Equality has achieved some tremendous victories over the last few months. Caitlyn Jenner, Laverne Cox and other transgender activists furthered the national conversation about trans rights. Same-sex marriage was legalized in all 50 states. There are now more than 450 openly gay elected officials serving across the country.
All of this accomplishment, all of this progress, was ruined with the passing of a single appalling bill last week in North Carolina.
This horrid piece of legislation states that transgender individuals are barred from using public restrooms that match their gender identity and prohibits cities from passing anti-discrimination ordinances that would protect the LGBT community.
The law came about as a response to the city of Charlotte’s nondiscrimination ordinance, which included allowing transgender individuals to use the public restrooms of the sex with which they identify without fear of persecution.
Tim Moore, North Carolina’s House Speaker, said the issue here was privacy and the risk of “sexual predators.”
Putting aside the “sexual predator” argument — which is ridiculous and only serves to bolster the horribly inaccurate and offensive stereotype that transgender women are simply masquerading as men in order to attack women — the idea that anyone’s privacy would be invaded more by a transgender individual than a cisgender one is ludicrous.
Transgender individuals are not lurid criminals who enjoy creeping around public restrooms. They aren’t demented sexual deviants who prey upon unsuspecting citizens. They’re just people who happen to have the urge to pee while out and about during the day.
One North Carolina transgender man even tweeted Gov. McCroy about the absurdity of the law, attaching a photo of himself with a beard and a caption reading, “It’s now the law for me to share a restroom with your wife.”
A trans woman is a woman. Period. Regardless of anatomy. The same is true for a trans man. You should feel the same peeing in the stall next to a transgender individual as you do any other person.
There has been a tremendous public outcry against the law, and a suit has already been filed in federal court against North Carolina Gov. Pat McCroy and other legislators claiming that the bill is unconstitutional and a violation of federal laws, including the Fourteenth Amendment, that ban sex discrimination.
There has also been backlash from leading employers and a potential cut in federal funding for education. American Airlines and PayPal have already publicly criticized the bill.
These protests are important and they need to keep happening, and have even proven to incite change in the passing of these types of unconstitutional laws.
In Georgia, a highly contested bill that would have allowed business to discriminate against LGBT individuals based on religious beliefs was vetoed by Gov. Nathan Deal after a chorus of prominent business leaders, Hollywood studios and the sports leagues denounced the law.
Marvel and other Hollywood studios threatened to take their billion-dollar productions elsewhere, and the NFL hinted that Atlanta wouldn’t make it on the list of potential Super Bowl destinations in the future.
Georgia might have dodged a bullet for now, but what about LGBT individuals in North Carolina, or the rest of the country for that matter?
There are currently no federal laws that ban LGBT discrimination in the workplace. Transgender individuals, especially trans women, have some of the highest homicide rates in the country.
Sexual reassignment surgeries and hormone therapies are horrifically expensive and many health insurance providers won’t cover the costs.
Transgender individuals are constantly treated as second-class citizens in a country that touts its commitment to equality like a badge of honor. Now, our noble nation is the kind of place that bans people from using a bathroom.
Quite frankly, that’s not a place I want to live. It needs to change.
We’re a country founded on the principle of equality for all people, and I think it’s time we started acting like it.
Deanna Ferrante is a digital producer with the Central Florida Future. Follow her on Twitter at @deannaferrante or email her at DeannaF@centralfloridafuture.com.