Head of Georgia’s ACLU chapter resigns over trans bathroom debate

Maya Dillard Smith, head of Georgia’s ACLU chapter.
Maya Dillard Smith, head of Georgia’s ACLU chapter.

Maya Dillard Smith has resigned as head of Georgia’s American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) chapter in connection with Obama’s recent directive to schools to let transgender students use the bathroom that corresponds to their gender identity, rather than their biological sex. Smith complained that there was an unwillingness on the part of the ACLU to hear her concerns or open a dialogue with regard to the debate surrounding trans rights. She states:

“There are real concerns about the safety of women and girls in regards to this bathroom debate… It seems to me that instead of stifling the dialogue, we want to encourage a robust debate to come up with an effective solution.”

Smith added, “It’s through communication that we develop empathy and understanding, and I think that our democracy requires us to allow for exchange of ideas, without people being labeled one thing or another.”

The ACLU of North Carolina has launched a federal lawsuit over North Carolina’s House Bill 2 (HB2), calling it a “hateful measure.” HB2 mandates people use the bathroom which corresponds to the gender stated on their birth certificate. (In North Carolina, a person can have their birth certificate changed to match their gender identity if they have sex reassignment surgery.)

Smith criticized the ACLU for prioritizing trans rights above the rights of women and girls, calling the non-profit “a special interest organization that promotes not all, but certain progressive rights.” She implied there were financial incentives at play, saying, “In that way, it is a special interest organization not unlike the conservative right, which creates a hierarchy of rights based on who is funding the organization’s lobbying activities.”

Smith also argued that transgender rights have “intersectionality with other competing rights, particularly the implications for women’s rights.”

Smith has since launched a website called “Finding Middle Ground,” in an effort to provide space for productive dialogue about preventing discrimination against trans people, while also respecting the safety and rights of women and girls.

“I believe there are solutions that can provide accommodations for transgender people and balance the need to ensure women and girls are safe from those who might have malicious intent,” she said.

Meghan Murphy
Meghan Murphy

Founder & Editor

Meghan Murphy is a freelance writer and journalist. She has been podcasting and writing about feminism since 2010 and has published work in numerous national and international publications, including New Statesman, Vice, Al Jazeera, The Globe and Mail, I-D, Truthdig, and more. Meghan completed a Masters degree in the department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in 2012 and lives in Vancouver, B.C. with her dog.

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  • northernTNT

    I have used their contact form to send them my thoughts. Hopefully this gets us somewhere.

  • anne

    Having had some experience working with perverts, I know, intellectually, that opening female-only spaces to declared transgender women is a bad idea because even though genuine transwomen aren’t a problem, the perverts are and I make no apologies for prioritising women’s safety. However, having been exposed to what Meghan pointed out to be a male-owned, sexwork-promoting, online feminist discourse, I’m constantly reminded that unless the person in the women-only space commits a crime (like for example, being a sex offender whose MO is to offend in disguise, or taking covert pictures, robbing, peeping, assaulting etc) it’s irrelevant what they are dressed like, whether they are passing or not, and what gender they proclaim to be. Which basically sacrifices women in advance – there’s no prevention, instead we utterly disregard their sense of safety by forcing them to live in fear of whether the next transwoman who uses the bathroom will be a pervert. THAT is misogyny and male privilege – putting their intersts above safety of half the population. Yet this point usually provokes a verbally aggressive reaction from transactivists, which just reinforces he impression that it’s absolutely what this is about.

    Also, it could be argued that nothing stops certain women from robbing or assaulting or even kidnaping children from women-only spaces on some male pervert’s behalf, so children shouldn’t go alone into adult’s public restrooms, adults should exercise caution etc. Because as far as we know, tons of passing transwomen have been using the women’s facilities all along without anyone noticing. Are passing transwomen inherently less violent towards women than those who p don’t pass? Passing privilege costs a lot of money, that can’t be as relevant as it is discriminatory?

    As I said, I have witnessed a lot of verbal aggression from transwomen online, every time valid concerns to their demands are raised, they quickly become downight insulting towards biological women as a whole, silencing, bullying, even strange doppleganger-like obsession of becoming more female than actual females, erasing the words ‘vagina’ and ‘uterus’ (or acting disgusted and offended when they are mentioned) that I sense psychopathology which is accepted and normalised withing a manistream trans movement, and that is a dead giveaway of internalised male privilege and preparedness to go as far as it takes to come out on top, and that would eventually (and already does) cause harm not just to individual women but feminist struggle as a whole.

    I have decided to hold every transwomen accountable 100% for their behaviour, and to not be intimidated into blindly accepting their point of view. Transwomen are men who wish to socialise as women. They need to be as respectful towards women as white rappers need to be respectful of black culture. Doesn’t always happen, unfortunately.

  • Wren

    Holy shit I finally get it. Thank you.

  • Wren

    “Their aim is to perform their fetish in front of unwilling women and
    girls, this cannot be done in a one stall facility therefore undesirable
    to them.”

    Whoa. Excellent point, and the one that probably makes the most sense, as most of these men aren’t smart enough to think “I wanna deconstruct women’s sense of identity!!”

    It makes me think, I wonder how many of these “poof!! Magic!! I’m a woman!!!” men have purchased sex. I know it’s a stretch, but it’s the same idea: forcing women to experience men’s sexuality and fetishes without any genuine consent. And just like in prostitution, they are somehow convincing us that this is liberty.

  • Wren

    AHHHHH!!!! I think what upsets me the most is that they keep referring to these rapists with their “chosen” gender pronoun, SHE SHE SHE!!! Fucking COME ON!!! How many stories are there of WOMEN binding, RAPING, and killing another woman?!?!? No fucking way.

  • Studebacher Hoch

    Years ago, I spent a lot of time on SJ-inclined blogs for nonreligious/secular people. At the time, there was a large blowup over discussion of the concept of ‘Schrodinger’s Rapist’-a lot of men felt very alienated/agitated about the concept, because they felt they were being painted as rapists or predators unfairly or being discriminated against. Women, feminists, and others on the site at the time argued that these men needed to not view the concept as applying to them specifically, but analyze it in the context of power dynamics/privilege. Being a teenage boy entering his 20s at the time, the arguments that women on those sites presented were very helpful/educational to me–hey taught me a lot of things I hadn’t considered previously about how my behavior can affect women and how patriarchal privilege works. However, it seems like once this same general idea is applied to the question of transgender women claiming access to women spaces-that women can’t know which males claiming the gender identity of women have no ill intent-all the same liberals previously supporting women in the Schrodingers rapist argument are ready to throw them under the bus now. It’s very sad.

  • Cassandra

    Standing ovation.

  • Refael Fishzon

    I think it’s justified from the reasons I stated. A school should protect the safety of its students and every adult can use a different bathroom in the school.

  • TheArtistFormerlyKnownAsYoya

    That was really interesting, thanks for sharing!

  • Refael Fishzon

    So you don’t think there will ever be a time when unisex bathrooms are the norm in society?

  • Refael Fishzon

    And thank you for your comment, I forgot to mention it. Also, can you direct me to a study that compare violence rates of boys with gender dysphoria and so on to the general population?

  • Refael Fishzon

    Of course boys commit crimes in higher rates than girls, it’s not new to anyone… and taking this to be true for boys with gender dysphoria might be true, but I wouldn’t state it until I has proof.
    On another note, from checking the rape stats, there was an increase in the juvenile rape rates between 2013 and 2014… could it be anything other than pornography?

  • Refael Fishzon

    Yes, I agree with you. Well, then, Obama’s directive may have not been justified. On the other hand, I do think any male violence in the bathroom can be handled by the school so it won’t happen again. I guess my main barrier here is being a man and not knowing how women experience these events, so I will keep quiet and listen. Thank you for your detailed responses.

    • will

      “I do think any male violence in the bathroom can be handled by the school so it won’t happen again.”

      It would be preferable if it never happens in the first place.

      • Reffael Fishzon

        It certainly will, but that’s a deeper issue which is harder to address. This is about what happens in the meantime.