HB2 or not HB2, now that’s a silly question

To make myself crystal clear for the remainder of this post, I stand against HB2. Not solely for the fact that it denies equal rights for transgender people (whether or not that was intended, it does nonetheless), but also for other forthcoming reasons.

For the uninformed, what Part I of House Bill 2 boils down to is that, in North Carolina, all persons must use the bathroom designated by their biological sex, as shown on their birth certificate. On the surface, it sounds pretty agreeable with American history: males don’t do private stuff like showering and urinating around females, and vice versa. Half of the big hubbub in the media arises when you consider transgender peoples’ daily life and their corresponding rights.

Gender is a set of cultural, social, and psychological traits. Typically, Western cultures decide aggression, competitiveness, and strength are masculine and that naturally they belong primarily to boys. Same goes for compromise, nurturing, and delicacy being feminine and typically belonging to girls. I identify as female though I often express myself with more masculine traits than most women, and I fully support women with masculine traits as a normal thing, just like men with feminine traits (check out gender in Samoa, Thailand, and”two-spirited” folk amongst Native American cultures) . I am still cisgender, though. Cisgender is when your gender matches your assigned birth sex: one designated as male at birth identifies as a man, one designated as female at birth identifies as a woman. HB2 unintentionally created a devastating issue for transgender people, because now instead of using an appropriate bathroom, they’ll be forced into the facility designated for their biological sex, ie a designated sex at birth they had no control over.

I may have lost some of you on that last paragraph. Hopefully, I can lay it out more plainly for you.

Here’s Joe. Joe was born with outie genitals and thus was a designated male at birth (dmab). He grew up playing with trucks, maybe started tinkering with them, proved himself capable by being strong in relation to his peers, competed in football, took charge in asking his significant other on dates, grew some facial hair, wore pants and shirts. All of this feels fine and normal to Joe. Joe is a cisgender man.

Here’s Jim. Jim was also dmab and grew up with the exact same things that Joe did, but they all feel misplaced or wrong. Maybe instead of wearing pants all the time, he wants to wear a dress or skirt. He hears the phrase “man up” and inside, that feels awkward, where he doesn’t want to show aggression or subdue his emotions. He relates much more easily to the cisgender women in his life, their roles, personalities, and mindsets. Jim may also feel like his genitalia are unnatural in intimate relations. Jim is a transgender woman.

So Jim becomes Julie. She begins dressing in dresses and skirts, wears a padded bra and makeup, adopts pronouns like her/she/hers. She grows her hair long and has hormonal treatments to stop facial hair. Julie gets surgery to remove her Adam’s apple and alter her voice to a higher octave. Maybe the paperwork is too expensive to get her birth certificate changed, so she doesn’t. People who meet her for the first time start using “she” and “her” naturally, and THAT feels right. She can talk about fashion, or cry, or not go fishing, and she for once doesn’t get weird looks.

I need to stress a crucial point which contradicts 90% of what we’ve been taught for a long while: body parts don’t equal gender. In fact, there’s such a mix of different percentages of XX and XY that body parts sometimes don’t even designate sex. There’s an unhealthy obsession with this in order for us to feel like we have some sort of control over something we deem mysterious or complex, like if we can draw lines and put everything in a category, we’re superior and in charge of our fate. Sadly, no matter how hard we try, we’re not in control, as Jurassic Park clearly illustrates. (Gender and GeneticsTumblr post reviewing sex & biology in a partially scientific, partially blatantly frustrated manner)

Yet, Julie could get in trouble for using the woman’s bathroom in NC since her birth certificate lists sex as male, despite that she clearly is a woman. What would be the punishment? Well, the first funny thing about HB2 is that it doesn’t list a punishment. If you think that’s silly or untrue, please check any news source of your choice, and when you find something, then we’ll talk. How would they even find out whether she’s transgender or not? That’s the second funny thing about HB2: no suggested method for enforcing this bill. You can find several news outlets that called NC police departments to hear their proposed way of revealing whether a person is cis- or transgender, and not one got any results. One department said they didn’t have the manpower to monitor public bathrooms, only enforce it on a complaint basis to respond when situations arose. Another city just plain didn’t know–they agreed that officers checking birth certificates before using bathroom or shower facilities was inefficient and a whole ‘nother kettle of fish with privacy invasion (NPR interview about HB2, Mother Jones’ HB2 article)

To explain the other side of the coin, I’ll bring up an interaction I had with an acquaintance who supports HB2, whom I’ll name Sup. Sup believes it will prevent dmab (designated male at birth, remember) sex offenders dressing up as women and entering women’s bathrooms to take advantage of women–and should they get stopped, they can simply claim they’re transgender and get away scott-free. Sup is convinced that not enforcing HB2 belittles the suffering of all those who’ve been subjected to sexual assault, advances, and violence while in public bathrooms, shower facilities, etc. The video Sup asked me to watch covered stories of said cisgender women victims, the title reminiscent of the often forgotten victims of gender based bathrooms. How many crimes against trans people have been forgotten, overlooked, and not reported prior to HB2? Believe me, cisgender victims aren’t alone in that regard, sad as it is. (Transgender homicide rate hits historic high in US)

I’ll say this once, though I’ve expressed similar sentiments many times before–I cannot imagine the trauma those people have gone through. They are much tougher than people give them credit for, and I in no way wish that to happen to anyone else.

To return to Sup’s argument, the victims in the video were assaulted/violated before HB2 went into effect. Honestly, if people are going to take advantage of someone in a bathroom, they’re going to break the law, whether HB2 is there or not. Is there a feasible way to actually prove what crimes were prevented by the bill in question? Consider it like increasing security at a subway stop or in a department store: are there statistics that outline how many theft were prevented from even being attempted? There’s no way of telling, but you can prove an increase or decrease in crime rate, and happily enough, inquiries have already been considered. According to the National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence Against Women, over 200 municipalities and 18 states that enforce no gender discrimination in bathrooms, showers, etc. have shown no rise in crime in these private areas (ABC News on Debunking “Bathroom Predator” Myth, Stats show assaults don’t happen in bathrooms – focuses on child assault). I’d say that’s pretty telling.

Where our talk turned interesting was when I showed Sup pictures of Shawn Stinson, trans male body builder champion, writing that he’d be forced to use the women’s restroom, and of an unnamed trans woman from a Sao Paulo parade, writing that she’d be forced to use the men’s restroom, Sup said I was mistaken: Shawn “clearly identifies” as a man, and would therefore be in the men’s restroom. When I read these responses, I began to think Sup was unaware of what transgender means, and tried to quote the exact words Sup used to “explain” HB2 to me. It was then that the debate folded under heated words and no more progress was made.

And thus the third funny thing about HB2, that most supporters don’t realize, rears its head: the trans men and women they’ve been seeing going into one bathroom for years will suddenly be going into what appears to be the wrong restroom. Men who look like Shawn will have to use the women’s room if there’s no gender neutral bathroom available for them, and women who look like Andreja Pejic will be walking into men’s rooms all over the state. That, if anything, will cause confusion and ruckus more so than if we were allowed to use our actual gender’s facilities. (The imaginary predator in America’s transgender bathroom war – mentions a transwoman using the ladies’ room without interference inside Governor McRory’s offices)

More confusion and ruckus has already happened, as a matter of fact. A cisgender woman was followed into a bathroom by a man, and when she asked him what he was doing, he replied he was concerned for the safety of his mother, who had just entered the bathroom before the woman in question. Another woman with a gender neutral appearance, while in the women’s room, was told by another woman she had to leave, that she “didn’t belong there”, accompanied by a disgusted look. Yup, HB2’s reign is ensuring our safety left and right. (Connecticut woman says she was harassed in Walmart bathroom after customer mistook her as transgender, Texas man follows woman into a bathroom to check her gender because she was ‘dressed like a man’)

Hopefully this musing has broadened your mind a bit, or at least confirmed some of what you knew about transgender topics. As a good friend of mine said, wanting to learn is steps 1-80 of becoming a good ally, and during this day and age, we could all use another friend.