Toilets of Terror
In an apparent backlash against various municipal laws intended to protect trans people from abuse (a real problem which Republicans ignore), Republicans have been sponsoring a wave of "bathroom safety/privacy" laws designed to... well, we don't really know what they're intended to accomplish as policy; their primary purpose seems to be posturing for their base, for whom transpeople have been offered up as an imaginary Terrible Threat against which only Republicans are willing to defend us all.
Republicans have aided and abetted the spread of a number of myths regarding equal access laws and transsexuals in general, including:
- Equal access laws let a man simply declare "I'm female" in order to enter a women's bathroom.
- Many men would willingly pretend to be female in order to gain access to women's bathrooms. (ibid.)
- Equal access laws protect male-bodied people who enter women's rooms from any consequences, even if they actually abuse or molest someone.
- All transwomen have male genitalia.
- Transpeople (especially transwomen) are prone to attacking ciswomen in bathrooms.
- Ciswomen feel threatened or endangered by the presence of transwomen.
- Transmen don't exist (because the problem of Republican-backed "bathroom privacy" laws forcing transmen to use the women's room is repeatedly ignored).
These myths not only aid in popular support for awful legislation (including but not limited to "bathroom privacy" laws), but also encourage violence against transsexuals and others of non-standard gender or gender identity.
The following items should be noted, before getting into the specific laws:
- All the evidence I'm aware of suggests that gendered bathrooms aren't even necessary in the first place, and that the Republicans are therefore going in exactly the wrong direction with this, but that's another discussion.
- There have been more US Senators arrested for misconduct in bathrooms than there have been trans people arrested for same. Why don't the Republicans warn us of the Terrible Threat posed by US Senators, and do something about it? (How about a law against allowing Catholic priests to be in contact with children, for that matter?)
- There have, in fact, been more incidents of sponsors of "bathroom safety" bills harassing women than trans people harassing women (see Tennessee).
- There have in fact been exactly zero incidents of transgender people, or even of people pretending to be transgendered, harassing others in bathrooms.
- "Protecting the women" was the justification for many of the segregationist Jim Crow laws in the South. Apparently dysconservatives won't hesitate to use women's safety as justification for oppressing others, even as they themselves fight for the continued oppression of women. The technique is the same; only the Imaginary Threat has changed.
The GOP on Safety: a brief history
— adapted from a Tweet by Josephine Altzman
2013: AZ SB1432
TX Prop. 1
- As usual, the right-wing campaign against Prop 1 lied about it: "Even registered sex offenders could follow women or young girls into the bathroom. And if a business tried to stop them, they’d be fined. Protect women's privacy. Prevent danger. Vote no on the Proposition 1 bathroom ordinance."
- Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R) opposed Prop 1, and used the usual misleading slogan to support his position: "No men in women's bathrooms."
February: FL CS/CS/HB 583
Introduced by Florida Representative Frank Artiles (R) and co-sponsored by Representatives Dennis Baxley (R), Daphne Campbell (D: shame!); Matt Gaetz (R), Mike Hill (R), George Moraitis (R), Ray Rodrigues (R), and Charlie Stone (R), would have prohibited "knowingly and willfully entering single-sex public facility designated for or restricted to persons of other biological sex" in restaurants, workplaces and schools. with a $1000 penalty and up to a year of jail time for violations.
Artiles argued that it would not inconvenience transwomen because bathroom use is "voluntary". He also said that gender identity is "subjective" – by which he apparently meant "objective", because he finished the thought by concluding with the absurd statement that the birth sex of a transgender person is the only factor that should dictate which restroom they use and that "It’s their plumbing that determines where they go to the bathroom. [..] Their anatomy is going to dictate where they go to the bathroom." – completely ignoring the fact that many transgender people do not have the anatomy they were born with, but are in fact physically indistinguishable from the gender as which they identify.
It's not true, of course, that amending the bill to allow for actual anatomy would make it any less oppressive, but the fact that the sponsor of such a bill is apparently completely unaware of the medical realities of the population about which he is legislating is just one more indication of the profound incompetence of a majority of Republican legislators.
Fortunately, the bill was sent to the Judiciary Committee, where it died in April.
North Carolina's recent HB2 is perhaps the gold standard of awful legislation, regardless of topic. It not only ignores multiple facts and contradicts both itself and stated Republican positions, but it's also written so ambiguously that local governments have been left scratching their heads as to what their obligations under the law actually are now -- which, of course, is consistent with the general tendency of Republicans to destroy effective government wherever and however they can.
The vote for HB2 was unanimous in the NC Senate because all of the Democrats walked out in disgust – every single Republican supported it. It was signed by Governor Pat McCrory (R). State Representatives Paul Stam (R) and Dan Bishop (R) (co-sponsor) described the bill as "common sense".
These idiots not only don't understand what "sense" means, they apparently don't realize that they don't understand it -- and it doesn't matter, because people keep voting for them anyway.
NC Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest (R) called the Charlotte ordinance (overturned by HB2) "amazingly discriminatory" -- an amazingly stupid thing to say, and definitely against "common sense". He finished the sentence by digging himself in even further, claiming that this supposed discrimination was victimizing "women and girls who no longer basically had the freedom to walk into a restroom and know that they were gonna be safe and secure in that restroom, without a man walking in or a pedophile or a predator walking into that bathroom." (Wait, I thought Republicans don't believe in victims...)
Apparently he wasn't aware of the fact that HB2, the law he supports, requires certain men to use the women's room -- a fact which has been widely pointed out, so his unawareness is either feigned or a sign of incompetence. Further, this is sheer hypocrisy coming from any Republican, as their party (and probably they as individuals) have actively supported many measures that harm women and girls (see The War on Women).
NC Representative John Blust (R-Greensboro), who voted for the law, spoke in its defense in Greensboro, repeating one of the more popular canards: "As a parent of a young daughter, I'm not willing to have her and her friends and her teammates have to undress in front of someone with male anatomy."
Looking primarily at the "bathroom safety" part of the bill, we see the following problems:
- Fact-blindness: Allowing people to use the bathroom of their identified gender, and defending their right to do so, does not in any way pose a public hazard. On the other hand, people not being allowed to do so does pose a public hazard. The lawmakers are well aware of this, from extensive testimony.
- Fact-blindness: They don't even make an exception for those who have had corrective surgery. While such a law would still be abusive, it would at least be a bit more consistent with the idea that physical differences need to be accommodated via separate bathrooms. As it is, the implication is: however you are identified at birth (correctly or otherwise) is what you will always be, with no room for error or change.
- Fact-blindness: Claiming that the protective law enacted by Charlotte "defies common sense and basic community norms by allowing, for example, a man to use a woman’s bathroom, shower or locker room." (This is absolutely factually untrue -- and the law he signed now requires transmen to use the women's room.)
- Hypocrisy: quashing local ordinances using the "big government" of state authority -- while claiming to oppose "big government" (a principle they also use to cut social safety programs).
- It should be noted that the "big government" aspects of HB2 go far beyond trans protections: "The law also prevents cities from regulating in areas like living wage laws, benefits and hour regulations for workers in the city, city contracting, and even child labor regulations." This was basically a "big-government" power-grab by the GOP, propelled by the hatred and ignorance of their supporters.
- Hypocrisy: Citing "basic privacy and etiquette" while denying those things to a particular group that actually needs them, and not actually making any improvements on those things for anyone.
- Hypocrisy: Claiming that "The basic expectation of privacy in the most personal of settings [...] was violated by government overreach and intrusion by the mayor and city council of Charlotte" while promoting that exact same violation himself.
- Lack of compassion for the many trans people who will now be forced to use the wrong bathroom or else risk legal consequences. Laws like this also serve to reinforce the popular (but wrong) idea that trans people are somehow a threat, which leads to increased violence and discrimination against them.
- Terrible for business: Companies and organizations too numerous to count, large and small, have announced plans to scale down their North Carolina operations or withdraw their involvement with state initiatives.
- PayPal cancelled their plans to open a new center in Charlotte which would have employed over 400 people, after it had been announced as a done deal two weeks earlier.
- More than 80 large-business CEOs and other upper-level executives signed a letter to Pat McCrory urging the repeal of HB2.
- Bruce Springsteen cancelled a performance scheduled for April 10 in Greensboro, in solidarity with those fighting HB2.
- Google Ventures CEO Bill Maris has pledged not to make any new investments in NC until the law is repealed.
- Mayors and governors of other states, including New York, Vermont and Washington, have banned most state-sponsored travel to NC.
- The High Point Market Authority said that HB2 has already hurt business, and furniture industry boycotts over HB2 are leading to what could be hundreds or even thousands of customers not attending the semi-annual High Point Market, the largest furnishing industry trade show in the world and the largest economic event in the state each year.
- Deutsche Bank "said on [April 12] that it would freeze its plans to add jobs in North Carolina, a response to the passage last month of [HB2]"... "Deutsche Bank had planned to create 250 positions at its technology development center in Cary..."
- Musical performers Ani DiFranco, Ringo Starr, Cirque du Soleil, and Boston have all cancelled performance dates in an expanding boycott of the state.
- North Carolinians don't support it:
- NC's FullSteam Brewery has completely withdrawn its involvement in state promotional efforts until HB2 is repealed.
- Durham restaurant Watts Grocery posted a sign on their door opposing HB2.
- Durham's Carolina Friends School, a PreK-12 private school, posted and emailed a statement opposing HB2.
- It overrides the wishes of most Charlotte citizens.
- 2016-03-26 In a special session, the Carrboro Board of Aldermen approved a resolution vowing that Carrboro will partner with other local jurisdictions and advocacy groups to take legal action against HB2, calling it "discriminatory and arguably unconstitutional."
- 2016-03-28 In another special session, the Chapel Hill Town Council unanimously passed a resolution affirming the dignity of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and calling for the repeal of HB2, while also praising Charlotte for adopting the anti-discrimination ordinance overturned by HB2.
- 2016-04-05 The Greensboro City Council passed a resolution against HB2, after more than an hour of heated discussion, with a final vote of 8-1. (The lone opposing vote was Tony Wilkins, whose affiliation is not known but whose website contains testimonials describing him in terms favored by dysconservatives, so he is almost certainly a Republican.)
- 2016-04-07 The Durham City Council unanimously adopted a resolution calling for the repeal of HB2.
- Poorly written:
- There is significant ambiguity regarding who has to enforce the new law, what parts are mandatory and what parts optional, etc.
- Although this may not have been intentional, language in the new law prevents public school teachers from using the same bathrooms the students use -- even in schools where there are no staff-only bathrooms.
In the face of the intensive backlash against the law, McCrory issued an executive order reversing a small part of HB2. His statement regarding the order once again denied the need for the Charlotte ordinance it overruled, implicitly emphasizing the idea that it's "common sense" to mistreat trans people.
MN: HF 3374 / HF 3395
- 2016-04-12 TwinCities.com Transgender bathroom bill generates emotional testimony, but little else
TN: HB 2414
Proving once again that Republicans will save us if there are ever shortages of irony or hypocrisy, Tennessee State Representative Jeremy Durham (R), a sponsor of Tennessee's HB 2414 – itself justified, of course, as a necessary measure to prevent the nonexistent problem of transgender people harassing or attacking women in bathrooms – is himself a serial harasser of women.
Durham, it turns out,
has been "exiled" from the House in response to allegations that he sexually harassed thirty-four different women. House Speaker Beth Harwell had Durham's office moved across the street and limited his access to the House building after Attorney General Herbert Slatery issued a warning that declared Durham "a continuing risk to unsuspecting women who are employed by or interact with the legislature."(ibid.)
SC: S 1203
South Carolina State Senator Lee Bright (R-Greenville) has introduced a bill that would require bathrooms on public property to be labeled and used "based on biological sex." Showing what may be signs of evolution among Republicans, Bright at least admitted that "I don't believe transgender people are pedophiles" but that the danger was "grown adult men would use this as protection to violate women in the restroom."
On the up side, Governor Nikki Haley stated that there had been no complaints that might suggest any need for such a bill, and Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott wrote a letter to the Senate stating that the bill is "unnecessary and unenforceable", adding that even attempted enforcement would be costly.
- BuzzFeed (via)
- NC discrimination law creates business backlash (via)
- Protesters of bill restricting LGBT protections arrested outside Governor’s Mansion
- Welcome to the Fallout, Day 2. We’ve Really Screwed the Pooch Here, Haven’t We?
- Department of Public Relations: This Is What the Rest of the Country Thinks of Us Right Now (humorous video)
- The NC section of this chapter is heavily based on my Google+ post about HB2.
- 2016-04-08 Right Wing Watch: A Young Louie Gohmert Wouldn't Have Resisted The Temptation To Enter Girls' Bathrooms (via)
- 2015-04-02 Statistics Show Exactly How Many Times Trans People Have Attacked You in Bathrooms
- 2015-02-10 This Lawmaker Wants to Make It Illegal for Transgender People to Use Bathrooms
- 2015-02-09 Florida Lawmaker Says Using Restroom Is A Choice For Transgender People
- Wikipedia: Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act
- 2016-03-24 Aol NC governor signs bill repealing Charlotte transgender bathroom law (warning: autoplay video) “"This is a common sense bill that protects the privacy expectations of our citizens while clarifying local authority," said Republican Representative Paul Stam.” -- this bill does the exact opposite of what "common sense" would suggest, and local authorities are now left with major ambiguities to deal with. In short, what Stam said is exactly wrong.
- 2016-03-27 Watch NC GOP Lawmaker Dan Bishop LIE Through His Teeth About the Anti-LGBT Law: "What we did was restore common sense, and we did it on a statewide basis."
- 2016-03-24 U.S. Uncut Trans Man Destroys North Carolina's Anti-LGBT Law in One Brilliant Tweet (via)
- 2016-04-05 philberger.org MAYOR ROBERTS’ RADICAL BATHROOM SHARING ORDINANCE COSTS CHARLOTTE PAYPAL
- 2016-03-29 Human Rights Coalition BREAKING: More than 80 Major CEOs, Business Leaders Urge North Carolina Repeal Discriminatory Law
- 2016-04-06 Anti-Gay Laws Bring Backlash in Mississippi and North Carolina
- New York Times: Deutsche Bank Freezes North Carolina Expansion, in Protest of Bias Law
- 2016-04-18 Independent Weekly: Boston Cancels May Dates in Raleigh, Charlotte, and Greensboro Over HB 2 (via)
- https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10208359556327705&set=a.2038492923143.124509.1268872909&type=3&theater It seems worth noting that the owner of Watts is a woman with two daughters.
- 2016-03-27 The Independent Weekly Carrboro Passes 'Model Resolution' Against HB2, Condemns State Lawmakers
- 2016-03-27 The Herald-Sun Carrboro passes anti-HB2 resolution; Chapel Hill, Durham look to similar measures
- 2016-03-28 The News & Observer Chapel Hill Town Council urges repeal of House Bill 2
- 2016-04-05 Greensboro News & Record After long debate, Greensboro council passes resolution opposing HB2 (Update)
- 2016-04-12 UPDATING: North Carolina Governor Issues Executive Order in Response to Anti-LGBT Law Backlash
- 2016-04-12 HB2 faux "compromise"
- 2016-04-12 Sponsor Of Anti-LGBT "Bathroom Bill" Caught Sexually Harassing 34 Women, Exiled From Capitol Building
- 2016-04-13 ABC News: Bathroom Access for Transgender People Debated Across South
- 2016-04-13 South Carolina introduces its own "bathroom bill"
- 2016-04-07 Washington Post: South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley says her state doesn't need transgender bathroom law
- 2016-04-12 wistv.com: Sheriff Leon Lott: Sen. Lee Bright's bathroom bill "unnecessary, unenforceable"