Criticize North Carolina’s discriminatory bathroom policy
With unanimous support from Republican state legislators and a near-immediate approval by Republican Governor Pat McCrory (R), North Carolina’s HB 2 became law on March 23 — the same day legislators introduced it — despite protests by Democratic state legislators, according to a March 23 New York Times article.The legislation, colloquially referred to as a bathroom law, sought to overturn a Charlotte ordinance which, among other things, allowed transgender people to use the public bathrooms corresponding to their gender identity rather than those corresponding to their physical sex at birth. HB 2 effectively squashes this forward step by Charlotte and seeks to prevent any similar expansion of rights by North Carolina cities in the future.
On April 12, McCrory announced an executive order which clarified that HB 2 only has weight in government buildings and that private businesses and nonprofit groups can continue to make their own policies regarding the matter, according to an article from the Advocate on the same date. The order does little else, and it does not correct the discriminatory nature of HB 2.
North Carolina Republicans — and many Republicans on the national stage — remain in support of this horrific new law, despite nearly a month of overwhelming backlash from activist groups, companies and ordinary citizens.
Of the law’s discriminatory devastation, Republican presidential hopeful — and longshot — John Kasich remarked, “Get over it,” according to an April 12 article in the Advocate.
But this insensitivity toward the daily struggles of non-cisgender Americans is actually generous compared to the comments of too many other Republicans.
According to an April 15 Chicago Tribune article, second-place Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz had something more to say about the matter at an MSNBC town hall in Buffalo on Friday: “I’m not terribly excited about men being able to go alone into a bathroom with my daughters.”
This all-too-common misgendering of trans women and insulting implication that they have perverse intentions has dominated the justification of HB 2 and bills like it across the country. In fact, some even go as far as to say that HB 2 is not only justified but also crucial for the protection of women. Yes, according to many Republicans — people of the same group that denies women reproductive rights and other truly crucial protections — allowing a trans woman to pee in a public bathroom apparently endangers our great nation’s women and girls.
In an April 17 opinion piece for the South Carolina publication, The Herald, writer Wendy Petzel deems all of this reasoning “common sense.” She writes that “LGBTQ is calling this ‘anti-LGBTQ legislation’ when in fact it is ‘pro women’s rights and protections’” — as if that makes sense. How can a piece of legislation which explicitly discriminates against members of the LGBTQ community — some of whom happen to be women — seriously be considered anything but “anti-LGBTQ”? Petzel goes on to speak of the “consequence of transgender agenda,” and then, her already weak argument devolves into senseless, transphobic blabber.
Let’s clear something up right now: Trans women are not men. They are not men pretending to be women so they can sneak into the women’s bathroom or locker room and satisfy some perverse voyeuristic urge — or worse. They are women, and more importantly, they are people who deserve respect like anyone else.
Still, people do not seem to understand this. After all, former Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee articulated this gross ignorance best. “I’m pretty sure that I would have found my feminine side and said, ‘Coach, I think I’d rather shower with the girls today.’ You’re laughing because it sounds so ridiculous doesn’t it?” he said shortly after Caitlyn Jenner came out as a transgender woman, according to a June 3, 2015 CNN article.
To people who refuse to acknowledge that trans women are not men, consider this: Even if trans women were men — which they are not — these fears of having “men” in women’s bathrooms and locker rooms operate under the flawed assumptions that all men are attracted to women and that, if left alone for even a moment, all men might attack or otherwise exploit an unguarded woman. Improved education on sexualities has worked to disprove the former, and for humanity’s sake, we better hope the latter is equally false.
All that aside, trans women are not men, and no documented cases of a trans person assaulting a cisgender person in a bathroom exist anywhere in the U.S., according to an April 14 article in the Advocate. Further, according to the same article, there are no reports of anyone pretending to be trans in order to assault someone in a gendered space like a bathroom or locker room. As such, any of these fears remain completely unfounded.
That said, even if this legislation aimed to solve a problem with any scrap of validity, it would not actually succeed. In many cases, trans women look like any other woman, so the impossibility of enforcing HB 2 further renders the law futile. Consequently, the law harms countless trans Americans by perpetuating a stigma of shame without accomplishing any of the good it purports to achieve.
Despite this assault on the rights of non-cisgender Americans in North Carolina, hope remains. The backlash the state has witnessed in the past month shows that not everyone supports such transphobic lines of thinking.
Further, on Thursday, the executive director of Equality North Carolina, Chris Sgro, became a member of the state legislature. According to an April 16 article in the Advocate, McCrory had no choice in appointing Sgro for the recently vacated position of the late Rep. Ralph Johnson (D-Greensboro); the Guilford County Democratic Party Executive Committee chose Sgro as Johnson’s successor, and a North Carolina state statute required McCrory to oblige.
Sgro has reportedly made repealing HB 2 a priority, and hopefully, he is not alone. The bill received strong opposition from many North Carolina Democrats before its ratification, and now, some who supported it have begun to reconsider. Democratic state legislators Larry Bell and Billy Richardson, for example, initially voted for the bill, but now they apologize and call for its repeal, according to an April 15 article in the Advocate.
Bell’s change came after a former student — someone he knew during his time as a school superintendent years ago — called to describe his struggle as a member of the LGBTQ community. Such a personal interaction affected Bell enough to completely alter his view of HB 2 because the student managed to remind him of something that too many people seem to forget: LGBTQ people are people too, first and foremost.
Supporters of the new law seek to paint HB 2 as a bastion of protection for fragile women, but with examination of actual facts and logic, it becomes clear for what it is: a completely unwarranted vilification of an already vulnerable population.