On April 5th, the North Carolina state legislature voted to violate the human rights of trans people, by passing a law that forces people to use the bathroom of their birth sex. Seven other states are currently considering adopting similar measures. As a transgendered person in Oklahoma, I fear that my state might be next.
Why this law is garbage
Here's the argument in favor of the bill, coming from North Carolina senator Paul Stam:
"The law did not change the policy on discrimination an appreciable extent between two weeks ago and today. What they're really complaining about is that we have not become like the 17 other states that have put in special rights for them. ... We're trying to protect the reasonable expectations of privacy of 99.9% of our citizens, who think when they're going into a restroom or a changing room or a locker room, that they will be private."
The first assertion is simply incorrect. It's possible for anyone to change the gender on their national ID, after it's been verified that they are undergoing medical treatment. Once that happens, it's entirely possible for someone to use the bathroom of their proper gender in every corner of the United States. That is, until this bill passed. Now we literally face criminal punishment for using the bathroom.
The second assertion is very scary. First of all, it's entirely incorrect, because banning transgender people from the proper bathroom does nothing to increase the privacy of anyone. But Senator Stam insinuates that protecting the "reasonable expectations" of 99.9% of people is the correct thing to do. Just because a group is small doesn't mean you can discriminate against them. What if Senator Stam had been talking about a specific religious or ethnic group? Or people who face disability? We, as a society, must tolerate all walks of life. (By the way, trans people are 0.3% of the US population.)
Anyway, Senator Stam goes on to argue a bit more about why his bill is just:
"In North Carolina, you can have your birth certificate changed if you do reassignment surgery. It has been reported several places that we said it's your sex as designated at birth (that government agencies will use to define who can use bathrooms or changing facilities). And that is not correct. ... It's not what you are at birth. It's based on your birth certificate, which can be changed."
First of all, no one carries around their birth certificate. How is a cop going to check what gender a person has on that document? Second of all, the policy of refusing to change the gender on your birth certificate until you have sex reassignment surgery is dangerous.
Not all trans people need, want, or can afford sexual reassignment surgery. It's an extremely delicate and risky procedure that costs anywhere from $7,000 to $50,000. Not to mention all of the missed work in the weeks of recovery.
Forcing, or even encouraging transgendered people to have that surgery is sickening. If the person wants the surgery, that's one thing. But not everybody can afford that surgery. It simply discriminates against the poor.
Why trans rights are important
Here's more rhetoric in favor of discrimination, from D.C. McAllister of the Federalist:
"This is what we hear from those pushing this dangerous ordinance. "But what about the feelings of transgender people?" Feelings aren’t the basis of law, and feelings don’t determine what is real and what is true. While it is certainly tragic that some people struggle with gender identity, what they need is help working through those psychological issues, not laws to perpetuate their delusions, especially when those laws violate the rights and safety of others.
Just think about it. They are willing to allow a girl to possibly be raped or molested just so a handful of men can pee in the ladies’ restroom. That’s not a civil right. That’s sick."
"Delusions"? Are you implying that all transgendered people are delusional? Well, okay. Let's suppose we are. Do you really want trans men lurking in the women's restrooms? We're talking about people who take daily doses of testosterone, have beards, muscles, the works. "Stranger Danger" is lurking everywhere, whether you like it or not. Telling trans people they can't use the proper restroom will do nothing to protect anyone.
Furthermore, this isn't about feelings. It's about being treated with dignity, like all other human beings. Transgendered people aren't sub-citizens, and deserve the right to use the proper restroom.
Being trans isn't a choice, much the same as being gay isn't a choice. You're biologically wired in a certain way, and you have to live with it. I "chose" to live as a man for the first 24 years of my life, because society told me that was what I had to do. But my life completely fell apart, and I was absolutely miserable. So I finally decided to embrace the woman I truly was, and life has been much better since then.
Still, I face the societal stigma every day. I transitioned at the age of 24, I'm 6'5", and have extremely broad shoulders. The hormones I'm taking are doing a lot to feminize my body, but it will always be obvious that I was born as a male. My voice is extremely deep, and will take a lot of time to get to the right pitch. Despite the fact I obviously present as female, I still get forcibly called "sir" by a lot of people I interact with. And I've definitely gotten negative catcalls. I'm not trying to present my life as miserable. Far from it. But walking around with the fear of whether someone will be repulsed by my image....isn't fun.
And, under current Oklahoma law (and that of 30 other states), I have absolutely no protections from being discriminated against when applying for employment, applying for housing, or using public services. No one would voluntarily choose to undergo that risk, and it's a crying shame that LGBT people are still struggling to get rights nationally. Don't even get me started on how insurance companies can refuse to provide coverage for transgendered people, forcing us to pay for everything out of pocket.
What the NBA should do about it
Now, I'd like to call upon Commissioner Silver and the NBA. They must take a stand against discrimination and pull the All-Star game out of Charlotte. Furthermore, I believe that the Hornets should be forcibly moved if something else isn't done. I would say the exact same thing about the Thunder if Oklahoma passed a "Bathroom Bill". Back on March 24th, the NBA said it was "deeply concerned" about the new North Carolina law. I believe the NBA must take it a step further.
PayPal has already canceled plans to build a 400 person operations center in North Carolina due to the law. But nothing else concrete has happened, and there have been no signs that the bill will be repealed. At least, by current lawmakers.
But if the NBA stepped in and threatened to take away their business, it would be a major blow to the North Carolina economy. The PayPal center was estimated to be worth around $3.6 million. The Hornets generate $142 Million dollars of revenue for the state of North Carolina annually. The NBA All-Star game generated $106.1 Million in New Orleans in 2014. North Carolina cannot afford to lose the NBA. If the NBA takes a stand, they can play a large role in reversing the law and continue to set the high bar for tolerance and diversity.
If you won't listen to me, then listen to Charles Barkley:
"I think the NBA should move the All-Star Game from there next year. As a black person, I’m against any form of discrimination – against whites, Hispanics, gays, lesbians, however you want to phrase it. It’s my job, with the position of power that I’m in and being able to be on television, I’m supposed to stand up for the people who can’t stand up for themselves. So, I think the NBA should move the All-Star Game from Charlotte."
There aren't transgendered players in the NBA yet. But there are many transgendered NBA fans, including myself. And when I go to Charlotte to see a Hornets game someday, I just want to be able to pee at halftime.
By the way, mad respect, Sir Charles.