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Opinion

What's this obsession with transgender people and bathrooms?

It sounds good, like something all of us would want to join: Maryland Citizens for a Responsible Government. But my perusal of the organization's website reveals little more than obsessive concern with transgender people being in society — and having to use, as all of us must at times, public restrooms. The organization suggests that transgender people are just a bunch of perverted, cross-dressing men who want access to women's bathrooms and locker rooms.

Maryland Citizens for a Responsible Government has been fighting state and local efforts to outlaw specific discrimination against the transgendered. Its latest fight is with the Baltimore County Council, which appears to be poised to pass an anti-discrimination ordinance. The organization calls Councilman Tom Quirk's bill "Baltimore County's Dangerous Peeping Tom Law." A handout says the new ordinance will "legally protect cross-dressers and transvestite behavior [and] allow cross-dressing men to enter women's bathrooms and dressing rooms even if they are sexually attracted to women."

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The handout adds: "Cross-dressing is a mental illness, which can constitute a form of erotic fetish."

Psychiatrists, psychologists and other clinicians would disagree with that characterization. They might also be tempted to speculate about the hangups and prejudices of people who see the transgendered as sex offenders in female camouflage.

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Let's keep this simple: Transgender people should be allowed to use the public restrooms according to their gender identity. If they do something wrong while in there, they should be reported to the police. Otherwise, everyone, here's some advice: Go in, do your business, and get out, no eye contact. Oh, and wash your hands.

Attention, Ravens fans:

Now that football season is officially over, and you are looking for something to do on Sunday afternoons, I have a recommendation — the opera. No, really. There's one this afternoon at the Theater Project, called "Postcard from Morocco," presented by the Peabody Chamber Opera. I've seen a lot of opera but never heard of this one. So I don't know if it's any good, but that shouldn't matter to Ravens fans, and here's why: If it's good, you'll be shocked and amazed and want more; if the opera's bad, it'll confirm your prejudices about "serious music" and you can go on being a football fan with a clear, uncultured conscience.

But about this opera: There's a lot to recommend it.

It was composed by Dominick Argento, the son of Sicilian immigrants — something very much in the guy's favor. (One of the great bel canto composers, Vince Bellini, was from Sicily.) Mr. Argento grew up in York, Pa., where his father ran a College Avenue cafe that featured live music on Saturday nights ("Dining and dancing"). Dominick Argento attended the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore and earned two degrees there. He won a Pulitzer Prize for his compositions in 1975.

Wikipedia says Mr. Argento's music "freely combines tonality, atonality and a lyrical use of twelve-tone writing, though none of Argento's music approaches the experimental avant garde fashions of the post World War II era."

Key phrase: no "experimental avant garde," which means that, for a 20th century opera, it sounds pretty good. One should almost never feel that one is hearing human beings trying to imitate the sound of a 12-car chain reaction accident on the Jones Falls Expressway. In fact, "Postcard from Morocco" might have moments that approach lyric beauty. Wikipedia: "[Mr. Argento] is particularly well known for sensitive settings of complex, sophisticated texts."

So, look, Ravens fans, you can take a chance on this "brilliant operatic fantasy" at the Theater Project, with no risk of permanent injury and medium to high probability of feeling real cultured, and in that sophisticated, modern opera way. Tickets are $25 — what's that, three beers at the stadium? — and $15 for seniors and $10 for students.

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Calling all stumpers

Here's one of those announcements that makes me wish I had the time, talent and tools required to get the gig:

"The Baltimore Public Art Commission, in collaboration with Friends of Druid Hill Park and Baltimore City Department of Recreation and Parks, is seeking to commission a local professional artist for the Druid Hill Park Tree Stump Carving project. The selected artist is to create artwork out of two existing tree stumps located at Druid Hill Park ..." What a cool idea. Applications are online at http://www.promotionandarts.com, and the deadline is March 15 at midnight.

Dan Rodricks' column appears Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. Follow him on Twitter at DanRodricks and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/dan.rodricks.


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