Marks: The bathroom bill has been replaced, and the replacement is worse
On March 30, the infamous HB2, commonly referred to as North Carolina’s bathroom bill, was repealed. Initially, I was excited to hear the news. With HB2 gone, transgender people would theoretically be able to use whichever restroom they were most comfortable in.
My excitement was short lived. Scrolling through twitter, the headlines had shifted from celebratory to suspicious. Clickbait titles claimed that the repeal of HB2 was not a victory, but instead a new problem for the transgender community to surmount.
At this point, you are probably as confused as I was. Why would the removal of a bill which prevents transgender people from using the bathrooms they are most comfortable in be seen as a negative thing? It should be liberating to have this oppressive rule lifted.
The answer to that is HB142. In wording, it seems fairly simple and straightforward:
“State agencies, boards, offices, departments, institutions, branches of government, including The University of North Carolina and the North Carolina Community College System, and political subdivisions of the State, including local boards of education, are preempted from regulation of access to multiple occupancy restrooms, showers, or changing facilities, except in accordance with an act of the General Assembly.”
At face value, it’s innocent – the entities listed do not have the power to regulate public bathrooms or changing rooms. Its implications, however, are much more serious.
Two things can be derived from this bill. One is that the General Assembly has power over all the entities listed. This means that if the General Assembly creates regulations that are transphobic, they must be followed. The other is that with this bill in place, none of the institutions listed are able to pass regulations that protect transgender people. Essentially, this means that no one is saying that transgender people can’t use whatever bathroom they feel comfortable in, but no one is saying they can either. Institutions can’t dictate that you have to leave transgender people alone or set in place any other sort of protection.
This leaves transgender people in a difficult situation — do they risk going in a bathroom that doesn’t correspond with their assigned sex? There aren’t regulations in place to protect them if they do and people who may take issue with their presence aren’t obligated by law to leave them be. Furthermore, if they choose not to take the risk, what are the implications of entering the bathroom that does correspond with their assigned sex? What if their gender expression doesn’t allow them to feel safe in either men’s or women’s restrooms? What if the choice is between getting yelled at or physically harmed? For transgender people, protective regulations in states such as North Carolina are a necessity.
HB142 is tricky in the sense that the transphobia is displaced and finds another way to settle in. With this bill, there are still several avenues to oppress transgender people and absolutely no protections for them.
While I was at first annoyed by the clickbait titles when scrolling through my twitter feed, the sentiment rings true. Don’t be lured into a false sense of security with the repeal of HB2 — transgender people are still in danger and we should still be talking about this. It’s not a victory or a success. We’ve replaced one enormously problematic bill with another, only the new one more craftily conceals its issues.