North Carolina law makes a battleground of bathrooms

The city of Charlotte, North Carolina passed a nondiscrimination ordinance to protect LGBT people.

Then on March 23 the state legislature scheduled a special session, their first in 35 years (according to radio station WUNC, an NPR affiliate), and passed a statewide nondiscrimination ordinance that effectively overrides any local nondiscrimination measures.

Great, right? Here is the catch: the bill protects against discrimination on the basis of race, religion, nationality and biological sex—but not sexual orientation or gender identity.

So where do bathrooms come in? Charlotte’s non discrimination ordinance made protections that would allow trans people to use the bathrooms of their choice. This had state legislators up in arms, citing safety as their main concern. Children are being put at risk, they claim.

This is complete and utter bull. Often, the trans person is more at risk than the other bathroom occupants. According to a study from the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law entitled “Gendered Restrooms and Minority Stress: The Public Regulation of Gender and its Impact on Transgender  People’s Lives,” about 70 percent of trans people surveyed have been physically assaulted or verbally harassed when using a public restroom.

NPR cited Lara Nazario, a trans woman and Charlotte resident, that public restrooms are more dangerous for the trans person than anyone.

“If I were to walk into a men’s bathroom, I would either be told that I’m in the wrong bathroom or I’d be outed as a transgender woman,” said Nazario. “This can often lead to violence or harassment, especially when there’s no protection in place for people like me”.

I truly believe that the expansion of all-gender or gender-inclusive bathrooms only does good, not harm. No cis-gendered person is going to be attacked for using the bathroom of their gender identity. Their safety is not at risk here. These bathrooms only provide a safe place for trans people to perform normal, healthy bodily functions. Why are someone else’s bodily functions any stranger’s concern, especially if theirs are not being prohibited?

I believe that the identity of whoever used the bathroom before or after me does not matter. Chances are, I have already shared a bathroom with a trans person. So what?

Also, why are we still making laws in 2016 concerning other people’s genitals? For some reason, politicians are still insistent on banning sodomy and a woman’s right to choose an abortion, and now they seem hell-bent on insisting someone only use the bathroom that matches what identity is printed on their birth certificate, not on how they identify or even what matches their physical body.

This problem is not just endemic to North Carolina. In February of this year, South Dakota legislature passed a similar law that would have required transgender students in the state’s public schools to use bathrooms and locker rooms of their birth gender, not the one with which they currently identify. Luckily, South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard vetoed the bill.

But this is not the case in North Carolina. Other cities and towns have local ordinances in place, and schools have come under fire for forcing students to use a bathroom that does not match their gender identity.

The backlash from this law is strong. The New York Times published a piece on April 1 stating that North Carolina may lose federal aid if they do not repeal the law. And they should. The Obama administration, which has worked to expand LGBT rights over the last eight years, is as outraged by this law as I am.

This law is discriminatory, putting thousands of trans people’s safety at risk.