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Here's What's Wrong With North Carolina's 'Fix' to Transphobic HB 2

Here's What's Wrong With North Carolina's 'Fix' to Transphobic HB 2

Pat McCrory

Republican legislators are offering a Band-Aid approach to calm the North Carolina business community's panic over House Bill 2, but LGBT advocates aren't buying it. 

MariBrighe

Since North Carolina legislators rushed the anti-LGBT law known as House Bill 2 into being back in March, the state has experienced serious backlash from advocates and businesses alike.

But Tuesday, draft legislation was introduced in the North Carolina House of Representatives that seeks to amend that law to allow people who have had certain gender-affirming surgeries to seek a "certificate of sex reassignment." This document would, in theory, allow these select individuals to use facilities consistent with their gender identity in government buildings and public spaces throughout the state.

Unfortunately, the bill is a little more than window dressing on an oppressive, transphobic policy that was originally drafted with the express intent of barring transgender people in North Carolina from using public facilities that correspond with their gender identity.

The state's primary LGBT advocacy organization, Equality North Carolina, was immediately critical of the measure. In an email to supporters, the group attacked the measure a "backroom deal" and insisted that the only acceptable action was a full repeal of HB 2. Equality NC executive director Chris Sgro -- the only out member of the state legislature, who was appointed to fill a vacancy after HB 2 passed -- was particularly incensed. "Once more, leadership has not consulted with us or discussed a piece of legislation with us that will have deep impacts for our community," he told The Charlotte Observer. "It's another bad bill."

The Human Rights Campaign joined Equality NC in criticizing the new bill. "Anyone who cares about equality must reject this ridiculous proposal out of hand," said HRC president Chad Griffin in a Tuesday statement. "This despicable bill would continue insidious policies targeting LGBTQ people for discrimination and do nothing to fix the mess HB 2 created."

The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina and Lambda Legal, which are suing North Carolina over HB 2 in federal court, released a joint media statement following the introduction of the draft bill. Even with the proposed changes, HB 2 still "encourages discrimination" against many LGBT people, the advocacy groups argued. The statement went on to echo Equality NC's call for full repeal, urging that the discriminatory law be replaced with "full nondiscrimination protections for all LGBT people."

Writers at the The Greensboro Recordsimilarly note that the certificates create significant privacy concerns for trans people, as the bill would essentially create a government registry of individuals who have had gender-affirming surgery.

The reality is, despite assumptions by the wider cisgender (nontrans) public, the majority of trans people have not had gender-affirming surgeries. For some, there is simply no access to surgery, as the procedure is expensive, rarely covered by insurance, often requires significant travel, and has a significant recovery time. With the extraordinarily high level of poverty for trans people, particularly among trans women of color, out-of-pocket costs frequently present an insurmountable barrier to obtaining such surgical interventions.

What's more, many trans people choose not to have particular surgeries for a variety of personal reasons, including the medical risks, limitations of current surgical procedure, or simple lack of interest in having gender-affirming surgery that often seeks to reconstruct a person's primary sex organs. For these reasons, the American Medical Association adopted a position in 2014 that genital surgery should not be a requirement for recognizing the gender identity of a trans person.

Requiring trans people to undergo an invasive and expensive surgical procedure to access something as simple as a public restroom is an unrealistic burden, particularly since North Carolina is one of the dozens of states that does not require insurance companies to cover transition-related healthcare expenses. As such, even if a trans resident wanted to obtain the new "certificate" proposed by the bill, the likelihood that the individual would be able to access such treatment is slim. Several U.S. states and health organizations, and even international governing bodies have dropped this surgical requirement in recent years, recognizing the diversity of experience among transgender people.

The proposed surgical requirement also reinforces the notion that gender is easily equatable to the shape of a person's genitals and that by virtue of simply having a penis, trans women are a threat to cisgender women in restrooms and locker rooms. Despite the mounting backlash against the trans community and increasing number of so-called bathroom bills being proposed around the U.S., absolutely no evidenceexists to support claims that allowing trans people to use bathrooms consistent with their gender identity will harm public safety or increase sexual assaults. In fact, while more than 200 jurisdictions have trans-inclusive nondiscrimination policies on the books, there has never been a single verified report of a transgender person in any way harassing a cisgender person in a restroom, and law enforcement officials nationwide have soundly rejected the claim that trans-inclusive policies create an uptick in sexual assault.

MariBrighe
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Mari Brighe

Mari is the transgender issues correspondent for The Advocate. She is an accomplished writer, educator, and scientist. Her essays on queer and trans topics have appeared in nearly a dozen other publications. She hails from Michigan, where she is graduate student in Diversity and Social Justice in Higher Education and LGBTQ Studies.
Mari is the transgender issues correspondent for The Advocate. She is an accomplished writer, educator, and scientist. Her essays on queer and trans topics have appeared in nearly a dozen other publications. She hails from Michigan, where she is graduate student in Diversity and Social Justice in Higher Education and LGBTQ Studies.