“Rightful Owners of Equal Rights?”

“I’m not homophobic but…” statements typically end with a clause that is actually homophobic [editor’s note: or transphobic]. Such was the widespread reaction to the start of the repeal of House Bill 2 or “HB2”. Also known as the “Bathroom Bill,” HB2 is a bill that prohibits people from using public bathrooms that don’t correspond to their sex as listed on their birth certificates, reversing a Charlotte ordinance that had extended some rights to people who are transgender. [editor’s note: homophobia is about hostility toward same sex relationships and/or behaviors; transphobia is a hostility toward behaving in a way that does not fit with socially accepted gender norms.]

HB2 passed in March of 2016. Since then, a number of businesses and individuals have chosen to boycott North Carolina due to the bill’s discriminatory nature. Two prominent corporations which made steps to keep their business ventures outside of the state were the NBA, which moved its all-star game from Charlotte, North Carolina to New Orleans, and PayPal, which cancelled the construction of a new center in Charlotte.

hb2Image Credit: citizen-times.com

While protests of the bill continued in the months following its passing, it wasn’t until recently that lawmakers called for action concerning the bill. On December 19, 2016, it was announced that outgoing North Carolina Governor, Pat McCrory, would be calling for a “special session” to repeal HB2. It was implied that as long as Charlotte overturned its anti-discrimination ordinance,  said to be one of the laws that prompted HB2 to be passed, then HB2 would be repealed.

While many people were in high spirits regarding the seemingly imminent demise of HB2, others were not.When the news about HB2 resurfaced, so did the voices of those against equality for the trans community. The latter made posts that expressed their disapproval by attacking the very same people the bill oppresses. They wrote of being fearful for their children if  transwomen were allowed to use the women’s restroom, claiming that such integration could lead to sexual assault on women and children. In fact, zero cases of sexual assault in a bathroom by a transgender person have been documented.

The reality is that trans people are the ones most at risk in bathrooms, and in the community at large. Transgender people experience violent victimization at significantly higher rates than cisgender people. One TIME News article cited a study from UCLA’s Williams Institute to stress the true stats involving transgender people and their experiences in public restrooms.

“Nearly 70% of transgender people said they had experienced verbal harassment in a situation involving gender-segregated bathrooms, while nearly 10% reported physical assault. And, advocates argue, laws that force transgender people to use restrooms where they can look out of place makes them more likely targets.”

Arguments in favor of HB2 have no logical foundation. Forcing trangender people to use restrooms that don’t match their gender identity only heightens their safety risk. It is essentially choosing to put them in danger for the sake of others’ prejudice.

Nevertheless, with claims based on nothing but prejudice views, people continued to put out homophobic [editor’s note: and transphobic] posts, often with disclaimers they believed made their statements appear less harmful. “I don’t have a problem with LGBTQ people but…” “Everyone can do what they want but…” Some showed their ignorance on the matter by using “gay” and “transgender” interchangeably. “I have gay friends but…” These statements attempt to make those who posted seem open-minded and victimized, all while they oppressed an entire group of people in the same sentence.

hb2-1Image Credit: wspa.com

The repeal of HB2 did not end up taking place during the special session. Instead, legislators passed a bill that would buy them more time. The new bill stated that cities across the state could not, for a period of time, alter or create any anti-discrimination ordinances. This was just an added blow to the fact that lawmakers did not hold up their end of the bargain to repeal HB2 following Charlotte’s repeal of its anti-discrimination ordinance.

hb2-2Image Credit: charlotteobserver.com

“‘This wasn’t the deal,’ said Sen. Jeff Jackson, who argued that Charlotte officials had acted in good faith in overturning its ordinance before the special session. ‘This bill breaks that deal.’”

While it was a disappointing blow for equal rights, the General Assembly will beconvening again on January 11, at which time the repeal of HB2 may again be a topic of discussion. Until then, the fight for LGBTQ rights will continue, in particular, the fight for the rights of people in the trans community.

In Virginia, a bill similar to HB2 has been introduced this session by Del. Bob Marshall. If you’d like to let your legislators know what you think of  Marshall’s bill, HB1612, you can find your legislator here.

Terms used

Transgender: An umbrella term that encompasses a wide range of people whose gender identity or expression may not match the sex they were assigned at birth. (Source: Forge)

Cisgender: A term used to describe an individual whose self-perception of their gender matches the sex they were assigned at birth (Source: AVP)

Gender Identity: A term that describes how a person identifies their gender. A person’s gender identity may be different than social norms and/or stereotypes of the sex they were assigned at birth. There are a wide range of gender identities and expressions, including identifying as a man, woman, transgender, genderqueer, and/or identifying as gender non-conforming (Source: AVP)

Dominique Colbert is a Hotline Crisis Services Specialist at the Action Alliance as well as an Intern for the Real Story journalism internship. She graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University with a B.S. in Mass Communications and a B.A. in African American Studies. She is an aspiring filmmaker and loves to create as well as watch others’ creations on the big screen.

The Real Story Internship analyzes and rewrites news stories to reflect a trauma-informed, survivor-centered and racial justice lens.

Joining the Action Alliance adds your voice to making change in Virginia. Start your membership today or call 804.377.0335. 

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