Friday, May 6, 2016

North Carolina's bathroom law

I have refrained from any comment on North Carolina's new "bathroom law," but since former Gov. Jim Martin expressed his reasonable and moderate concerns about the law in an essay this week, I thought I could also express an opinion.

Generally, I agree with Martin. This bill, which could cost the state billions of dollars in federal funds, as well as huge sums in court and attorney costs to defend the ill-conceived bill, not to mention the millions of dollars in tourism revenue and new jobs because people and corporations don't want to come to North Carolina with its bathroom law.

I have to confess that I don't really understand the whole "transgender" thing. I grew up in a world where boys were boys and girls were girls, and no one ever got confused over gender identity, although there were certainly tomboyish girls and effeminate boys. But no one thought it was a big deal. Your gender was determined when the doctor lifted you from the birth canal and examined your groin.

But things have changed in ways my generation could have never imagined. Even the federal laws that are shaping Washington's reaction to this law are not what we thought they were. Title IX, for example, was thought of as a mandate for colleges and high schools to offer as many athletic opportunities (i.e., sports teams) for girls as they do for boys. At the time, that seemed like a pretty far-fetched concept for generations of boys who thought of girls as dainty and sweet and boys as muscular, aggressive and unemotional.

Now Title IX is being used to require that transgender students be allowed to choose the bathroom or locker room they prefer, regardless of their physical anatomy. I doubt that any of the members of Congress who voted for Title IX ever imagined that the law would be used in the manner it is being used today.

Proponents of North Carolina's House Bill 2 have attempted to stir up concerns over young girls being exposed to men slinking into women's bathrooms for their own perverted reasons. Although no one can cite an example of a pedophile or sexual predator posing as a transgender woman to gain access to the ladies' room, the possibility of such an incident frightens parents and sexual assault victims. As Governor Martin says, we've probably had transgender folks using the "wrong" restroom for years, and no one had noticed.

Frankly, I don't really want to know whether the person next to me has the "correct" anatomy.

The one concern that might legitimately worry parents of young girls is not about bathrooms (which have private stalls) but locker rooms and showers. I have been a 14-year-old boy, and I know boys of that age would be gleeful at the idea of gaining access to the girls' locker room. Having a boy ogling your daughter as she showers after gym class and changes into school clothes makes fathers' blood boil.

HB2 was said to address this possibility, but apparently the feds are interpreting Title IX to require transgender students equal access. A Virginia student was offered a separate, private changing room, but the feds considered that inadequate and demanded that the transgender student be given the very same access that other students have.

HB2 was an unnecessary piece of legislation, passed and signed in haste for no other reason than hopes of gaining a political advantage in this election year. Undoing the damage from this unexamined legislative idea will be difficult and may take years. 

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