One October morning I woke up at 5 am to get ready for work. I stumbled to the coffee machine and checked my phone. An associate sent me a message that read, “Hi, did you know that your blog was recently discussed by Dr. William Lane Craig?” I no longer needed the coffee. This is a Christian Apologist and philosopher who has debated the likes of Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens. On the train on my way to work I reached out to friends of mine online and asked if they could provide me a link. One of them did. I could not listen to it on the train as I did not have headphones with me. My breaks at work did not allow me the time to listen due to errands. I did not listen until I got home.
Dr. William Lane Craig and co-host Kevin Harris spoke about my blog, me and my son on the October 11th edition on the Reasonable Faith Podcast. For 18 long minutes I got to hear a Christian apologist and philosopher speak about my son and use his name. It was sometimes affirming and other times terrifying.
They used an amalgamation of two of my articles on TransParent Expedition in Patheos. My reaction was different than my son’s, his fellow LGBTQIA peers, and fellow parents. Listening to my son, his peers, and other parents like me along with many subsequent listens and interaction with some of Dr Craig’s listeners helped reshape my view.
Source Materials Before Reading On
The first source Dr. Craig uses in his podcast is my blog about the “Nationwide Epidemic of Sincerely Held Beliefs“. The other document that they do not cite by name, but read excerpts from is “On Wings Denied and Knowing When to Walk Away“. If you have not read these articles, please take a moment to do so.
Now take 18 minutes and listen to The Reasonable Faith Podcast about sincerely held beliefs, my column, me and my son.
My Initial Reaction
After five years of fighting school districts, hate groups restricting rights in Illinois schools, municipalities, churches, and hearing the worst of humanity on the Christian Right, I was relieved to find what was said was not full of terms like abomination and they actually used my son’s pronouns. Of course I did not agree with all of their conclusions, but I felt they tried to be civil and respectful. I even wrote Dr. Craig a message thanking him for some of the content and it led to a brief exchange. I do not regret my kind words or anything I wrote or he wrote. What we exchanged will remain private.
My Child, Trans Youth, and Other Parents of Trans Youth
Dave’s friends, Dave and other parents had differing views than I did. They were not on the inside of religion and christendom as I have been for so many years. While my perspective gives a greater understanding of the Christian subculture, I think their views warranted me listening to their hearts. Like the conversations with Dr. Craig, what is said in parent’s groups and with my son (unless explicitly given permission to) is not for public disclosure.
Suffice it to say, some of the common themes are the pauses and apparent facial discomfort pauses by co-host Kevin Harris before saying ‘son’ was hurtful. My not being invited to be a part of the discussion since it was about me and Dave was a slight. Some of the spin that they pointed out that I did not take as much note of was maddening. There were other aspects, such as Dave being spoken about by name as a token to the launch pad of discussions about the law and politics. At the kickoff of the podcast it was said it would be best to avoid politics, but it closed on a very political note.
Writing This Response is Scary
When I was a minister, apologetics was my favorite topic. Josh McDowell was my favorite back in the day, but I used admire the work of Dr Craig. Dr. Craig wrote what I considered to be substance in a world of vapid and popular authors like Lee Strobel and and actors like Kirk Cameron who have the intellectual and philosophical depth of a birdbath. Dr. Craig has a PhD and has gone toe to toe with people who’s work I admire as a humanist now. On matters of faith and the argument for the existence of God, I do not have the same education that Dawkins has or Hitchens had. So responding is intimidating.
Also, people like this have a following. Followers can be ardent defenders who say horrible things. I learned this when I spoke ill of YouTube Celebrity Laci Green. Speaking of this issue, Dr. Craig cites Jordan Peterson. This is a man with fans that are vicious, dangerous, and prone to doxxing and making threats of harm if you dare to disagree with Peterson. His very mention somehow brings Peterson fans running to whatever you wrote to either give you accolade or eviscerate you. In the trans community, this is well known. Any mention of Peterson invites danger.
Digging in With My Revised Response
Kevin Harris starts off (after an analogy about almost drowning) with saying his heart breaks for families that have a transgender child in the mix. I would have liked to have heard more. It would be the difference between warm feelings towards his sentiment or offense. Does it break because we face a world of judgement, fighting for our child’s civil rights and fighting for the safety and very life of our children? Does it break because we have a child with a perceived sin or perceived disorder? This is an important difference.
One affirms the reality of our experience and the other is pandering and faux sympathy. The expression on his face and the pauses before saying son is hard to watch and hear. While I appreciate that he used the proper pronoun for my child, I really wish it could have been done without what could be perceived as passive aggressive or difficult. It is not that hard to respect a pronoun. I cannot read his mind, but the exterior show was rough to watch.
In his introduction, Harris misnamed the blog making it harder for people to find it. It is not called the Transparent Blog, it is Transparent Expedition. I get why they elected to change the name of the title of one of the posts they cited. When he named “Walgreens and the Epidemic of Sincerely Held Beliefs”, he left the company name out of it. I can see that and it is mostly harmless.
Harris goes on to introduce the story where a waitress refused to serve my son. He found it hard to believe that someone would say something like she said. I do not know why that is so hard to believe. How many videos need to surface of white people saying horrible things to black people in everyday circumstances? How many anti LGBTQIA statements need to be said from the right before this is believed? Since Trump has taken office, hateful rhetoric has become very common which includes Christian ministers calling for the execution of LGBTQIA people.
Now we get to the legal thoughts by Dr. Craig on this incident. I appreciate that he says that based on the law, the waitress broke the law and had no legal defense not to serve us. He cited the cases of the Colorado baker and the Oregon florist. I do not know if I agree that a cake or a floral arrangement is an artistic endeavor, but I do understand the logic and begrudgingly agree that is the law and in this instance it works in my child’s favor.
I am a semi professional photographer. If I were asked to shoot a Trump Rally, I would like to have the right to refuse. But if I were shooting a corporate party and someone was wearing a MAGA hat, I would include him in all the shots. He happens to be at the party and I agreed to do it. I did, in fact, refuse a job once. A young Christian couple wanted someone to shoot not only their wedding, but their wedding night. They were both virgins and wanted to document their special night together. I felt strongly that this would be harmful to them in the long run and beyond my sensibilities. I have shot nude, semi-nude, erotic and boudoir. But for me, shooting two people actually having sex crosses a line into pornography. It is legal, but I am not comfortable being the one to shoot it.
They go on to suggest that I am a bit of a traditionalist. Yeah. I am guilty as charged. I was raised by my grandfather. I loved westerns and cop shows when I was a kid. Grow up with John Wayne and Don Johnson and others, you do embrace masculinity in a traditional form. I am ever working on making that less about toxic masculinity, but there was only affirmation and non toxic masculine behavior in that moment with my son.
I made it clear in the write up why I chose the tactic I did. In the original story I explained it to my son:
“I don’t know where you are going to be in life when you meet a hater. We live in a violent and sick society. There are times where you can engage and stand your ground in the moment. There are other times that you have make a strategic retreat because of safety. I dunno what it is about the suburbs, but there were a few people that were on her side from their body language. Walking away is not cowardice and it can be done with pride, dignity, and class. We left like men because that is what you are. A man. My son.”
He was safe because I was there, but as he grows older I am not going to be there so I have to teach my child how to be safe in an unsafe world. Sometimes you can make a stand, sometimes you cannot. But even when you cannot, you can leave on your terms and hold your head high regardless your gender.
As an aside, the trans community does not want gender removed. There is a full embracement of transgender and fluid people to express themselves as they want. Some want to “pass”. Many transgender people take voice lessons to speak in a more masculine or feminine register. Some take hormones and others do not. There is a fluidity and a spectrum, but that allows and embraces all expressions of gender and does not embrace a removal of them.
Now back to Dr Craig. I appreciate that he says very matter of factly that I am affirming my son and love my child very much. He stated that as fact without a pained expression or judgement call at all. He did the same with explaining what deadnaming is. I wish he would have spent more time speaking on the importance of morality and mutual respect. He certainly touches on it, but it almost feels like an offhand remark to the main issue of the law. Jesus seemed clear to his followers that love was what drove law and legalism for legalism sake is the path of the Pharisee. This discussion of respect is more important than the law, because laws can be unjust.
Now for the bit where they speak about the pharmacy incident. First of all. I will give Dr. Craig the concession that I was hurt and angry and that clouded some of my assumptions. But based on the evidence, I feel it was a good conclusion. Upon further reflection and discussion with my son, there is an important revision about the gentlemen who complimented the pharmacy technician. What he said was more along the lines of,”Way to stick up for your beliefs. It’s important in this day and age.”
There were some things I need to make more clear that they did not. This was not our first time at this Walgreens. In the article I stated:
“One evening we went to Walgreens to fill his testosterone prescription. We do this monthly and we have never had an issue with the people working the pharmacy counter at Walgreens. That night we would have an issue.”
Under the same circumstances, with the same location, we went there month after month for the very same thing. His legal name at the time and his preferred name at the time (Dave is now the legal name as well) were both on file in accord with the law of the State of Illinois and the procedures for Walgreens as a corporation. Dr. Craig was very meticulous and well researched on the matter with the baker and the florist, but this bit about ‘strict liability offense’ was not at play here. This is not even what strict liability offense is about. There was nothing even close to that line in this circumstance and if that were her concern, the appropriate course would have been to get the pharmacist involved.
There is still a lot being discussed about the balance of ‘conscience clause’ protections for pharmacists and filling legitimate prescriptions in not only Illinois, but other states. The laws are messy, but I can tell you how Walgreen’s and CVS and other pharmacies handle it. Most of the time this deals with contraception medicines, but what happened with my son is not an isolated case.
If this was due to the pharmacy technician’s moral conviction regarding transgender people, she would have not been compelled to dispense the medicine to us. But she would have to see if there was someone else on staff who could fill it. If that was not possible, it would be incumbent on that pharmacy to immediately find another pharmacy nearby that could fill it.
She neither followed protocol for avoiding strict liability offense nor did she employ the practices of her employer for the allowances of her sincerely held beliefs. We just had a p***ing match.
I could have made another aspect more clear. The Walgreens we went to the next town over did, in fact, fill the prescription. The manager told me that the pharmacy tech was within her rights if she did not want to fill the prescription, but he also educated me on the company policy that was not adhered to. He also said that the exchange was uncalled for and had it been his store, she would have faced discipline. But I did not state that.
Invoking Jordan Peterson was dangerous to my son and his safety. If you consider him to be a valid source. I ask you to read the following and reconsider. These were all written by my friends and peers at Patheos. If you read the comments from Jordan Peterson’s disciples, you will see why I suggest distancing yourself from him. Driven to Abstraction. Foxy Folklorist. No Longer Quivering Finally, Progressive Human Secularist.
The final point was hard to swallow. The beginning of the podcast stated that politics would be avoided. But the podcast ended with Dr. Craig speaking to how important Supreme Court picks would be. Your side has the supreme court pick, but it came at a cost to your faith’s reputation and to human dignity. When I was a minister I used to joke that Christians would vote for the devil himself if he said he was pro life. They may have done just that.
Closing Statements to the Hosts of Reasonable Faith
Dr. Craig. I appreciate your recognizing the law where you were clear. There is also appreciation for your factual representation on my being supportive and affirming. You describe deadnaming factually. You seem to respect my space of hurt and do not diminish it. I will concede that I am not able to read the mind of the pharmacy tech and I saw the incident through a lense of protective love for my child.
I wish you had been more clear on the laws you were not sure of because it seemed as speculative as I was on the intent of the pharmacist. Additionally, I also sincerely encourage you to distance from Peterson. Nothing good can come of it in the same way nothing good can come of your evangelical peers who have sold their faith to Donald Trump. I meant all that I said in my private exchange and stand by it.
Kevin Harris. Father to father. I am genuinely sorry for the loss of Tanner. When I was a minister, the weddings and funerals have blurred by me for the most part. But I will never forget standing with the parents who lost one young and every funeral I officiated for someone young burns in my memory and my heart. I do not know your pain, but I have seen it too many times.
On three occasions I have stood by the parents of trans children who lost teenage children. I’ve also sat in the ER with another parent who’s transgender child was horribly assaulted. My son? He has lost six friends to the grave by the time he was 17. Six. All were transgender.
They do not die by their own hands because of an illness. They die because they cannot take this cruel world. It is life and death. The suicide rate of a transgender youth is astronomical until something amazing happens. If they have a supportive parent, their likelihood of having suicidal thoughts and attempts goes down to under 5%.
Every time someone speaks ill of them on the news, the president tries to erode their rights, or they face cruel words you find hard to believe someone would say, they are another step to death and many of these people who say these things do so in the name of God.
We need good parents who love well to help us have less tragedies. Please know there are parents like you who have faced the ultimate price in the name of legalism. It is the fear of facing that pain that drives me every day. I mean no disrespect.
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