I’ve seen all kinds of nonsense in comment threads in some of the places I hang out. Folks somehow think that North Carolina’s recently passed HB 2 somehow requires that there be some kind of guards at restroom doors who will check either ID’s or undies. I don’t really think they believe this, but they do like to post rather silly images like this one:
Let’s be serious, there are lots of things wrong with HB 2, but it’s not creating some kind of police state where public restrooms and locker rooms are concerned. In fact, I think the part of the law about public restrooms gets it just about right. I agree with HB 2 that multi person facilities should be divided by biological sex rather than gender identity. HB 2 also addresses concerns about the safety of transgender people. Any business or institution that wants to do so is free to create and maintain single use facilities for trans folks or for any other reason they might want to.
I’ll get to the bad parts of HB 2 in a bit, but first I want to make a point about laws that allow, on the basis of gender identity, access to spaces previously divided by biological sex. I don’t really have conversations about this subject with a lot of people. Most men I’ve talked to about gender identity and access to women’s only spaces have a conservative “protect our wimminfolk” attitude. While there are huge problems with the “our” in that statement, I think they also have some genuine concern for women’s safety. Most women I’ve talked to are highly skeptical of the idea that a male person’s internal feelings that he is really a woman are important whatsoever. I could summarize this as “He’s not one of us,” and I can’t disagree. Jenner isn’t one of them. These are all folks at least in their late thirties. Perhaps that’s why they don’t buy into the current idea that access to women’s spaces is the supreme civil rights struggle of our times. I don’t really talk to that many young people much, except for my students. I keep things professional, so we mostly just talk about inverted chords, left hand position, and pentatonic scales.
The only person around my age that I talk to about this with whom I disagree is my total libfem sister-in-law. She supports laws that allow male persons who identify as women to access women’s restrooms and changing rooms. Or at least she used to. I think I may be bringing her around. I said that if she were to notice a male-bodied trans person in the restroom, she could simply ignore the situation and be on her way. In other words, my SIL wants to regulate by law the behavior of other women, those not as “enlightened” as she is. Is she really saying that she doesn’t trust women? And what if she got bad vibes about someone in a restroom or locker room? What could she do? If gender identity is the legal standard, then she’s the “bad guy” for complaining, whereas if biological sex is the standard, ordinary women like her are able to act according to their discretion. I trust the discernment of women. Shouldn’t she?
And that’s the whole point. Gender identity access laws are laws that regulate the actions of women. Maybe that’s why they are so popular.
But back to HB 2. While it gets the bathroom and locker room issue just about right, it also goes beyond this to discriminate against lesbians and gays. HB 2 overrides any local laws in North Carolina that specify that city contracts will be awarded only to businesses that have official policies not to discriminate against lesbians and gays. It also overrides any local laws allowing for discrimination suits on the basis of sexual orientation. Only protected classes under state law can be part of local law. And just on a lark, they also said a local government can’t pass a a regional minimum wage law.
HB 2 is likely not able to survive legal challenges in Federal Court. Romer v. Evans, when Colorado overrode local laws, is the obvious precedent. But is everyone riding this out and just waiting for the day when HB 2 is defeated and Charlotte can get its local laws back? No, somehow this is a huge crisis. Artists are canceling concerts. Boycotts are brewing. And almost none of this fuss is about the fact that lesbians and gays are being harmed (mildly, in most cases) by HB 2. It’s all about the gender identity provisions.
What about women? Y’all never did this for women. No one cancelled or boycotted Texas back when we passed a law that women have to get a transvaginal ultrasound and read a script of lies by a doctor before getting an abortion. Everyone loved Wendy Davis and the “people’s filibuster”, but no one called for a boycott of Texas when there was a special session that passed the laws Davis so bravely opposed. Women’s autonomy just doesn’t capture attention like male genderfeelz.