Discrimination: Now Available With Consequences

So, in the previous post, I suggested that anti-LGBT forces might think twice about enacting bills like the infamous HB 2, which probably made the difference in the gubernatorial election in North Carolina.

According to Rewire, it looks like I was right.

“North Carolina’s governor was just voted out of office because of his support for a discriminatory law that took an immediate and devastating toll on his state’s economy,” McTighe said. “It’s not surprising that business leaders and elected officials from across Texas are sounding some early alarm bells over Dan Patrick’s fixation on similar legislation.”

What’s this world coming to? When it became socially unacceptable to attack LGB people, we still had T people to slap around, but now it’s getting so that when you discriminate openly against them, there are sometimes consequences!

Ah, well. There’s still covert discrimination. We’ll always have that.


But seriously, a big, heartfelt “thank you” to all the cis allies who made that happen. Trans people are not exactly an economic powerhouse, but cis people who cared about targeted discrimination made all the difference in North Carolina, and that difference is now rippling.



Dispatches from the Bathrooms (unfortunately)

Some of you may be familiar with HB 2, though not by name. Here are some links. Brief summary: among other things, HB 2 required that people use the public bathroom designated for the gender shown on their birth certificate.

Legally, for cis folks this is a distinction without a difference. For many trans folks, it can make participation in the public sphere very difficult. Some states don’t permit anyone to change their birth certificate at all, which means that people born in those states must out themselves every time they apply for a job. Some states which technically permit you to update your gender marker issue an amended certificate, so that the original data is still visible (because that won’t cause you any problems when you try to get a job). Many states require proof of genital surgery before permitting you to alter your gender marker, but many trans people don’t get genital surgery, because it’s expensive, can be medically contraindicated for unrelated medical reasons like heart conditions, because there are no good surgical options for their particular circumstances, or because they don’t effing WANT to and it’s nobody’s business but theirs. Some states issue a brand new certificate upon a doctor’s assurance that someone has undergone irreversible medical treatment (and thank Heaven my mother happened to be standing in California when her labor started) BUT the paperwork and fees are beyond the means of trans people who are having trouble finding dinner, let alone court filing fees.

So as trivial as it sounds, getting an updated birth certificate can be impossible, or several flavors of difficult.

(Which is, doubtless, the whole point. I doubt that the Republican legislature which passed this monstrosity knew that birth certificates could sometimes be amended. They’ve figured it out, by now, because we’re starting to see bathroom legislation proposed which requires that you go to the bathroom on your original birth certificate, or which references chromosomes. Sucks to be one of the small-but-extant number of cis folks whose birth record clerk made a typo; if they have their way you’ll never be able to get that thing fixed. (But it won’t matter, for you, because you’ll be able to get a doctor’s letter attesting that you have always been the gender you were assigned, paperwork notwithstanding, and then you’ll be able to get hired by the same folks who just wouldn’t be comfortable shaking hands with a trans person.))

Laws like HB 2 can also, colaterally, make participation in the public sphere uncomfortable for cis women, who might find that these men are required to share a restroom with them. Finally, cis men might be uncomfortable with the notion of opening the door to the toilet stall to find these women trying to scoot in safety to a toilet. (History suggests, however, that it is the trans women who would likely suffer, as a significant minority of cis folks consider them outside the law when it comes to assault, including some elected legislators.)

Apart from being a disaster on a rights level, HB 2 was shoddily written and hastily passed at the direction of North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory, so that there would be no opportunity for public comment. And then, when people started to react with outrage, as Fortune 500 companies decided to put call centers and other facilities elsewhere, as the NCAA moved games out-of-state, McCrory doubled down, and kept doing it, until he found himself in a race for re-election against his own Attorney General, Roy Cooper.

It was a tight race. There was some recounting.

But McCrory lost by several thousand votes. He was the only incumbent governor in this year’s election to lose his seat. Maybe others will think twice before passing such legislation. Certainly Republican South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard thought so when he vetoed a similar bill in his state this year (good brief news video at that link, by the way).

So North Carolina, as a state, and former Governor Pat McCrory, as a politician, have paid a heavy price to pass a discriminatory bill which was so shoddily-written that it didn’t even have an enforcement provision.

The 2016 election was a disaster overall, but there’s a point of light for you.

North Carolina experienced quite the negative consequence to solve a problem which didn’t exist. In states which have protections for trans people in place, there have been no problems, at least not for cis people.

Chief Anthony Colarusso, of Dover PD in New Hampshire, put it this way:

As Chief of the Dover Police Department and a member of law enforcement for over 31 years, I know our communities are safer when everyone is treated fairly and equally under the law and that includes transgender people. This group is actually disproportionately targeted for harassment and assault. However, in places where legal protections are in place, rates of violence against transgender individuals go down with no uptick in public safety incidents. Transgender equality and equal treatment for all is ultimately about building stronger communities for everyone.

Here in New Hampshire, the Democrats won the governor’s office, but the Republicans won both the House and the Senate. I expressed some hope, in the post before this, that we might see a nondiscrimination bill in this state. Alas, I’m told by an experienced politician that they are not sure whether they could succeed, and by filing, they might actually make matters worse. A Republican House and Senate could modify the legislation to something worse than what we have right now (which is nothing). So we may end up waiting for that, especially given the climate on the national scene, where Vice President-Elect Pence is appointing [1], as Trump’s top domestic policy advisor, Ken Blackwell, a senior fellow with the Family Research Council, which is an actual hate group.

Meanwhile, the State of Virginia has decided to go to the mat on this issue via the courts. Gavin Grimm is an ordinary 17-year-old boy who is also trans, and his school is willing to go to the Supreme Court of the United States to keep him in the girls’ bathroom. The case will be heard in June of this year. Recent case law is very much on the side of trans people, but of course the Supreme Court is not bound by case law any more than they choose to be. The decision could be narrow, or very broad. And, it could go either way. For trans people, and trans children, and our participation in public schools, this could be our Brown v. Board of Education, or it could be our Plessy v. Ferguson. If it’s the latter, then I might very well be dead before I’m allowed to use the women’s room in most of the landmass of my country; it took the court 58 years after Plessy v. Ferguson to set the matter right.

So this is an extremely important case for Americans who are trans, and if decided broadly, could also establish powerful precedent on workplace segregation of sexes generally.

Lambda Legal is among the organizations filing amicus briefs with the Supreme Court. An “amicus brief” is an advisory filing by someone who is not directly party to the case, but who has an interest in the outcome. Lambda Legal is looking for police officers willing to sign on to this brief. They believe a large signing by officers would be an eye-opener for the justices on our Supreme Court. I’ve signed it. If you are an officer willing to stand on the side of increased public safety, I urge you to sign it. If you know such an officer, I urge you to urge them to sign it.

In this instance, the voices of cisgender allies would be especially powerful. It’s easy to discount my voice; I have a vested interest in this outcome. But cisgender allies benefit from a presumption of impartiality. You will be heard. People will give your words greater weight. Please: stand up and assert what they know, that trans women and trans girls are not a threat in the women’s room, and that trans men and trans boys are not a threat in the men’s room.

I’ve sent an e-mail to Chief Colarusso, in Dover. Let’s support the serving officers who are getting on the right side of this issue. They don’t have to be taking a stand on rights as a political issue. They can take a stand on the issue as a matter of public safety, the protection of which is their sworn duty.


[1] It has become clear to me that we have actually elected Mike Pence as our functional president. Trump will be a figurehead, easily duped and easily distracted away to Twitter, while Pence puts together the most regressive government of my lifetime. Does Trump scare you? As an LGBT person, I’m far more scared of Pence, who is an advocate for conversion therapy, also known as “reparative therapy”, a therapy practiced upon gay and trans adults and children, which has been so discredited that the American Psychological Association has issued a resolution against it (at least for gay people; trans people, apparently, might still be nuts).