In just 12 hours, North Carolina’s state legislature passed a “special” session bill superseding local anti-discrimination laws which protect the rights of LBTQA+ folk. The anti-discrimination laws superseded regard matters ranging from private matters like housing to public restrooms. No session of this nature had occurred in North Carolina in 35 years.
This upheaval reinforces that if marginalized communities are to get sustainable and more tangibly enforceable equality from society it must come first and foremost through direct action. But while the state is here and we have no other functional alternative it is preferable for everyone be treated as equally as possible under the law, whatever it may be worth.
Some are resistant to this claim, arguing that calling for anti-discrimination laws is calling for “more legislation.” But it’s actually arguing for the equality of authority that marginalized communities need recognized. Not because they’re “special,” but because our culture, our society and the state have disempowered them — an act that deserves recognition and condemnation.
As a trans person myself, I do not count on the state to protect my rights. Certainly no more so than I expect the state to protect the rights of cisgender folks. Largely because, as shown by the passing of this law, the state is an institution that can easily be grabbed by the most powerful and tailored towards their own interests and often to the detriment of the dis-privileged.
In this case of tailoring, the law not only supersedes anti-discrimination laws but also specifically targets trans folks. The bill constantly refers to bathrooms and Governor Pat McCrory has explicitly said that the previous anti-discrimination ordinances were absurd because they “defied common sense” by “allowing men to use women’s bathroom/locker room”.
The absurdity of this bill was starkly demonstrated by a trans man named JP Sheffield. Sheffield snapped a photo of himself with a full beard and very masculine features overall. But because Sheffield’s assigned gender on his birth certificate doesn’t match his lived one, he is forced to go into the women’s bathroom.
Given the nature of government it should come as no surprise that birth certificates are a bureaucratic way to impose restrictions on individual identity. Some states even require costly procedures to justify the change, which introduces class elements as well.
This bill doesn’t just hurt trans folks though. Gender non-conforming folks including lesbians who present more masculine could also be harassed or imprisoned, much like trans folks could. But whereas cisgender queers may go to prisons they feel match their gender identity, many trans folks don’t or can’t.
Trans folks are also much more likely to be sexually assaulted and harassed in the bathrooms they don’t identify with, much like when they get put in the wrong prison. Often the disreputable claim is made that transgender individuals encourage predators. I am not, nor is any other trans person I’ve met, interested in predatory behavior. It is a ridiculous claim.
Studies prove much the same for example the Rape Abuse and Incest Network, found that most sexual assailants are people you know, not strangers who go into bathrooms. And Media Matters did several studies and had discussions with dozens of experts on the matter and found no correlation between allowing transgender individuals into bathrooms and increases in sexual assault.
Not only does this intrusive bill fail to prevent sexual assault from happening, it encourages harassment and sexual assault of trans folks in bathrooms.
This vilification and criminalization of trans folks can also cause them them to be at an increased risk of suicide.
The Guardian reports that “not allowing trans youth to use a bathroom only perpetuates feelings of isolation or depression that lead 41% of transgender people to attempt kill themselves at some point in their lives, compared to the 4.6% in the general population.”
Hopefully the North Carolina state legislature knows how to sleep well.
Because that blood is on their hands.
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