Kelly about bathroom privacy, not the larger presentation made by Mr. Williams, which I’d be delighted to discuss in more depth on the air, as he is surely an eloquent spokesman for his cause.

Interestingly, like Mr. Williams, I am a registered Independent, and these are not political issues to me but rather righteousness, safety, and common sense issues.

And so, when he argues that, “Because H.B. 2’s proponents have no honest argument in favor of the measure, they’ve resorted to mud-slinging” and that, “Brown’s rebuttal comes from a position of weakness,” he is demonstrating a lack of awareness of the perceptions and concerns of a sizable majority of Americans who still believe that a teenage girl should not be forced to share a locker room and shower stall with a teenage boy, no matter how he self-identifies.

I look forward to having Mr. Williams as a guest on my show where we can discuss our perspectives in greater depth, and I do hope that he will reconsider his position.

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