One of the transgender plaintiffs fighting anti-LGBT legislation in North Carolina has a message for his state: "Enough is enough."
Payton McGarry, a student at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, detailed how he was affected by House Bill 2 Thursday night at the Lambda Legal West Coast Liberty Awards. Signed into law in March by Gov. Pat McCrory, the legislation revokes all LGBT protections in the state and forces transgender people to use public bathrooms (in government buildings) that do not match their gender identity, among other things.
"When I started at UNCG, my peers weren’t aware that I was transgender until I or one of my very close friends told them. I felt safe and happy, like I was part of the community. This law makes things a lot more difficult," he told the crowd, a gathering from the spheres of entertainment and law that included hosts Candis Cayne (I Am Cait) and Lawrence Zarian, Daniel Franzese (Looking), Perez Hilton, and honorees Kat Graham (Vampire Diaries) and Michael Ritchie, who is artistic director of the Center Theatre Group in Los Angeles.
McGarry, who is vice president of a local chapter of the fraternity Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, often uses men's locker rooms and bathrooms on campus, and his fraternity brothers are accepting of him. In his speech, he spoke out against the myth perpetuated by anti-LGBT activists that trans people are bathroom predators, revealing from experience that this perception couldn't be further from the truth.
"It’s important to recognize that transgender people are the ones often subjected to harassment and violence, and it’s a harmful myth that they are the problem. In nearly every incident where my gender has been an issue, it’s been in a female bathroom," said McGarry, noting, "I’ve been screamed at, pushed, shoved, and even slapped."
McGarry is one of several plaintiffs in a suit brought by Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Equality North Carolina seeking an injunction against HB 2. Filed March 28 in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina, the complaint details the harm HB 2 inflicted on McGarry as well as University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill faculty member Joaquin Carcaño, a 27-year-old transgender man whose ability to do his job at the university’s Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases will be severely hindered by the new law.
The suit contends that the law violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution by singling out one group of citizens (transgender folks) for differential treatment. The lawsuit is built upon the same basis of a case that is decades old, Romer v. Evans, which maked the first time the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled that gay, lesbian, and bisexual people were entitled to equal protection under the law. Attorneys for the plaintiffs will also argue that HB 2 runs afoul of protections against sex-based discrimination guaranteed by Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which has increasingly been interpreted to include protections against discrimination based on gender identity.
"Knowing that my accomplishments and professional experience could mean nothing because of a letter on my driver’s license and a word on my birth certificate is disheartening," McGarry said at the gala. "Knowing that my friends or family could be denied employment, access to businesses, or admissions to programs based on nothing more than their gender identities, is nothing short of revolting."
Moreover, McGarry added that it is "embarrassing to know that I live in a state that actually requires discrimination."
"Together, we must stand up and stay in the fight with Lambda Legal so that all members in our community can be free and live equally in every state," he concluded.
Watch the moving address below.