Emma Sowl | Drowning in the Molestation of Words


Like children, words grow and change. This process happens naturally and, left unburdened, leads to greater understanding. As children grow and change, they better understand themselves and the world; as words grow and change, they lead people to understand each other more deeply.

But if children are interfered with, they are thrown into a world of confusion. And when words are interfered with to the point where they mean different things to different people, the world itself becomes confusion.

And that is what is happening in Santa Clarita as the result of two recent and conflicting legal decisions.

The Santa Clarita Valley provides many beautiful public pools. They are works of art compared to those in the SCV 40 years ago. But residents who have children in any pool programs should know that aquatic centers are in panicked confusion due to the recent ruling against the Rose Bowl Aquatic Center for failing to protect a child from repeated molestation in the locker room. That ruling greatly complicates the implementation of Senate Bill 179, which the pools are interpreting as meaning that someone who looks exactly like The Rock need only say, “I am a woman,” in order to enter the women’s locker room.

A locker room is not a bathroom with separate stalls. A locker room is a place where people get undressed and take showers in front of whomever else is in there. It was in such a place that a child was allegedly molested at the Rose Bowl.

In the Rose Bowl decision, the words were very clear. Whether one agrees with the decision or not, it is not confusing: The Rose Bowl is 70 percent responsible for the molestation of a child in its facility — to the tune of $7 million.

SB 179 is not nearly as clear, although it does contain many, many words. A huge number of those words seem to be cut and pasted from existing name change, birth certificate and vehicle codes. Many more words define the terms “intersex,” “non-binary,” and “transgender” with explanations that are strangely empathetic for a legal document, even though only one of those terms will now be placed on California ID cards (non-binary).

On the other hand, the term that is not defined in SB 179 is “clinically appropriate treatment,” despite the fact that it is required before one can legally change genders.

Perhaps it is confusion over this phrase that has led local pools to take the stance that absolutely anyone can enter the women’s locker room as long as that person knows the correct password. But in light of the Rose Bowl decision, one would think that nervous management would at least require the identification card that proves a person has undergone “clinically appropriate treatment.”

However, current pool policy deems such a request to be an act of discrimination.

Let’s be clear: The alleged perpetrator in the Rose Bowl case was a biological man in the men’s locker room. The case had nothing to do with transgender people. Nada. In fact, for the sake of argument, let’s assume that it is absolutely impossible for a transgender person to molest a child. Let’s even define transgender to mean “incapable of doing harm.”

None of that changes the fact that we know that the vast majority of child molesters are biological men. We also know that child molesters will lie through their teeth to get at their prey. So will flashers. So will rapists. It does not take a psychic to anticipate the problems once word gets out that not even proof of “clinically appropriate treatment” is needed to invade a room full of naked women and girls.

The reason for all this confusion is that our state Senate decided, overnight, to redefine the word “men,” causing rank-and-file employees to struggle with the implications of the new definition. There are few places where a precise definition of men is more important than in a public pool.

Pools must now ask what was intended when the words men and women were first designated to delineate separate locker rooms some umpteen years ago. Did they choose those words in order to create separate safe spaces for feelings or did they choose them because, at the time, the words described people with different chromosomes and genitalia who did not want to undress in front of each other?

But our pools will not address this question unless more than the “1.7 percent of the general population” referred to in SB 179 speak up.

Emma Sowl lives in Santa Clarita. She is a graduate of UCLA.

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