North Carolina’s General Assembly voted Wednesday to block cities and counties from passing protections against LGBTQ discrimination. In other words, in North Carolina, it is perfectly legal to discriminate against LGBTQ people.
Pat McCrory, North Carolina governor, tweeted his reason for signing this into law:
He went on to say:
Pat McCrory, and others who believe like him, have given people the right to harass, violate, and possibly harm transgender people because they think that transgender people are men who dress up like women for the purposes of harming women and children.
North Carolina isn’t the only state to require that a person uses the bathroom associated with the gender on their birth certificate, and not be protected from legalized discrimination. Notwithstanding the lack of clarity about who transgender people are by the general public and what it means to be transgender in American society, here are five questions that immediately come to mind when thinking about the states who desire to legally discriminate against LGBTQ people:
- How do you know what someone’s birth certificate says?
I am a transgender man and I used the men’s restroom for 5 years before the gender on my birth certificate was changed; and if someone would have told me to use the women’s bathroom, I can guarantee you that there would have been a woman who felt threatened by my being in the women’s bathroom.
- How do you know what genitals someone has?
Unless you station guards outside of every bathroom to physically violate everyone before they enter, there is no way to tell what genitals people have—and if you could, you’d realize that there are more than 2 genders and that if bathrooms have to be gendered, then there needs to be a different bathroom for each gender. Unless we become a society that actively sexually violates people to determine their genitals, there is no way to accurately determine, as someone enters a public bathroom, whether they have a penis, a vagina, a combination of both, or neither.
- What about gender neutral bathrooms?
If there are those who prefer to go to segregated restrooms, why not offer all-gender bathrooms for the rest of us? Those who prefer not to use the restroom with people of multiple genders should not dictate legislation because for years, humans have successfully and comfortably shared bathrooms with one another at homes, workplaces, and public events.
- How can you ensure the safety of transgender people who are forced to use a bathroom different from their gender identity?
While there has been no documented cases of transgender people violating someone in a public restroom, it’s an everyday occurrence that transgender and gender non-conforming people are verbally harassed, physically assaulted, and denied access to public restrooms, jobs, and housing because of the fear mongering tactics propagated by those who view transgender and gender non-conforming people as subhuman. When does the safety of all trump the fear of some?
- How is this any different than Plessy v. Ferguson?
In 1896, 33 years after the abolition of slavery, it became legal for states to publicly discriminate against Black people. As a result, separate bathrooms, separate entrances to buildings, separate restaurants, and an entirely separated way of life was legally established to protect white people from Black people because of the fear that Black people, if allowed to inhabit the same spaces as white people, would harm them. We know from history that the only group of people adversely affected by this legalized segregation was Black people.
In 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States legalized same-sex marriage, and now we see the backlash state to state from those who oppose LGBTQ people as they make it legal to publicly discriminate against people who are LGBTQ. Plessy v. Ferguson was overturned in 1954 with Brown v. Board of Education, but how many people’s lives were ruined by a society that conditions us to prioritize fear of the other over human dignity?
How many more states will legalize discrimination? Will more of the general public be mobilized to harm folks who are different? If history is any indicator of where we are headed, separate bathrooms may lead to people who want to live in a separate society, and a separate society can only be achieved through inequality and oppression.