Agriculture, at times, has an image problem. I spend a great amount of my time advocating for agriculture to combat this. I share so much of my life in an effort to connect to the public and show farmers and ranchers are human, we want the best for our animals, land and family, just like them. I wanted to use my relationship with the public to educate and influence their thoughts about my way of life.
But I what I didn’t realize, was how much people influenced MY life. They have changed how I feel and perceive many, many social issues. You see, I got to know people who live very different lives from me. People that live in the city, rich people, poor people, people from other countries, religions, orientations, well, you get it. But I learned they are just like me! They have soapboxes too, and sometimes all they want is to have their soapboxes recognized.
There is a big issue making waves in my social media circles. It’s not an agriculture issue, per se, but it is something that I’ve seen many of my agriculture peers talk about. The recent North Carolina bathroom law. Basically, this law requires transgender people to use the bathroom that corresponds to the gender of their birth certificate, not how they currently identify.
This law has brought out a lot of ugly. Some people are very concerned about what happens in the privacy of a locked stall. Some people have apparently turned in their humanity cards over it. Ag people have been posting horrible memes, advocating violence and assault to the transgender community. Even a well known agricultural cartoon posted about it. I realize that most of my ag peers have little to no experience with transgender, or other gender identities. They do not know what these labels are or why they are important. They just know it’s different, therefore, scary and wrong.
And this breaks my heart.
You see I believe agriculture is better than that. Since we so proudly and often tout we are a minority and we are often misunderstood by the public, who better than us to stand behind other minorities? We KNOW what’s it like for people to have preconceived ideas about us, and we do not like it.
I see straw man excuses being used – that our women and girls need to be protected from “pervs”. That it’s about the children. It’s a “safety” issue (I actually do agree with the safety argument. We should all safely be able to use a restroom without fear of being attacked or having our genitals mutilated by vigilantes.
But guess what? Our transgender friends are not the ones committing the crimes they are accused of. According to actual statistics (which again, agriculture loves to trot out to proves our points):
- Approximately 4/5 of assaults are committed by someone known to the victim
- The average age of a rapist is 31 years old.
- 52% are white
- 22% of imprisoned rapists report that they are married.
- Juveniles accounted for 16% of forcible rape arrestees in 1995 and 17% of those arrested for other sex offenses.
- In 1 in 3 sexual assaults, the perpetrator was intoxicated — 30% with alcohol, 4% with drugs
- In 2001, 11% of rapes involved the use of a weapon — 3% used a gun, 6% used a knife, and 2 % used another form of weapon.
One in two transgender individuals are sexually abused or assaulted at some point in their lives.
Instead of blaming and targeting our transgender peers, and preventing them from peeing comfortably in public, let’s talk about the white, intoxicated, married man that is actually a threat to us, shall we?
I have several points here. First and most importantly:
- No matter how you feel about people that have different beliefs, lifestyles or orientations, it is NEVER ok to advocate violence or death to them because of how they label themselves. Think about that for a second. Let that sink in. Some of our ag peers are suggesting we hurt, mutilate, attack and kill, actual human beings, that have family, friends, hopes and dreams because of the bathroom that is actually appropriate for them to use.
- If you are advocating for agriculture on social media, you are in the public’s eye. If you post horrible, hateful meme’s or encourage physical attacks against people that are different you, you are part of agriculture’s image problem. It might be funny to you, and that IS totally your prerogative (Yay, freedom of speech!), but at least have the decency to keep the hate to yourself. Some of us work very hard to build bridges with our consumers, don’t blow that for us.
- Try having some empathy and sympathy. The saying goes, be kind, everyone is fighting a hard battle…. If you, your kid, your sister or brother or Mom or Dad was in this position, how would you treat them? Would you advocate for them to be attacked?
For someone who loves agriculture and the people in it, it makes me sad, angry, hurt, scared, worried, fearful and a whole other slew of emotions to see my peers in agriculture sharing a rubber band applicator and inferring it’s ok to harm a fellow human being because of how they gender identify. Think of the bigger picture. We are all human. Keep that humanity card friends.