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May 18, 2016: Thank You, North Carolina

May 18, 2016

No, really. I mean it. I’m not being sarcastic. Thank you, North Carolina. When the state passed HB2 — which, among other LGBT-discriminatory measures, prohibits trans people from using gender-specific public restrooms that don’t correspond to the genders printed on their birth certificates — I was pretty pissed. Especially since many states don’t allow people to change their genders on their birth certificates.

I also wondered how such a law would be enforced. Would N.C. appoint bathroom monitors? Would people have to carry their birth certificates around with them? And, even though artists like Bruce Springsteen cancelled concerts there in protest, companies like Pay Pal yanked business from the state, and municipalities like Los Angeles banned all employee travel there unless it’s absolutely necessary, I was still pissed.

Then, Mara pointed out another perspective: Notwithstanding the hardship HB2 is placing on N.C.’s LGBT community, there is a reason to be thankful for it. Why? Because, even though other states have passed (or tried to pass) similar bathroom bills, N.C.’s law started a national conversation about LGBT rights — particularly the rights of trans people — that isn’t ending anytime soon. People are talking about it.

N.C.’s attorney general said he will not enforce the law. Target released a statement saying that trans people are welcome to use the bathrooms that correspond to their gender identities at its stores nationwide. The Obama administration issued a set of guidelines that effectively said schools that receive public funding must allow trans students to use the bathrooms and locker rooms that correspond to their gender identities. (Here’s the CNN story.) I’m seeing more and more newspaper articles and social media posts on trans rights. There’s a buzz. A loud one.

Of course, among those participating in the conversation are staunchly transphobic people. Like the woman who marched through a Target store with her family, waving a Bible and loudly denouncing the company’s bathroom policy. And people who are saying bathroom bills are designed to keep pedophiles out of public facilities — unfounded scare tactics. I’ve read and heard transphobic news pundits railing against trans students, incorrectly saying that they change their gender identity based on how they feel “on any given day.” They don’t know what these kids (not to mention trans people of every age) go through. And no, transgender students don’t travel back and forth between genders based on how they feel “on any given day.”

But there are also stories like this one, which recently appeared in the L.A. Times, about a 9-year-old trans girl and what she is going through. And this TED Talk from Nicole Maines about her heart-wrenching journey as a trans student. And this C-Span coverage of U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson talking to his colleagues about the absurdity of bathroom bills. And this first-person account of Aimee Toms, a cis-gender woman who cut her hair and donated it to an organization that provides wigs for cancer patients. She was harassed in a public restroom at Walmart when another woman angrily called her out because she thought she was male.

Trans people endure so much more harassment, persecution, and violence than cis-gender people do in public restrooms. And now, even cis-gender people who are mistaken for the opposite sex are getting harassed. HB2 has gotten people so worked up that it looks like things are getting worse before they get better for the trans community.

But I believe things will get better. The conversation is here. The opportunity for educating the public is here. More and more trans people are coming out of the shadows and showing that they are not to be feared because of their gender identities; that they just want to live their lives in peace, with the same rights that cis-gender people have. So, once again: Thank you, North Carolina.









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One Comment
  1. SeekingClarity permalink

    Yes yes yes yes! Things are definitely getting worse but I really agree and feel that this will bring about positive change in the long run – positive change and dialogues that are so needed and required

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