Glenn Garvin

Economic bullying is not the way to protect transgenders

ggarvin@miamiherald.com

Long before courts started wrangling about whether corporations had the same rights as people, the giant Frankfurt-based German financial conglomerate Deutsche Bank had displayed one undeniably human characteristic — a strong stomach.

When Hitler started wresting property away from Jews back in 1938, Deutsche Bank agreeably made available lists of its Jewish clients — and, not coincidentally, was soon Germany’s largest financial institution. And when Hitler needed help financing his new death camp at Auschwitz, Deutsche Bank was Johann-on-the-spot with financing.

The Holocaust is long over, but even in more recent times, Deutsche Bank has seemed perfectly comfortable in the presence of governments that bloodily persecute minorities. Its own website boasts that in Saudi Arabia, where punishment for homosexual activity ranges from public whippings to beheadings, “Deutsche Bank is well recognized for its leading role on some of the most prestigious domestic transactions, and is the recipient of several regional awards in recognition of its achievements in investment banking and Islamic finance.”

So please pardon my skepticism about Deutsche Bank’s sudden acquisition of a conscience last month over the new North Carolina law aimed at restricting transgender people’s choice of which public restrooms to use.

In honor of “protections of the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender” people, the bank announced, it was canceling an expansion that would have brought 250 jobs to the state. I’m sure all the gays being tortured in Deera Square, a short taxi ride from Deutsche Bank’s Riyadh headquarters, appreciated the solidarity.

Deutsche Bank may be the most literally cold-bloodedly cynical new convert to progressive pieties on gay and transgender rights, but it has plenty of company in hypocrisy.

PayPal, the digital-payment company, canceled its plans to build an operations center in New Carolina because of “our strong belief that every person has the right to be treated equally, and with dignity and respect.”

Yet the company made no move to cancel its business in Nigeria, Somalia, Mauritania, Yemen or Saudi Arabia, all countries where gays can be put to death.

The NBA, so thoroughly saturated in homophobia that only a single player in its 70-year history has been willing to come out as gay, has nonetheless declared it may move its 2017 all-star game out of Charlotte rather than rub shoulders with bigots.

The abrupt surge in public acceptance of alternative sexual orientations and gender identities over the past few years has been, in most ways, a good thing. We don’t know what causes homosexuality, transgenderism and other off-the-beaten-path sexual inclinations, and perhaps we never will.

But by now it’s pretty clear that they can’t be changed by yelling, beating, or jailing; and that far more harm has been done by trying to do so than by the sexual identities themselves.

Yet as that that old intolerance wanes, a new one waxes: bully-boy behavior by the newly enlightened, seeking to prove their loyalty to the new orthodoxies by brutalizing people whose beliefs they shared until months or even days ago.

Bruce Springsteen has, for more than 40 years, been giving concerts in arenas with gender-segregated bathrooms, without making so much as a peep about the transgendered until Caitlyn (née Bruce) Jenner made it cool.

Yet now he’s boasting that he’s a “freedom fighter” who’s just too moral to sing a song in North Carolina. (I guess that makes Deutsche Bank and PayPal freedom fighters, too. Funny how progressives who don’t believe corporations have First Amendment rights suddenly change their minds when those rights are employed in a progressive cause.)

The problem is that using your bank account to push people around, even if it forces their compliance, doesn’t convince them of anything.

If we want people to accept the transgendered rather than shun them as weird deviants, calm persuasion will go a lot further than freedom-fighting.

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