MILLER: 'Bathroom bills' are bad for everyone

May 7, 2016

In late March, North Carolina passed the controversial House Bill 2 into law. By now, you have probably heard of it. This “Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act” blocks transgender individuals from using public restrooms that match their gender. It also restricts cities from passing further nondiscrimination legislation.

The legislation received both backlash and praise. The religious right was proud, arguing against the existence of the transgender identity at all. Others cited safety reasons for their praise. They feared that, without it, men would be able to dress up as women and sexually assault people in the restrooms. Finally, others denounced the law, due to the disrespect and potential harm for transgender individuals. I fall into this last category.

North Carolina is seeing a global reaction to its law. Several companies, notably Target, have spoken out strongly against it. Artists have canceled concerts and events in the state. The United Kingdom has issued a travel warning to its LGBTQ citizens against the potential dangers in North Carolina.

The Indiana Legislature considered a similar “bathroom bill” earlier this year, but it was met with similar criticisms and did not pass. LGBTQ activists rejoiced but still fear it could be brought up again.

There are several misconceptions used to support these bills that I would like to dispel.

First is the argument that transgender is not a true gender identity. I can see why it might be confusing to the majority. Most people do not seem to experience gender dysphoria. Yet, there are thousands of people who say this is their experience. We should respect that. How does another person’s gender identity affect our lives at all? We have all used the restroom among transgender people many times and never known. This is how it should be, because it is none of our business.

The next misconception is equally concerning, stating the lack of these laws is an excuse for men to prey on women. Supporters emphasize that it is not transgender people they have a problem with; it is the potential threat of fake transgender people.

I find it hard to believe that a man would make the effort to dress up as a woman for the sole intention of going into a bathroom to assault someone. If sexual assault were truly the goal for him, why would any law about gender stop him from going into the bathroom? If the intention was to break the law with assault, breaking another would probably not be a concern.

Of course, any sexual assault, no matter the circumstance, is an unfortunate and preventable situation. However, lawmakers in North Carolina did not seem to have any evidence that this kind of assault had ever been a problem. If the rationale is truly protecting people from potential assailants, the problem is not transgender individuals; it is men who feel it is acceptable to rape people in a bathroom.

This new law puts the livelihood and happiness of transgender individuals at risk, while doing nothing to address the actual problem that far too many people are sexually assaulted. I urge lawmakers in Indiana and around the country to see the dangerous and regressive effects of laws like HB 2. This law helps no one, but has a negative impact on thousands of lives.•


Miller studies policy analysis at Indiana University and works as political director for the College Democrats of Indiana. Send comments on this column to ibjedit@ibj.com.



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