Don’t Use Biblical Logic To Deny Transgender Dignity

We read Joe Soucheray’s April 8 Opinion column, “Forget bathrooms, let’s just pay for less,” with mixed emotions. Soucheray mused on Gov. Mark Dayton’s embargo on nonessential travel to North Carolina and on Minnesota’s own proposed legislation requiring people to use only restrooms labeled to match the gender they were assigned at birth. The columnist also employed a reference to Solomon, King of Israel, whose wisdom as chronicled in the Book of Kings has come to be synonymous with reason, decency, and fairness. He wrote:

“Solomon might rule in his wisdom that requiring people to use bathrooms that coincide with their biological equipment hardly constitutes discrimination when what it really does is confirm fact. And yet, the left now wants to create laws that essentially protect the way people feel about themselves as opposed to what those people really are when it comes to going No. 1 or No. 2.”

As Jews, we deeply appreciate when our sacred texts are lifted into view. But as Jews working to pursue justice and the humanity of all people, we are distressed by this use of our text, by Soucheray’s misrepresentation of King Solomon, to deny transgender and gender nonconforming people safe access to, as he says, “going No. 1 or No.2.”

The most well-known story of King Solomon appears in 1 Kings; most people have at least some familiarity with the tale of two women who approached the king, each claiming to be the mother of a child. Solomon proposes cutting the child in half, prompting the real mother, in an act of profound sacrifice, to relinquish her child to the other woman in order to see him live. While we appreciate the similarities between King Solomon and Mr. Soucheray in their use of deliberately provocative and hyperbolic language in order to derive an emotional response, for us, the comparison ends there.

The true wisdom displayed by King Solomon was in preserving both life and the dignity of humanity. This is a story about a child’s right to safety trumping the claims of others to his identity. To use this story, or to assume what judgment Solomon would pass today in order to bolster a political position that would deny the dignity of transgender and gender nonconforming people is the epitome of blasphemy.

We take our text seriously. We hope you will next time, Joe.

Carin Mrotz, is the Deputy Director of Jewish Community Action and Rabbi Michael Adam Latz is the Senior Rabbi at Shir Tikvah.