Tomorrow night I’m flying to Raleigh, North Carolina to meet up with my husband who has been there for work since Sunday. We booked the long weekend way back in February, before Republican governor Pat McCrory held a special state assembly vote to pass a controversial and hateful bill which denies transgender individuals the right to go into the bathroom that corresponds to the gender they identify with. Had this bill been signed before we booked our trip, would we still go? I don’t know. People with way more financial impact than me, like Bruce Springsteen, have cancelled concerts and PayPal has postponed opening offices there pending the direction this law takes. I don’t know what the right answer is in a situation like this.
House Bill 2 – the Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act was passed in a special session of the state assembly that cost $42,000. It was a rush job based on false, inflammatory ideas, that caused state senate democrats to walk out of the vote in protest. At its heart, bills such as HB-2 uncover one of the most basic foibles in humanity as a whole, fear of what we do not understand. I get that the whole idea of a transgender person can be very hard for people to comprehend. To feel completely disconnected from our own body and gender is a hard concept to grasp because most of us will never know what that feels like. Even someone like me, who considers themselves to be very progressive, is still learning a great deal about the transgender community and what it means to be transgender. But ultimately that’s the difference. I’m listening. I’m learning. I have empathy for those who are fighting for their rights and fighting to be understood at the most basic level. People like Governor McCrory are drawing conclusions based on very outdated and wrongheaded notions. They’re letting fear and ignorance dictate how other people are perceived and treated.
Basically, this really all seems to boil down to transgender females more than anything else. When we talk about a transgender female, a person born as a man, who now identifies as female, people like Governor McCrory and those who support this bill, only see a man walking into a ladies room. Based on this complete misunderstanding of what it means to be transgender, they draw the conclusion that women are now at risk; that children especially, are being put at risk of molestation. This hearkens back to old sex ed tapes of the 50s that identified gay men as pedophiles as well. Gender identity and sexual orientation are not the same as sexual deviance. When presented with this argument, they state that if transgender people are allowed in the bathroom that corresponds to their gender identity, any man could simply put on a dress and waltz into a ladies room. But really, a pedophile could always do that! It’s flimsy, insulting logic used to advance ignorant and discriminatory policies. What’s worse, it actually puts transgender people at risk. I would argue that a transgender female walking into a men’s room is at much higher risk of harm than children in a women’s room with that same person.
These kinds of policies, this hateful and fearful climate in our country, is extremely frustrating and upsetting to me and it doesn’t even affect me as a white, cisgender female with boobs, hips, and medium length hair. I describe myself because cisgender women across the country, including someone I know, are now being accosted by people for going in the “wrong” bathrooms. It’s become a witch hunt and it shows just how motivated by fear and ignorance these people are. And here I am wondering if it’s for lack of a better term, shitty of me to go to Raleigh tomorrow and bring commerce to a state that is so far standing firmly in favor of a backwards policy based on ignorance and discrimination. Ultimately, I’m going to go. I don’t know if it’s the right thing or not but I know that the actions of a few should never speak for everyone. Artists like Cyndi Lauper and transgender front woman Laura Jane Grace have decided not to cancel their shows in NC. In some ways, while I respect the message those like Springsteen and PayPal have sent, I also wonder if it’s almost ignoring the issue. You make a strong point, and then what? There may be no right or wrong way to handle this but in the end I have to believe that there are many citizens and business owners in Raleigh who are as disgusted by HR-2 as I am and I hope I get to meet those people this weekend.