A trans-ient dilemma

Cecil Whig - - OPINION - Kath­leen Parker

— As Archie Bunker might say, the world is go­ing down the ter­let. And how. Who could have pre­dicted that pol­i­tics would re­quire se­ri­ous dis­cus­sion of who uses what re­stroom? Or, per­son­ally speak­ing, a sec­ond col­umn?

Alas, it seems that yet greater clar­ity is needed re­gard­ing this ter­ri­bly se­ri­ous, faux dilemma of proper bath­room us­age in North Carolina.

As you likely know, the state re­cently passed a hastily writ­ten bill, signed by Gov. Pat McCrory, to pre-empt a Char­lotte law that would have al­lowed trans­gen­der folks to visit the fa­cil­ity cor­re­spond­ing to their gen­der iden­tity.

Tar Heel law­mak­ers, ever alert to the pre­sum­ably ram­pant prob­lem of gen­der fak­ery, so or­dered: Men and women must use the re­stroom that cor­re­sponds to their sex as in­di­cated on their birth cer­tifi­cate.

It is ac­tu­ally not in­sane to in­sist that men use the men’s room and women use the women’s. Most peo­ple reckon this sys­tem has worked fine for as long as any­one can re­mem­ber and see no rea­son to make ac­com­mo­da­tions for the roughly 700,000 Amer­i­cans who are trans­gen­der. What has be­come clear, how­ever, is that North Carolini­ans and oth­ers aren’t wor­ried about trans­gen­der peo­ple; they’re wor­ried pri­mar­ily about het­ero­sex­ual men who pre­tend they’re trans­gen­der in or­der to gain ac­cess to women’s quar­ters.

For what pur­pose would a man do this? I can imag­ine a fra­ter­nity ini­ti­a­tion prank or a punk on a dare us­ing the women’s fa­cil­ity as a foil. Oh what fun to hear the ladies shriek­ing. Or, per­haps, not. Maybe the women tackle the id­iot and toss him out the door. That’s where I’d put my money.

As to the would-be rapist/fondler/ex­hi­bi­tion­ist, why would any­one imag­ine that a law for­bid­ding trans­gen­der peo­ple from en­ter­ing the women’s room would stop him from walk­ing through an un­locked door?

The back­lash to the new law has been harsh. In the lat­est squeeze, Pearl Jam can­celed a con­cert in Raleigh, fol­low­ing Bruce Spring­steen’s ex­am­ple. Sev­eral cities and states, in­clud­ing Bos­ton and Con­necti­cut, have cut govern­ment-sub­si­dized travel to North Carolina. And Mon­day, Duke Univer­sity Pres­i­dent Richard Brod­head said that the law has dam­aged the state’s rep­u­ta­tion and is hav­ing both fi­nan­cial and ma­te­rial im­pact on its col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties.

In re­sponse to th­ese con­cerns and other fi­nan­cial losses stem­ming from the law, McCrory last week is­sued an ex­ec­u­tive or­der al­most as abruptly as he signed the orig­i­nal bill. He has said he’ll urge the Leg­is­la­ture to amend the law to re­in­state state em­ploy­ees’ right to seek le­gal re­course in cases of dis­crim­i­na­tion for sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion or gen­der iden­tity. The bath­room part of the bill would re­main, as would the law’s man­date that cities and mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties may not pass their own non-dis­crim­i­na­tion laws. For McCrory, who is up for re-elec­tion, the is­sue comes down to con­ser­va­tive prin­ci­ples of limited govern­ment.

On Sun­day’s “Meet the Press,” he told host Chuck Todd that he “will al­ways call out govern­ment over­reach.” This might be a good cam­paign motto, but isn’t the state over­reach­ing by telling the res­i­dents of towns and cities that they can’t pass their own laws? In ef­fect, this means that a busi­ness in, say, Ham­let, North Carolina, where McCrory re­cently vis­ited what he termed an “African-Amer­i­can buf­fet” restau­rant, could deny ser­vice to my de­light­ful gay mar­ried neigh­bors.

As luck would have it, McCrory’s ap­pear­ance on the NBC pro­gram co­in­cided with my own, ex­actly one day fol­low­ing The Wash­ing­ton Post’s pub­li­ca­tion of a let­ter from McCrory ex­co­ri­at­ing me and my ear­lier col­umn. What fun! Be­fore the show, we found our­selves seated just inches apart in makeup. Noth­ing quite neu­tral­izes ten­sions like com­par­ing foun­da­tion notes. Mirac­u­lously, I was able to sup­press the trans­gen­der quip that was per­form­ing cart­wheels on the tip of my tongue.

We chat­ted in that South­ern way — with Den­tyne smiles and lizard eyes. Bless his heart.

While it is cer­tainly un­der­stand­able that some peo­ple would be un­com­fort­able with the idea of faux trans­gen­der males ogling their daugh­ters, I’d be far more con­cerned about send­ing a boy into the men’s room where even pe­dophiles are al­lowed to re­lieve them­selves. Imag­ine what would hap­pen to Cait­lyn Jen­ner if she were forced to use the men’s room. Or, what about a trans­gen­der man, who, though he’s bald, bearded, mus­cled and rough, is forced to use the women’s room?

But of course, she and he won’t. Be­cause this bath­room law is ut­terly un­en­force­able and there­fore un­nec­es­sary. What we have is a non-so­lu­tion to a non­prob­lem.

And my guess is McCrory knows it. He should flush HB2 down the ter­let.

Kath­leen Parker is a syn­di­cated colum­nist. Con­tact her at kath­leen­parker@wash­post.com.


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