On Wednesday, Mar. 23, the North Carolina governor signed a bill that will prevent transgender individuals from using bathrooms and changing rooms that align with their gender identity.
House Bill 2, The Public Facilities and Security Act, states that it will “provide for single-sex multiple occupancy bathroom and changing facilities in schools and public agencies and to create statewide consistency in regulation of employment and public accommodations.”
The bill goes on to say that it protects the rights of individuals based on “race, religion, color, national origin, or biological sex;” however, this wording deliberately leaves out discrimination based on sexuality and gender identity.
The North Carolina General Assembly was going to address the bill in late April, but a recently approved ordinance in Charlotte convinced Republican legislators to push the bill forward. The Charlotte ordinance would have prohibited discrimination in housing and public accommodations based on sexual orientation and gender identity. It would have taken effect on April 1.
Governor Pat McCrory (R) tweeted, “Ordinance defied common sense, allowing men to use women’s bathroom/locker room for instance. That’s why I signed bipartisan bill to stop it.”
Like many of the bill’s supporters, McCrory felt that passing the Public Facilities and Security Act would protect women and children from sexual predators in changing rooms, locker rooms, and bathrooms, a logic that has little to no actual support behind it.
However, this legislature blatantly overlooks the wellbeing of North Carolina’s transgender community. Bathrooms are often a place of harassment for transgender individuals and choosing the “best” bathroom is often an important part of the transitioning process.
According to Lara Nazario, a transwoman and Charlotte resident, the real danger occurs when the government forces its transgender residents to use bathrooms according to their biological sex.
Said Nazario, “If I were to walk into a men’s bathroom, I would either be told that I’m in the wrong bathroom or I’d be outed as a transgender woman. This can often lead to violence or harassment, especially when there’s no protection in place for people like me.”
This legislature is an example of cisgender privilege in its finest form. It accepts the faulty logic that people can tell who is and who is not transgender based solely on physical appearance. But with a 2011 report estimating that 700,000 people 18 or older identify as transgender, it is highly probable that many people have already unknowingly shared a public bathroom with a transgender individual.
As a country that prides itself on its ability to be forward thinking and a leader among the nations, we are making very little to progress when it comes to the civil rights of minority groups. North Carolina’s legislation shows how much work we still have in the area of LGBT rights. It is difficult to guarantee basic human rights to all United States citizens when people are unwilling to accept individuals whose lifestyle choices they refuse to understand.
In the words of North Carolina Senator Dan Blue, this bill “reverses 40 plus years of progress.” Hopefully North Carolina legislators will recognize the damage this bill has caused and work toward eliminating the bill.