Hurt feelings and religion cause more cultural discord than any other institutions available. So of course this two-headed monster has reared its head again to opine on who should be allowed to use which public bathroom. The main debate stems from not wanting children to be in a bathroom occupied by a person with the opposite set of genitals, even if that person identifies as the same gender. The reasons are fear of violence and sexual assault, as well as whatever bible passage supports their side. It’s such a concern that North Carolina passed a law known as HB2 dictating that transgender people must use the bathroom associated with their birth gender.
Forget the fact that transgender people are known to be docile and kind. Forget that few violent and sexual crimes are ever perpetrated by transgender people, and that the transgender community isn’t known to be predatory or criminal. While these are important facts, let's focus on the question being overlooked by many members of the media: how will this law be enforced?
I, like many of you, have used a lot of public bathrooms. From gas stations, to malls, to hotel lobbies, to wherever. Sometimes I’m the only one using the facilities, other times they’re occupied by other men. How do I know those other men aren’t trans? For that matter, how does anyone? We'd have to peek to confirm what genitals they have. I doubt too many people are willing to get caught peeking based on a hunch. So what then? Listening? I suppose a person could analyze the sounds coming from the stalls. But, that’s not necessarily accurate. Plenty of times I’ve had to use a stall only to moments later have to urinate -- and I didn’t stand up to do so. Would people outside the stall presume I have female genitalia because they hear a tinkle?
You might be thinking that’s fine reasoning for a men’s room, but it’s different for a woman’s bathroom. Fair enough. Let’s explore that: You’re in the ladies room, in walks a transgender woman and… she goes for the stall. You hear a tinkle. How can you know what set of genitals this person has without peeking?
North Carolina lawmakers might say this isn’t the point. I say it should be. If no one is peeking, nobody knows. If nobody knows, it can’t be enforced. The second it becomes enforced by some sort of genitalia metal-detector, or bathroom monitors akin to TSA agents, North Carolina will have crossed the line of privacy. And it's interesting to point out, if it does come to such measures, it won’t be transgender people who fall under its scrutiny. It will be everyone else dropping their pants -- because who in the right mind would subject themselves to such a thing knowing they're breaking the law? However, the chances of this type of policing coming to fruition is slim.
The more probable recourse would be police officers responding to reports or complaints. This, of course, would be based on any given bathroom-goer’s perception of someone being trans -- a truth that is more often than not blurred by social conventions like clothing, hair, and surgery -- leading to a lot of crying wolf. Plus, what measures are in place to confirm an infringement of this law? Imagine this series of events: A bathroom-goer believes a transgender man is in the men's room. They alert a police officer. The officer arrives at the scene. A genitalia check is administered on the spot. Now what?
That’s actually the worst part: there is no “now what?” North Carolina Republican state Rep. Dan Bishop, who co-sponsored the bill, wrote in a statement, "There are no enforcement provisions or penalties in HB2. Its purpose is to restore common sense bathroom and shower management policy in public buildings, not to pick out people to punish.”
To be clear, the law has no documented means of enforcement, and if somehow a transgender person is caught breaking this law, nothing can be done.
Why is this the worst part? Because that means the only product of this this law is heightened fear and suspicion of transgender people. HB2 has essentially endorsed transgender hate-mongering under subterfuge of family values and protection of children. While protection of children from predators is not a subject to be taken lightly, here the lawmakers of North Carolina are doing just that. They have used a noble cause not as a reason for protecting their citizens, but as an excuse to stave off their own discomfort which stems from uneducated opinion and a lack of understanding of transgender people. That the law has no penalties is moot when you examine the effect it will have on transgender people both emotionally and psychologically -- not to mention that this may only be the first step in a line of frightening legal discrimination against the transgender community.