Transgender Men, Lesbian Professor Join Lawsuit Over North Carolina Law

North Carolina

The fight to overturn North Carolina's anti-LGBT law is picking up plaintiffs in the courtroom.

Two transgender men and a lesbian professor joined the American Civil Liberties Union and Equality North Carolina seeking an injunction against House Bill 2, a law that revokes all LGBT protections in the state and forces transgender people to use public bathrooms matching the sex listed on birth certificates, among other things.

According to the complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina, HB2, which was passed in one day, violates constitutionally protected rights as well as Title IX federal protections banning sex discrimination in federally funded educational settings. 

The three named plaintiffs either work or study within North Carolina's public university system. Defendants named include the state's university system as well as North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory and State Attorney General Roy Cooper. 

The complaint, obtained by BuzzFeed, seeks a declaratory judgment that HB 2 violates the Constitution and Title IX as well as an injunction against its enforcement.

Lead plaintiff Joaquin Carcaño, 27, of Greensboro is a transgender man who works at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill at the school's Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases and claims the new law will interfere with his ability to do his job. He performs HIV testing and provides medical education to the Latino population, and if he wasn't able to use the men's bathroom at work, he would have to set off on a search for a bathroom off campus. 

The lawsuit says that "preventing him from using the multiple occupancy restroom that other men are able to use is stigmatizing and marks him as different and lesser than other men. It also interferes with his ability to perform his job duties by requiring him to leave his building each time he needs to use the restroom throughout the work day."

Forcing Carcaño to use the women's restroom "would also cause substantial harm to his mental health and well being. It would also force him to disclose to others the fact that he is transgender, which itself could lead to violence and harassment," according to the suit.

Another plaintiff, transgender student Payton Grey McGarry, 20, of Greensboro, who studies business administration and accounting at University of North Carolina Greensboro, expressed concerns similar to Carcaño's. According to the suit, McGarry, who is vice president of a local chapter of the fraternity Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, often uses men's locker rooms and bathrooms and his fraternity brothers are accepting of him.

To his knowledge, there are very few single-use restrooms at UNC-Greensboro, and searching for those bathrooms would disrupt his ability to attend class, the suit states. "The idea of being forced into the women's restroom causes Mr. McGarry to experience significant anxiety as he knows that it would be distressing for him and uncomfortable for others. He fears for his safety because of the passage of H.B. 2," according to the suit. 

This leads some LGBT activists to wonder about potential future repercussions. "I've seen a lot of posts about how shocking it would be for very masculine looking trans men to be forced to use women's bathrooms, and they are completely missing the point. Being shocked by seeing a beard in a women's room is transphobic, too!" wrote transgender scholar Lars Mackenzie on Facebook.

In an interview, Mackenzie, who studies the ways in which transgender people navigate administrative systems, said these photos rely on the same fear of men in women's restrooms that was used by the right to defeat LGBT-inclusive legislation such as Houston'saEqual Rights Ordinance.

"These photos of very masculine-looking or 'passing' trans men take in women's bathrooms reinforce the idea that we wouldn't want men of any kind, or anyone who looks like a man, in a women's restroom, which really puts people who are gender nonconforming in more danger," he explained in an interview. "There are cis women who have beards and are masculine, there are trans women and gender-nonconforming people who don't pass, and trans men who don't pass. I would rather put my energy into making all restrooms open to anyone."

Professor Angela Gilmore, 52, teaches at North Carolina Central University and is the final plaintiff in the case. In the suit Gilmore, who is married to Angela Wallace and lives in Durham, said H B 2 makes her feel unwelcome in the state and has caused her to fear discrimination.

In addition, "As a non-transgender woman who always uses the facilities designated for women in both public and private spaces, the passage of H.B. 2 does not make Ms. Gilmore feel safer in these facilities," the suit states.