I’m sure I’m not the first person writing to tell you that HB2 is a steaming pile of a horrible idea.
There are so many reasons why this bill steams with horribleness. There’s the fact that you’ve just removed local jurisdiction rights, or the fact that people in North Carolina can now easily be discriminated against based on sexual orientation or gender. Really, there’s no shortage of things to complain about here. So let’s concentrate on one specific aspect of this bill which many of us suspect will be the most dangerous: your requirement that people use public bathrooms based on their biological sex.
Let’s start with why such a law cannot ever be truly enacted—from a biological standpoint.
I get that you want the world to be black and white. You want everyone born with a penis to be declared a boy and everyone born with a vagina to be declared a girl. The world is so much simpler in binaries, isn’t it? Cleaner. Easier to manage. If everyone uses bathrooms based on those norms, the world looks a whole lot more back and white, and people who love binaries get to sleep much more soundly at night.
Unfortunately, we don’t live in a binary world. Just ask athletes like female sprinter Dutee Chand, who was barred from competition when officials declared that her body produces levels of testosterone too high for a female. Or you could ask any of these ten intersex athletes who have had to deal with various levels of public scrutiny and dishonor as the world tried to determine exactly which biological box to push them into. And by the way, how will people born intersex fit into your bathroom laws? Will we soon see some arrested for using improper bathrooms when they don’t fall perfectly into the letter of this law, similar to how high jumper Heinrich Ratjen was arrested in Germany in 1936 when someone cried gender fraud?
Not only is our biology not as black and white as we’d like to think, our gender identity is even less simplistic. As this PBS report reminds us, gender identity isn’t something that fits nicely into binary boxes any more easily as human biology does. And by trying to squeeze gender identity into neat boxes, you are effectively telling the American public that you know who they are better than they do.
It’s precisely this human obsession with binaries that has created the serious danger to the trans community which this law will only perpetuate. I get it—you think you’re protecting Americans with this law. And in a world where biology was always simple and gender identity fit neatly into boxes alongside biology, perhaps you would be. But that isn’t the world we live in. In actuality? You’re putting a population that is already in grave danger in much, much deeper danger. As the PBS report mentioned above reminds us, “41 percent of transgender adults attempt suicide.” Just to make sure we’re clear on the math, that’s nearly half the population. In this country, the average life expectancy for a trans woman of color is 35 years. 35 YEARS. In other words: you have a better chance of surviving longer in some third world countries than you will as a trans woman of color in the United States.
Looking at these statistics makes it easy to see how the stigmatization of the trans community in America is making it impossible for many trans people to live happy and successful lives in this country. Laws such as this one only perpetuate stigmas and increase the vulnerability of an already vulnerable population. Whether or not you ever intend to actually enforce this law (and I have questions as to how you would, but I’ll leave those for others), the mere fact that this law is now on the books has sent a brutally important and disturbing message to the trans community: You do not fit into our binary boxes, so you are other. You are not normal. You will not be treated like everyone else and you will not be allowed to use the bathroom where you most feel comfortable.
As an educator, I can assure you that many of the people who will suffer most greatly at the hands of this law are the young people in this country. Imagine being a twelve-year-old transgender girl and suddenly being forced to change in a locker room full of boys. Imagine what that scenario would have done to your psyche at such an age.
I sincerely hope that by the time this letter sees the light of day, no one in North Carolina will need to read it. Perhaps by then you will have been so flooded with other letters, tweets, boycotts and messages that you will have begun to realize the utter absurdity and danger of this law. Perhaps you will have begun to understand that this world is not, and never will be, a black-and-white place. We all live between shades of gray--even you. Telling others what to call their shades of gray and how to live within them is the epitome of everything that is not American.
Me and Everyone Else Who Thinks This Law is a Steaming Pile of Horribleness