Scrubbing These "Bathroom Bills"
Today, the state of North Carolina and the United States government launched a hotly contested legal battle over who can use certain bathrooms, giving new meaning to the phrase "frivolous lawsuit." North Carolina argues that the federal government should basically "mind its own business" and let the state do as it pleases. The United States Government, on the other hand, says that North Carolina's anti-transgender legislation constitutes illegal discrimination that "provides no benefits to society and all it does is harm innocent Americans." What's all the fuss about anyway?
The "Bathroom Bill"
On March 23, 2016, the North Carolina legislature passed House Bill 2 (or "HB2") and the state's governor, Pat McCrory, signed the bill into law later that day. HB2 requires all persons using state-owned restrooms to use whichever facility corresponds with the gender given on his or her birth certificate. The bill would affect all state employees and all public school students. Despite the asinine and practically impossible methods of enforcing this law (imagine having to present your birth certificate to a bathroom patrolman), it has even further serious implications for transgender individuals.
You probably know or interact with at least one transgender person and are completely unaware that the person is indeed transgender. How did transgender Americans suddenly get thrust to the forefront of political discourse? Because, just as with the past treatment of the LGBT community generally, people tend to be fearful of that which they do not understand or that with which they do not have much experience.
Fear Won in Houston
It's this fear that extinguished transgender rights in the city of Houston and it's at work again in North Carolina. Houston was simply the testing field for a broader campaign to villainize transgender individuals. The supporters of Houston's bathroom ordinance unashamedly used fear to manipulate people into believing that allowing transgender persons to use the bathroom corresponding to their current gender would lead to child molestation or abduction. If you don't believe me, just take a look at one of their campaign videos below.
Let's be clear, there have been no reports of attacks against children by transgender individuals or any studies showing that these "bathroom bills" make children any safer.
Discrimination, Plain & Simple
The lawsuit filed by the United States against North Carolina alleges that HB2, the "Bathroom Bill", violates anti-discrimination laws contained in the Civil Rights Act and Title IX . While sexual orientation is relatively new to the realm of discrimination protection, sex itself has been protected from the very beginning. For transgender individuals who have gone through the process of changing sexes on their government documentation, the "Bathroom Bills" require that they ignore this change.
Laws such as HB2 create an artificial distinction between men-born-men and women-transitioned-to-men, and likewise with respect to women. This distinction treats the two "classes" differently: men-born-men may use the men's restroom while women-transitioned-to-men must use the women's restroom. North Carolina and supporters of anti-transgender laws have not offered any reasonable justification for the unequal treatment of these "classes." That, my friends, is discrimination.
Fighting Fear with Knowledge
The only way to prevent more of these laws from spreading (and they will) is to eliminate the persuasive power of fear. Because the fear stems from a lack of understanding and experience, the only way to dispel that fear is to foster more knowledge about the issues that transgender individuals face.
Much of the success in the marriage equality and LGBT movement is accredited to individual persons coming out in their everyday lives, increasing awareness and understanding. The same must be done for the "T" in that LGBT movement. We must combat bigotry and injustice in all of its forms, not just when we are its specific targets.