Trans Win: Federal Government to Sue North Carolina

Trans Win: Federal Government to Sue North Carolina May 13, 2016

The Department of Justice recently announced it will be suing North Carolina for House Bill 2–an anti-trans law that requires individuals to use the bathroom of their assigned gender at birth. This is in addition to the other ways that HB 2 hurts the LGBTQ community, such as invalidating several LGBTQ anti-discrimination measures that local North Carolina governments enacted.

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Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Loretta Lynch, who was sworn in as US Attorney General just over a year ago, held a press conference this past Monday, stating, “This is about the dignity and respect we accord our fellow citizens, and the law we as citizens and a country have enacted to protect them. It is about the founding ideals that have led this country, haltingly, but inexorably in the direction of fairness, inclusion, and equality for all Americans.”

This is a large step forward for LGBTQ rights advocates as this could have a significant impact on federal civil rights law, with the BBC reporting that, “If the justice department wins the lawsuit, it would expand protections to transgender individuals under the federal Civil Rights Act.”

Photo Credit: Pridelife.com
Photo Credit: Pridelife.com

This is in stark contrast to the state sponsored discrimination that we have been seeing in so-called “religious freedom” legislation throughout the country, which protects businesses and individuals who claim religious freedom exemptions in order to discriminate against LGBTQ people.

As a Queer rights advocate, I have been amazed at the response to HB 2 in North Carolina. Major artists and celebrities have cancelled their performances or events in retaliation to the anti-LGBTQ law. Additionally, the press conference from AG Lynch left me in tears from the compassion we are seeing out of the Obama Administration. Lynch specifically addressed the trans community, stating “No matter how isolated, how afraid, and no matter how alone you may feel today, note this — the Department of Justice and indeed the entire Obama Administration want you to know: we see you, we stand with you, and we will do everything we can to support you going forward.”

So many have already written on the irrationality of banning trans people from using the bathroom that corresponds to their gender identity and/or expression. The fact of the matter is that trans people often face much higher rates of violence and victimization due to their identity. Trans people have higher rates of suicide, mental illness, job discrimination, poverty, and sexual assault and violence. However, instead of focusing on protecting the vulnerable from violence, North Carolina, and other states that are considering similar legislation, have decided that human rights and legal protections don’t extend to trans citizens.

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Wikimedia Commons

What is lost in this argument is that 50% of trans individuals experience sexual violence in their lifetime, and are significantly less likely to commit violence. Additionally, these rates are even higher for trans women of color.

These ‘bathroom bills’ are yet another way for trans people to be reminded of their second class citizenship. The supporters of HB 2 have spread the idea that men will pretend to be women to gain access to women’s restrooms.Yet, I scream to the heavens, trying to fathom the mental gymnastics involved to so firmly believe that these laws are for the safety of women, when there is very little authoritative and legitimate evidence of this being a widespread issue!

Instead of punishing evil men for vile acts that they commit, North Carolina, and many other states that are crafting similar bills, have decided to punish a community that has already experienced intense historical violence, humiliation, and dehumanization. Trans folks often spend many years, or their entire life, attempting to feel comfortable in society, and in their body. Yet, so many have decided that trans individuals should be punished and ostracized, and therein lies the real shame.
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