Compassion and Minding One’s Own Business

 

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On March 23rd, 2016, the North Carolina state legislature passed a law that effectively destroyed progress previously made in the direction of protecting the rights of members of the LGBTQ+ community. HB2, formally known as the Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act, has officially made it illegal for individual cities, such as Charlotte, Raleigh, and Durham, from passing any anti-discrimination legislation, in addition to nullifying any ordinances previously in effect in those cities that offered protection to LGBTQ+ individuals. In the wake of the momentous legalization of same-sex marriage by the United States Supreme Court in 2015, to witness a discriminatory bill such as this one being passed, is disheartening.

A major consequence of HB2 is that transgender people are no longer allowed to use a public restroom of their choice if they cannot prove that they have had surgery that reflects their gender. It also explicitly targets public school students, stating that they must use the bathroom that conforms to the gender stated on their birth certificates. There are numerous issues with this qualifier, beginning with the fact that it demonstrates a very poor understanding of the complicatedness of gender. It is dangerous and simply incorrect to associate one’s gender with their reproductive parts, and for this reason the bill is wrongfully presumptuous in its implicit dictation that sex is the true and only representation of gender identity. No matter what stage of transition a transgender person is in, they should not be required to justify the necessity that they be granted access to the restroom that they believe most accurately represents their gender as well the one in which they will feel the safest. For transgender people, non-binary people, and those who identify outside of the gender binary, using a public restroom is a source of great distress, and HB2 capitalizes on any anxiety that using these facilities might present. This bill symbolizes the legalization of public policing of the perceived gender that a person is expressing, which will only compound the risk already associated with using a public restroom when one does not explicitly and exclusively embody masculine or feminine traits.

Another glaring problem that arises from the passing of HB2 is that it is supposedly preventative of any sexual violence that might be perpetrated against women, despite the fact that there are literally zero known occurrences of an assault against a cisgender person committed by a transgender person in a public restroom. With that fact known, the guise of protection that this bill was passed under is rendered entirely dishonest and arbitrary; the only interest that HB2 serves is bigotry. Keeping in mind the nonexistence of crime committed by transgender people in public restrooms, it is also imperative to note that they are far more likely to be the victims, not perpetrators, of the sexual assaults that the bill is attempting to prevent – the disturbing rate of sexual assault in the transgender community in the United States is currently one in two people.  The bill fails entirely to address this grim reality, and I would argue, moves even further away from a solution because of its deliberate restriction of a transgender individual to simply occupy a public space. It is dehumanizing in the way that it demands proof of one’s gender – something that is the concern only of the person in question. It is not the North Carolina legislature’s nor the public’s right to require documentation or physical evidence of a person’s gender, and passing a law that legitimizes a baseless fear will only perpetuate ignorance and disrespect toward the LGBTQ+ community. The implementation of this bill will continue to prevent a dialogue that might be had between government officials and the LGBTQ+ community about what future policies might ensure safety for all. It is simply another instance of lawmakers enacting policy regarding issues they have no experience in dealing with. Someone so far-removed from the situation that would believe that the presence of a transgender person constitutes an inherent threat of violence is not an individual that should reside in a lawmaking sphere that directly concerns LGBTQ+ issues. There is a dire shortage of compassion that comes with the existence of HB2, as it promises that the fight for justice and equality for the LGBTQ+ community is far from over. A lack of education about what being transgender actually means is not conducive to any real progress being made, and it is beyond unfair that people in North Carolina and elsewhere have to suffer the consequences of the ignorance of government officials who unjustifiably believe they know enough to enact policy concerning LGBTQ+ individuals.

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