North Carolina and Trans Equality

The Human Rights Campaign needs a strategy beyond marriage. Even if that’s just supporting and shining a light on grassroots activists. I figured after HERO was repealed in Houston that the HRC would develop a strategy. I guess not. Most urgently, we need a strategy to fight back against the disturbingly effective effort to portray trans women as sexual predators. (Useful stat: More Republican legislators have been arrested for sex crimes than trans women.)

North Carolina’s bill was publicized as overriding a Charlotte law that allows trans individuals to use the bathroom of their identified gender. The arguments against that law generally fall into one of two categories. One is “privacy” of cis (non-trans) individuals. That is rather odd. I don’t know how having someone who *might* have different genitals than you using a separate stall hurts privacy. What *does* hurt privacy is when people who are trans are forced to use a bathroom for the other gender, and in doing so have to reveal that they are trans. The other common argument is that cis women need to be protected from men entering their bathrooms. North Carolina’s Governor, Pat McCrory, wrote on Twitter:

Okay, for starters, that is NOT everything in the bill. But McCrory and others are wrong on the merits. There have been no cases of men arrested for abusing nondiscrimination statutes to enter women’s bathrooms. John Oliver once called it an “imaginary crime”. Look — it’s a bathroom. It isn’t magic. No sign on the door will stop a predator. Trans women are at a very high risk of sexual violence. Forcing them to use men’s bathrooms puts them at a higher risk of violence, and it doesn’t protect cis women. The argument here has also largely ignored trans men.

One common argument that has often perpetuated oppression is that of threat. Marginalized people are a threat to whatever less marginalized group is rhetorically convenient. Usually, this is along the lines of “their men rape our women.” Children are also often used as the object. It’s not really about protecting women, and it does a disservice to the feminists who really do help women. White supremacists justify lynchings because black men “rape our women”. Dylann Roof said that last year when he shot nine worshippers in Charleston. Homophobes keep gay men away from children, claiming they are pedophiles. Far-right groups claim Arab Muslim refugees are rapists. And now, trans women are slandered as male predators. This is disgusting and wrong.

These arguments erase marginalized people not seen as men, and they promote a paternalistic possessiveness of women or children within the dominant cultural group. Further, they absolve the dominant group’s men of their own responsibility. White men rape white women. Straight men abuse children. The widespread harassment in Cologne in January was awful, yes, but blaming refugees for it ignores harassment by white Germans and is, according to police arrests, factually inaccurate. Marginalizing people doesn’t stop sexual abuse. Full stop.

These arguments aren’t going to disappear. They’ll show up in later arguments for equality. So we should fight them now.

The law does other stuff, too. It pre-empts other local anti-discrimination laws around employment and housing. That is incredibly similar to the Colorado state constitutional amendment struck down by the Supreme Court in Romer v. Evans in 1996. (The main difference is that the Colorado amendment prevented the state itself from banning anti-gay discrimination. NC could in theory do so but has not.) It masquerades as an anti-discrimination law, saying no one shall discriminate on the basis of “biological sex.” That’s not a new protection but an attempt to prevent gender identity discrimination from being classified as a form of sex discrimination. Finally, the law bans localities from setting their own minimum wages. When we succumb to scare tactics, more people suffer than are immediately apparent.

Look, this bill was introduced into committee yesterday morning and signed that night. It wasn’t exactly the kind of thing that we could’ve stopped easily. But we still need better organization. I’m hopeful that Democrats will make significant gains in North Carolina’s legislature in November to end the Republican supermajority and that Attorney General Roy Cooper will be elected Governor. If you think there is no difference between the two parties, also: look at things like this. Every Democrat in the Senate walked out in protest. That’s a difference! And, yes, Cooper opposes it:

Cooper announces his opposition to the bill.

Oh, and for anyone who’s ever advocated “dropping the T”: this law blocks protections for LGB people too. That’s how fear ends up being exploited. A unified movement is necessary, and I don’t think the HRC is serving that purpose right now. I’d say #WeAreNotThis, but I’m not a North Carolinian, though I believe it’s the state I’ve spent the second-most time in.

Donate to Lambda Legal, an organization more focused on the legal side of LGBT issues.

This is a good overview of yesterday, from BuzzFeed’s Dominic Holden.

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