"Family friendly" has become the new code for "we don't want you people here."
The opposite of "family friendly" is "gay friendly," as in the recent story about a gay couple who went to a hotel touted as "gay friendly" by Expedia, only to be told that they weren't wanted because it is a "family" hotel.
As in, you're no part of our "family." As in, we're not comfortable with you, so why should we consider your comfort? Why should we have to adjust? We shun you. Get out.
In North Carolina, the Hanover Seaside Club forced out a long time member, whose family started the beach club, when she transitioned from male to female.
Out, out, out!
That ain't right. This isn't about "family" -- this is about not wanting to see any transgender people in the vicinity. This is another face of transphobia.
Here's the story.
Rachael Gieschen was a long-time member of the Hanover Seaside Club in Wrightsville Beach, N.C. Her grandfather and his brothers helped to create it in the late 1890's.
When Rachael, a 69-year-old retired Air Force veteran, informed its board of directors she had transitioned from a man into a woman, they promptly told her to resign.
Two of her children are still members with her grandchildren.
Not our family, though.
She wrote a letter to the Club's board in 2008 to let them know about her transition the previous year. Then, long-time friends and acquaintances gave her the cold shoulder and she ate lunch alone at her last visit.
The Club's board of directors wrote to her and told her that members expressed discomfort:
...We also appreciate your recognition of some of the difficulties now raised by your membership, as reflected in your letter. "[H]ome away from home" and..."private island," well exemplifies the feelings our members have had for the Club as their private getaway.... [T]he board must always consider whether members will continue to feel comfortable and at home at the Club.
Although she had said she would use a private restroom, the letter replied that members would be uncomfortable regardless of which restrooms were used.
She unsuccessfully tried to get board members to meet with her and her therapist. They didn't want to learn anything about transgender identity.
Didn't know, didn't care.
The board also added two sentences to the Club's rules in April, 2009, that said "members acknowledge that this is a family friendly Club with an entrenched tradition of creating a comfortable environment for its members."
"Comfort" covers a pretty broad swath. It's reasoning that has been used in the past to exclude racial and religious minorities. It's been used to exclude gay people. And now it's being used to exclude transgender people.
Does a private club have a right to exclude people with whom they're uncomfortable? By and large that's absolutely true. But I also believe that people have a right to say something about that. If it's based on prejudice, I believe it is important to mark that and call attention to it.
I don't believe that the people at the Hanover Beach Club think they are acting from prejudice. They have placed this action in the category of "comfort," to which everyone aspires. We all want to be comfortable. I know I do. But at the same time, being transgender isn't like wearing a tinfoil hat, or dressing in rags, or some bizarre sexual fetish exhibited in public.
It's a different gender identity.
But that's a relatively new understanding in our society. The truth is, transgender identity is seen by many people as a bizarre sexual fetish. In part, that's a fault of the psychiatric profession that put it in that category.
Being gay used to be seen as a bizarre sexual fetish. When the psychiatric profession finally took it out of the psychiatric diagnosis book in 1972, society began to see it differently. It's taken a long time to change, and not all of our society is there yet.
Being transgender is just the latest in our society's learning curve around accepting new identities.
Ms. Gieschen has no immediate plans to sue the Club, but Michael Silverman, executive director of the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund, continues to work with her as she considers her options.
Mr. Silverman sees this as an opportunity to teach an important lesson - to learn to deal with differences.