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Can I use the bathroom, please?

What is happening in this country? Following the acclaim of Transparentwhich portrays the lives of transgender people and their families, and after Caitlyn Jenner “came out,” we have witnessed greater public awareness, and hopefully, greater acceptance of transgender people. One giant step forward.

In 2016, North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory signed into law the Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act, which restricts the rights of gays and transgender people. A giant step back, way back. The law bans any local nondiscrimination laws, which appears to be a state response to the City of Charlotte’s legislation that sought to protect transgender people from discrimination. The new law also bans transgender people from using bathroom facilities that match their gender identities, rather than their biological sex.

Think of what that means. Let’s take a transgender person who is born with male genitalia but identifies as a woman. If that person desires to live her life as a woman, or is preparing for sexual reassignment surgery by living as a female, then that person is forbidden from using a women’s bathroom in North Carolina. What options are left? Going into the men’s bathroom dressed as a female? 

Not only would that be very uncomfortable for the person, but it puts her at risk for violence against her by those who might be offended by her sexual orientation. If a “man” walked into a public bathroom for women, I might be a little surprised, I might even suspect he made a mistake, but I would not want to harm him for that choice. But there are others who would and have. Should people risk their safety, or even their lives, to go to the bathroom?

The next choice, which might avoid some embarrassment, is to find a spot behind an alleyway or a port-a-potty to, relieve themselves. That might also put the person at risk if she is observed trying to pull her pants down in a public location.

How far do we go with this? If a mother has a male child, is she now forbidden from taking her child into the bathroom because the women’s bathroom does not match the male’s gender identity? Would that mother have to risk sending her child off for an unmonitored visit to the men’s bathroom? And what is a poor father to do with a female child . . . beg some strange woman to take his daughter into the bathroom?

What is the fear that is behind this? Does anyone really believe that the transgender person is conniving to get into a bathroom so she can spy on other women in closed stalls? Does this fear arise from some perceived sexual threat that the transgender person wants to hit on women in public toilets? The truth is much more obvious . . . the transgender person simply wants to go to the bathroom and not risk his or her life by doing so. They are not there to engage in sexual activities. Have our fears really taken us to this level of trying to stop others from exercising a basic bodily function? Yes, a giant step backward.

Obviously, I am not the only one to protest such legislation. PayPal had plans to open a global operations center in Charlotte, but decided against the move, declaring the new law “discriminatory.”  As a result, the city will not have 400 jobs it might have had. Other corporations, such as American Airlines, Google, Biogen, Dow Chemical, Red Hat, Wells Fargo, Lowe’s, Facebook, Twitter, IBM, Yelp, and Apple, are also protesting, along with 100 companies. Even the NBA has threatened not to allow the state to host next year’s all-star game. Other states and cities have issued travel bans that bar government employees from non-essential travel to North Carolina. 

Representative Paul Stam, who sponsored the bill, defending it, saying, “We’re trying to protect the reasonable expectations of privacy of 99.9 percent of our citizens, who think when they’re going into a restroom or a changing room or a locker room, that they will be private.” Oh, really?  In a public bathroom? Those people certainly can’t have an expectation of privacy from same sex members.  And what if those same sex visitors to the bathroom just happen to be gay? I think what Mr. Stam is really saying is that those using the bathroom will only encounter same sex members who have no sexual interest in them. The sexual element cannot be eliminated. The implication is that transgender individuals only want to visit a bathroom as sexual predators. One would think that we might have gotten beyond stereotyping individuals based on sexual orientation.