Temporary Compromises in North Carolina?

By: Katie Maher

This past week, North Carolina repealed the state’s transgender ‘bathroom bill,’ which required that people at government-run facilities use the bathrooms according to the gender on their birth certificate, rather than the gender that they identify with. This law has caused major controversy in the state of North Carolina, causing businesses to leave events and concerts in protest of the transgender discrimination.

At first glance, the repeal of House Bill 2, as the bathroom law is called, seems like a step in the right direction for LGBTQ rights. However, LGBTQ groups call the revised law a “repeal in name only,” and believe that the “bill fails to protect transgender people from discrimination.” During the time that House Bill 2 was in place, the state lost a considerable amount of money from companies who opposed the law cancelling events and functions. Among these economic setbacks, the NCAA moved championship events out of North Carolina, citing the state’s refusal to protect its citizens’ gender identity as the cause. For this reason, many see the bill’s repeal as a temporary compromise, rather than a serious step toward gender equality.

And why all the opposition to allowing transgender people access to the bathroom that aligns with their gender identity? The most common argument made against inclusive transgender bathroom laws is that it endangers women’s privacy and puts women at a higher risk of sexual assault. Yet, several states have banned discrimination based on gender identity for years, and there’s no indication that this has sparked an increase in assault on women. The Equality Federation’s Rebecca Isaacs states, “we have so many places that do prohibit discrimination where this has never come up. This is a red herring.”

Regardless of equal access to bathroom laws in place, sexual predators are going to behave in a manner that is threatening to women. The claim that laws such as House Bill 2 protect women from the possibility of sexual assault detracts from the true reason why people oppose a person’s choice of bathroom: blatant discrimination and a disregard for nontraditional gender identification. Not only is this argument out of touch with reality, but it associates transgender people with a predatory, threatening label. Mara Keisling, a transgender woman and the executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, said, “we are not the first people who have been called predators for political gain.” This sexual assault argument merely justifies discrimination against a minority group.

Legislators and anti-trans advocates cite protection of women as one of the many reasons for barring transgender individuals from using the bathroom of their gender identity. But as one of these women they supposedly seek to protect, I can say with certainty that I don’t see any reason to deny transgender men and women this right. When the legislators’ stated motive is fallacious and not supported by evidence, one must question the actual motive at play.