When sitting down to pen this post, it originally began like this…
Executive Orders continue to be each incoming president’s initial wave of action. In the 11 days of their January tenure, the Biden administration announced 25 executive orders, 10 presidential memos, and 4 proclamations, compared to 20 each for presidents Trump and Obama, 5 for G. W. Bush and 11 for Clinton. Let’s discuss one order last week that diplomatically stated, stood out.
By the authority vested in him as President, Pres. Biden issued an order entitled the “Executive Order on Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation.” Sentence #1 stated that “Every person should be treated with respect and dignity and should be able to live without fear, no matter who they are or whom they love.” That’s not the standing out part; that is sentence #2: “Children should be able to learn without worrying about whether they will be denied access to the restroom, the locker room, or school sports.”
While the order doesn’t explicitly address the scenario, the consequential question is the impact this has on the transgender athlete debate. Said issue gained prominence two years ago when tennis great Martina Navratilova issued a bold opinion in the UK’s “The Sunday Times.” How are we to handle the person who was biologically born male but identifies more with the female gender as an adult — and wishes to compete on the court now with women? We strive to honor all people, so how do we honor all if we are fair to the transgender women but unfair to the other competing women? There are factual, biological differences. Navratilova then called it “cheating.”
As with all issues which are challenging in comprehending the many no doubt nuanced angles, let’s begin by asking questions. Let’s ask questions of what we don’t understand. Let us also be sure to honor those who agree and who do not — those who are passionate and those who are not. And let no one most affected by our opinions have reason to be offended by our actual words. Disagreement and offense are not synonymous.
And that’s where my originally intended blog idea stopped.
I realized that more than any even diplomatically stated issue, those last two sentences may be what challenges us the most: let no one most affected by our opinions have reason to be offended by our actual words. Disagreement and offense are not synonymous.
How we state what we believe is separate than what we actually believe. However, in ever increasing, cancel-culture-abetting circles, how we state what we believe seems to matter less than the actual holding of the opinion. In other words…
Your mere holding of that opinion is offensive to me.
Note what just happened there…
If I fall prey to the lure that the simple holding of an opinion is offensive, then I no longer need to engage with you. I don’t need to listen to you. I don’t have to entertain any other nuanced angle. I don’t have to even admit that those angles exist. And don’t get me started about any semblance of respect. No, not when you’re so offensive…
And unity?! Why in the world would I even consider finding unity with someone who is so offensive?!
And just like that we once more fall prey to what’s lesser.
Less noble. Less good.
Because of that, we make increasingly less progress on meaningful issues. We have trouble discussing far more than whether it’s fair and honoring to all people for transgender women to compete in women’s sports. We have trouble even starting the conversation — or even a blog post.
May we be wise enough, therefore, to discern the difference between disagreement and offense. And may we respect others enough to let no one most affected by our opinions have reason to be offended by our actual words. Let’s state how we feel what we feel in non-antagonistic, honoring ways.
Such is noble. Such is good. Such leads to better conversation, sharpening, and maybe, just maybe, solution.