Answering Michael Brown’s Open Letter to Bruce Springsteen


There’s an open letter to Bruce Springsteen making the rounds. In case you missed what prompted it, The Boss canceled a concert in North Carolina following the passage of HB2 which, among other things, demands that trans men and women use the bathrooms that align with their sex at birth, rather than their true gender.

I’ll be honest, I don’t have any strong feelings about boycotting a state. It feels a little too big, a little too hard to nail down. I’m going to guess that gay and transgender people have jobs there that are hurt by large boycotts, and I’m not sure how we help the LGBTQ population by damaging the economy of their state. I understand the desire to bring attention to the problem, I’m just iffy on the logistics of most boycotts.

But back to Michael Brown’s open letter to Springsteen. I feel okay answering this on Springsteen’s behalf, not because I know his exact thoughts, but because, shockingly enough, I don’t think the letter was actually written to Bruce so much as written about transgender people. And like most protective moms, I’m having a hard time letting some of the accusations made in this letter go, especially when they seem to be born of ignorance rather than actually seeking understanding.

First, how do you know if someone is really “transgender” or not? Is it determined entirely by how they feel about themselves? If so, do you think that it might be hard to make laws based entirely on how people feel? Did you ever stop to consider that?

I find this fascinating, since the entirety of HB2 is based on how people feel about LGBTQ people in general, and transgender people specifically. We don’t THINK they’re really who they say they are, so we make a law to protect the FEELINGS of those who FEEL like they’re at risk.

Second, what’s the difference between someone with “gender dysphoria” (or, as it used to be called, “gender identity disorder”) and someone, say, with schizophrenia or “multiple personality disorder” or some other psychological condition? In other words, if a man is a biological and chromosomal male but believes he is a woman, is he actually a woman, or does he have a psychological disorder?

If he does have a psychological disorder, should we try to treat that disorder or should we celebrate that disorder? And is it right to call biological males who feel they are women and biological women who feel they are men “freedom fighters”? Perhaps that’s not the best use of the term?

This is a classic case of begging the question. Brown asks if being transgender is a psychological disorder then continues to operate under the assumption that it is a psychological disorder. According to the American Psychiatric Association in the DSM-5, however, “gender nonconformity is not in itself a mental disorder. The critical element of gender dysphoria is the presence of clinically significant distress associated with the condition.” The answer is readily available to those who are willing to look for it.

But perhaps I’m being too abstract here, so let’s get really practical. Let’s say that a 6’ 4” male who used to play professional football and who has secretly agonized over his gender identity for years finally determines that he must be true to himself and live as a woman.

Do you think it might be traumatic for a little girl using the library bathroom to see this big man walk into her room wearing a dress and a wig? Should we take her feelings into account, or is she not important? What if that was your granddaughter? Would you care if she was traumatized? And when you speak of “the human rights of all of our citizens” does that include little girls like this?

This is where we get to the heart of the story. Cis men who are deeply uncomfortable with trans women. Because I have yet, in any of my reading about transgender people using the “correct” bathrooms, come across anyone raising concern about trans men being forced to use women’s bathrooms. There is no concern for the trauma of a little girl running into someone like Buck Angel in a public restroom. There is no concern for someone’s daughter or granddaughter seeing Aydian Dowling washing his hands when they come out of the stall.

The alarms being raised for the safety of our women are red herrings to distract us from the inherent sexism that rears up when a man dares declare that being a man is wrong for them. We aren’t protecting the safety of women, or the concern would be for the women who are going to be sharing bathrooms (as though we all sit in a big open space, peeing in front of each other, rather than in stalls where we can only judge one another’s shoes) with trans men would be significantly higher, rather than nonexistent. No, this is about men feeling the need to protect their own masculinity because they cannot fathom how someone would feel more comfortable as a woman than a man.

Let’s take this one step further. If any man who claims to be a woman can use women’s bathrooms and locker rooms, then how do we keep the sexual predators out? I’ve asked people to watch this short video, giving examples of male heterosexual predators who donned women’s clothing to get into the ladies’ rooms, and I’d encourage you to watch it too. Without HB2, rapists and voyeurs and pedophiles would have free access to our women and daughters in the safety of their own bathrooms and locker rooms.

Since you don’t like HB2 — indeed, your guitarist called it an “evil virus” — what’s your plan to keep the predators out? How can we tell the difference between a “genuine” transgender person and a sexual predator? 

How are we keeping sexual predators out of bathrooms now? Allowing transgender people to use the bathrooms of their choice does not allow them to become sexual predators. It does not allow them to be pedophiles or to stare at people while they pee. If anyone, trans or cis behaves inappropriately in a public bathroom, or anywhere else for that matter, they are still subject to the laws that prohibit that behavior.

That aside, Pat’s Place, a leading child advocacy center in NC, stated that sexual assaults don’t happen in bathrooms, and that they rarely happen by strangers. Instead, it is far more likely for anyone to be assaulted by someone either in their family or close to their family. Politifact found that in the past 17 years, there have been 3 cases where men have posed as women to assault women (no sexual assault or rape). In all of these instances, trans women would have not had access to the women’s locker or bathroom facilities.

We can tell the difference between a transgender person and a sexual predator the same way we do today, which is unfortunately after they have committed a crime. Perhaps instead of worrying who is using which bathroom, lawmakers could spend time strengthening laws surrounding rape and sexual assault. There could be more funds given to organizations like Pat’s Place that actually treat victims of sexual assaults. There could be more energy spent on educating people about the differences between being transgender and being a pedophile.

Or maybe we can just do that last one ourselves.

7 thoughts on “Answering Michael Brown’s Open Letter to Bruce Springsteen

  1. Reblogged this on Sophia Sojourn and commented:
    Here is a reblog from a friend and fellow mama Bear. And my thanks to this Michael Brown fellow for giving her the framework to articulate the issues so clearly. Your ignorance became our gift.

  2. I think arguments using (im)probability aren’t going to work else we wouldn’t have all these laws “protecting” us from voter fraud

  3. Your reply/post is SPOT ON! This is really an outstanding post! I will be rereadfing it many times!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s