Our country has come a long way when it comes to LGBT rights – but with any major progress comes the dependable pushback. In particular, we are seeing a lot of resistance surrounding transgender rights in response to a number of anti-LGBT laws passed in recent months.
Perhaps most famous is the North Carolina bill called HB2 that has banned transgender individuals from using any restroom other than one matching their biological sex. This law supersedes any local nondiscrimination laws protecting LGBT people. So if a lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender person is fired or denied employment for their identity — which is legal to do in 31 states — North Carolina law prohibits local protections for that person.
Several states are in talks of passing similar “bathroom bills” – but people are not happy about it.
The fact that major musicians like Nick Jonas, Demi Lovato and Bruce Springsteen have cancelled concerts in North Carolina in response to the discriminatory law should make enough of a splash to get lawmakers to change their minds on this issue. But in case it doesn’t, Target announced this week that its transgender staff and shoppers were free to use whichever restrooms or fitting rooms matched their gender identity.
Naturally, this was met with instant backlash.
Thousands have petitioned and sworn to boycott Target, claiming they feel unsafe and susceptible to sexual assault from men who might cross-dress and claim to be transgender in order to enter the restrooms. If that kind of assault were a common occurrence – which it never has been – it would occur regardless of any laws put in place. But defense of these discriminatory laws always seems to boil down to two things – protecting children and religious freedom.
Of course, it is important to protect children from sexual predators. We should all be wary of any suspicious characters we come across in public places and take action to protect ourselves. The thing is, transgender people are not suspicious or cross-dressers – they are regular people with valid identities. A refusal to educate oneself on what it means to be transgender is not grounds for discrimination – and it should never make its way into statewide legislation.
As for the second defense, religious freedom should also be protected, but legislation like HB2 infringes upon basic human rights in the name of religious freedom. In the United States, we need to have the right to practice our religions however and whenever we please. Unfortunately, that right has been used as a weapon disguised as a defense that has been applied so often that it now allows for legal discrimination if one’s religion condemns a certain identity.
At this rate, it won’t be long until someone’s religion prohibits association with a certain race and we see a revival of the Jim Crow laws that at one time were firmly defended in the name of our forefathers. This country may have been founded on religion, but our society has evolved into something beautifully diverse that is in no way comparable to what it was at the beginning.
For that reason alone, legislation should evolve along with our collective consciousness as more people feel comfortable expressing their true identities. If any people, especially LGBT, are brave enough to be themselves and face all those who don’t understand them, they should be encouraged and protected by law.
These recent transphobic bathroom laws are surely unconstitutional, and it’s only a matter of time before they’re repealed. In the meantime, we should be conscious of the effect this rhetoric has on LGBT people, but also confident tolerance and acceptance will win out in the end.