I received a message from someone who supports the North Carolina legislation. I’m paraphrasing, but their position essentially is that it was Charlotte’s inclusion of language allowing transgender men and women to use the bathroom of the sex with which they identify rather than that assigned to them at birth that made the local policy unacceptable and the new state law necessary because 1) women don’t want to go to a bathroom with a man in the same room, and 2) a convicted child molester was among the leaders of the movement for the non-discrimination policy in Charlotte. My respondent essentially went on to say that otherwise there would have been no problem with Charlotte enacting non-discrimination policy protecting LGBT people.
I’m making an assumption that points 1 and 2 are to lend credence to what many opponents of non-discrimination policy publicly and frequently aver, that allowing men to access women’s restrooms will result in more children being molested and more women being attacked or raped in those places.
Those assertions are not at all backed up by the facts (see,e.g., here and here) but for the sake of the first part of my response, let’s assume them to be true.
If allowing someone to use the bathroom of the gender with which they identify would result in more rape and child molestation, but prohibiting discrimination against LGBT people in housing, employment, and public accommodations is not a problem, then why wouldn’t the North Carolina legislature merely pass a narrowly tailored law restricting access to bathrooms? Why would it go on to strip LGBT people, not just in Charlotte, but in 8 other cities that only had non-discrimination protections without the bathroom access clauses, of these protections? Why would it make it illegal for any city to pass non-discrimination protections for LGBT people in the future? Why, if the intent was to protect children and women, would the state legislature feel it needed to make it illegal for cities to decide that LGBT people shouldn’t be evicted or fired or denied service at a restaurant just because of who they are? This was not a narrow piece of legislation; in fact, it is the most broad and far-reaching of such anti-gay legislation we’ve seen in 20 years, since the Supreme Court found a somewhat similar measure in Colorado unconstitutional in 1996.
That said, I fully understand that transphobia more than homophobia was the impetus for this hateful, ugly session, but that the state so quickly and overwhelmingly turned against the entirety of the LGBT community, the animus against all queer people, not just our trans brothers and sisters, is crystal clear.
Let’s also look at an (admittedly inexact, but in a way that actually works in my favor) analogy. The majority of mass killings in the U.S. are perpetrated by white men. If we believe that allowing transgender people access to bathrooms increases child molestation or attacks on women in those bathrooms, and the correct response is to deny transgender people such bathroom access, then it should be legal and constitutional to deny all white men access to places where mass killings have occurred: schools, movie theaters, shopping centers, etc. Obviously this would be an overreaction, and clearly unconstitutional if not in fact immoral. The difference is that most mass killings in the U.S. really are perpetrated by white men. But most child molestation—even most molestation that occurs in public restrooms—is not perpetrated by transgender men and women. The vast majority of child molestation in our country is perpetrated by parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts and uncles, clergy: people known by and familiar to the children abused. Yet we don’t make it illegal for family members to share a public bathroom. Most rapes and attacks on women are not made in public restrooms; most of them, again, are at the hands of family members of and persons familiar to the victims. In fact, transgender women themselves face a significantly and sickeningly high rate of attack, abuse, rape, and murder.
Moreover, if you assert that bathroom access for transgender men and women will increase rape and/or child molestation, then a corollary is that you believe that the 25 Democratic state representatives and the entirety of the Democratic members of the state Senate who voted against this law (or who walked out without voting, in protest) willfully and knowingly support rape and child endangerment.
It is illegal to commit a mass killing, but white men who want to kill large groups of people in a public place continue to do so, with horrific and increasingly numbing repetition; and such evil people would continue to commit murder regardless of whether we were to make it illegal for them even to enter such places. Similarly, rape and molestation that takes place in a public restroom has been and will remain illegal, and men who want to rape women and molest children have done so and will continue to do so regardless of whether we permit transgender men and women to pee in a bathroom that matches their gender identity.
Transgender women are not men; they are women. Transgender men are not women; they’re men. See, for example,
@PatMcCroryNC It's now the law for me to share a restroom with your wife. #HB2 #trans #NorthCarolina #shameonNC pic.twitter.com/4b4OdmfmeN
— JP Sheffield (@JayShef) March 24, 2016
So let’s punish people who actually commit rapes and attacks, and not paint an entire group of people—who themselves are just as if not more vulnerable to rape and attack as those opponents of equality claim to be protecting, and who, like you and me, just want to use the bathroom to pee—as criminals, rapists, and child molesters.