Bill Lee got elected Tennessee governor for one reason: He seemed like a nice guy. Randy Boyd and Diane Black were the heavily favored candidates. Smart, qualified and well funded. But they got in a food fight that turned people off. Remember? It was attack ad after attack ad after attack ad. Lee, on the other hand, touted just two things about himself. 1. He was a Christian. 2. He had no political experience.

Now we know a third thing about our governor. He’s a bully. And he’s going after the most vulnerable kids in our state.

Life is difficult for any young person. But for kids who have bodies that don’t match their brains, it can be excruciating. Did you know that perhaps a dozen Tennessee children are born each year with two sets of genitalia? One male. The other, female. And that dozens more are born with genitalia that do not match the sexual orientation of their brains?

Noodle on that.

Would it surprise you that these children have the highest suicide rate in our state? Just imagine being a boy trapped in a girl’s body or vice versa. Yet in spite of the challenges these children — and their parents — face, our governor has declared war on transgender students. He recently signed a bill that subjects schools to lawsuits if they allow children to use a bathroom that aligns with their sexual orientation if it does not align with the genitalia with which they were born.

I am not making this up. If schools allow a kid to use the wrong bathroom, they can be sued. And the governor has the nerve to call this “equality in bathrooms.” I bet he also calls it “conservative,” but a state micromanaging local school districts is anything but.

So how does a school protect itself from such lawsuits? Who would enforce such an intimate policy directive and how? Will schools need to station a bouncer outside each bathroom to inspect students and enforce the new law?

It gets worse. The governor also signed a bill requiring businesses that allow transgender people to use their bathrooms to post a sign on the door warning unsuspecting customers of the dangers that may lurk within.

So schools are being told which kids can and cannot use which bathrooms, and businesses are being ordered to post warning signs if — like all businesses I’ve ever been in — they simply let whoever goes in the bathroom, go in the bathroom.

No ID required.

And that’s not all. Our bully in chief has signed laws banning hormone treatment for transgender children and prohibiting them from participating in sports that do not align with their genitalia. Again, never mind that some may have both types of genitalia or that I have been unable to find a single reported case of a transgender girl making off with the trophy for girls’ basketball. Or volleyball. Or soccer.

I have male genitalia. I was born with it. I also identify as a guy. Easy peasy. But I can tell you that thousands of Americans are not so lucky. Mother Nature gave them more equipment than they needed or different equipment than what their brains wanted. If you need help understanding this — as I once did — I would recommend Jeffery Eugenides’ “Middle Sex.” If you’re not a reader, watch the movie Transamerica or listen to one of the many podcasts available online. Better still, befriend a transgender person like I did. My friend, Catherine Smith, has taught my wife and me more about the trials and travails of transgender people than any book ever could. These are precious souls who did not choose the cards they were dealt but are trying to play them with dignity and respect. All the while our governor draws unwanted attention to them, singles them out for ridicule and scorn, and drives them farther from public view and the support they so desperately need.

I’ve always hated bullies. I hate the way they prey on the weak. I hate the way they make people feel who don’t stand up to them.

The only way to stop a bully is to stand up to him.

I hope you will join me in standing up to ours. Our local legislators did not.

Buzz Thomas is a retired American Baptist Church minister, attorney, school superintendent and longtime Blount County resident and occasional columnist for The Daily Times.

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