North Carolina’s general assembly called for a special one-day session to pass new legislation on Wednesday, March 23. The session – the first of its kind to occur for over 35 years, according to radio station WUNC – was to pass anti-LGBT legislation called the Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act. This act states that those who are transgender must only use bathrooms corresponding to the gender they were assigned at birth.
According to CNN, the bill “reserves the right to pass nondiscrimination legislation to the state government, saying state laws preempt any local ordinances.” Nondiscrimination legislation means a law that is to protect someone from prejudice; in this case LGBT laws.
While many different gender orientations belong to the trans community, this bill focuses upon the male/female part of the community – i.e., trans men designated as female at birth and vice-versa.
What motivated legislators to pass such a transphobic law? In most cases, anti-LGBT laws are passed due to religious outcry. Unfortunately, while some religions accept LGBT people, there are others that view belonging to the LGBT community as a sin. While there is supposed to be a separation of church and state, the views of the religious are sometimes heeded to in government.
However, religious anger did not spark the creation of this bill. Rather, it was legislation the city of Charlotte passed a few days before the general assembly convened. Charlotte – known for passing laws protecting the LGBT community – recently passed an ordinance allowing transgender individuals to use the bathroom of their preferred gender. For example, a trans woman would be able to use a public women’s restroom.
But the Republican-heavy legislation of North Carolina did not agree with Charlotte’s new transgender inclusive law, and some conservative members of the Senate/House argued that allowing trans women into women’s bathrooms is dangerous. Despite the fact that trans women are real women, these legislators insist they are “men” and will harm cis women in the bathroom. For those who are unaware, cis woman means a person who was assigned female at birth and identifies as a female.
The image of predatory trans women is a stigma that has unfortunately has been around for some time.
“Legislators have gone out of their way to stigmatize and marginalize transgender North Carolinians by pushing ugly and fundamentally untrue stereotypes that are based on fear and ignorance,” says Sarah Preston, acting executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina.
This is not just a case of transphobia. This new state law would not allow any city in North Carolina to pass nondiscriminatory protection laws, such as ones for the LGBT community.
Liberal cities like Charlotte now cannot pass legislation to try and protect LGBT individuals without going through the state government first. What makes matters worse is that the state of North Carolina seems to be more Republican, meaning conservatives will not wish to pass pro-LGBT laws or protection. This means that with no laws in place to protect LGBT citizens, they can be fired for their gender identity/sexuality, be denied services and more.
For those shocked by North Carolina taking such a large step backwards, it is important to realize that there are steps you can take. Whether you are a member or an ally of the LGBT community, action can be taken to not only ensure this legislation is overturned, but to ensure other states do not follow suit. On Change.org, there is a petition entitled “Allow the Transgender Community to utilize restrooms that align with their gender identity.” This petition is on the newer side and needs more signatures in order to get the attention of North Carolina’s legislation. Also, remember the importance of voting in elections. Voting is the difference between your state flourishing with progress or being stifled by stagnation.