SPRINGFIELD – Twenty-five years ago some folks were offended when Gov. Ann Richards attended a performance of the "The Vagina Monologues" on Broadway.
Prudish, mostly conservative individuals found the idea of women talking about their private parts, well, disconcerting.
At the time I thought these folks were just being silly. My libertarian worldview is this: as long as I’m not forced to attend, it’s none of my business.
It’s not necessary for me to agree with you to acknowledge your right to express yourself.
Now the show is being attacked from the left.
In November, Eastern Michigan University canceled a student performance of the "The Vagina Monologues" because "Not all women have vaginas."
Transgender politics has reared its head.
My advice to those on the far left is the same as what I gave to those on the right a quarter of a century ago: if you find the ideas expressed in the show offensive, don’t go. But don’t try to stop others from expressing themselves.
I was thinking about this Saturday when I read that California State Senator and Senate Judiciary Committee chair Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, announced that "gender neutral" pronouns will be used during committee hearings.
Jackson said that new committee rules recognize California’s designation of "non-binary" as a gender. The words "he and she" will be barred from usage in the committee room. Instead all people will be referred to as "they."
No, I’m not making this up.
But, hey, if Sen. Jackson wants to employ this stilted, grammatically incorrect language that’s her business. But if she is using her government position to dictate how others talk, that’s problematic and almost certainly unconstitutional.
I have sat through many legislative judiciary committees in Illinois. They can be emotional affairs. Ordinary people come and testify about why laws need to be changed. I’ve heard women tell lawmakers about being forced into prostitution, grieving parents tell of losing children to opioids and parents retell how a stranger sexually assaulted their child.
In such circumstances, I can’t imagine telling a mother that she can’t refer to her daughter as a "she." Or telling a man that he can’t refer to his father as a "he." Or for that matter telling a senator to address a man as "they."
Since the new rules were just announced Thursday, it remains to be seen how Jackson will go about enforcing them.
My prediction: not well.
Please note, I view this as a free speech issue.
If individuals identify with genders other than the ones on their birth certificates, well that’s no one’s business but theirs.
But when government attempts to regulate free speech to accommodate a particular point of view, that’s not only problematic but reprehensible.
Scott Reeder is a veteran statehouse journalist and a freelance reporter. ScottReeder1965@gmail.com