Charles Rae talks about the legal ramifications of “gender identity” and how it collides with the language of sexism and women’s public space.
As a leftist who prioritizes women’s rights I find myself in support of Republican Gov. McRory and the new bathroom stipulations in my state of North Carolina. Though, in most conversations, I’m not able to articulate why before I’m being called a bigot or ‘transphobic’.
Mainstream discussions of North Carolina’s new bathroom laws are using memes to criticize it. Which is useful if you’re not a fan of critical thinking, but it seems memes and messages like them are adequate legal arguments in the court of public opinion. So what’s the deal?
Feb. 22, 2016, Charlotte passed an ordinance which stated that people could use whatever bathroom corresponds with their “gender identity.” Turns out, this ordinance wasn’t within the rights of the city. The ordinance was going to go into effect on April 1st, so legislators used a constitutional provision to call themselves into session. They passed a sweeping law on March 23rd which mandates people use the bathroom which corresponds with the gender stated on their birth certificate.
In North Carolina, if someone receives sex reassignment surgery they can have their birth certificates changed, and can use the bathroom in alignment with their birth certificates. So frankly, the viral memes that look something like this:
or this one, don’t mean as much as everyone thinks they do. More likely than not, people who have gone to these kind of lengths to live as the other sex would not be effected by this law.
Granted, North Carolina cannot amend the birth certificates of out of state transgender people, it also should be noted that no one will be standing out side of bathrooms checking paperwork, and people who are other sex “passing” could use the bathroom that matches their appearance.
I think the answer lies in taking a closer look at these meme messages, which have strong undertones of rape culture. Of transmen using women’s bathrooms which shape them as potential predators of women, and transwomen as sexy seductresses looking to steal your boyfriend or sleep with your father. These stereotyped memes seem to prove that physical sex and the societal repercussions such as violence rates and sexualization of female bodies is significant, and that physical realities matter. It’s also hard to logically comprehend these two opposing views on the same side of an argument: that physical realities matter and don’t at the same time.
These distinctions are important, because the reason some left-leaning thinkers like myself support this law, do so not to infringe on the rights of people who identify as transgender, but to protect women who have the right to feel they are safe in female-only spaces where they’re getting undressed. This stipulation in the law safeguards women from voyeuristic predators who would take advantage of alternative laws.
The New York times stated that people who support this bill cannot find one instance where it would have been necessary. While this is not an unknown concept, it’s striking to me that one of the men who pushed the ordinance in Charlotte, Chad Sevearance, stepped down after being outed as a registered sex offender.
As Tami Fitzgerald stated for the Charlotte Observer,“no one who is a convicted sex offender should be leading a campaign to allow men to be in women’s bathrooms and showers,” she said. “It’s just common sense.”
When it comes to the legality of protecting women, gender designated by birth certificate seems a legitimate requirement to enter into sex-segregated spaces. Especially compared to gender identity, which as a legal concept, is null. How could we set definitions and ramifications around the abstract concept of gender identity? While these meme messages side step the idea that people who have dedicated their life to this change will likely will not be effected, they also completely erase the leftist worry about including gender identity in legal language: predatory men who could easily take advantage of it. This is the main reason why I support the stipulations of entering into an opposing sex bathroom as being the sex articulated on your birth certificate.
On a personal note, as a woman living in North Carolina, I support this bill because I remember what it was like growing up as a girl, and needing bathrooms and locker rooms to be female-specific. The world shames you for having a female body, for periods, and make-up, and puberty and overall self-consciousness. The bathrooms are a sacred place where we let that go. That’s why we go to the bathrooms together. We’re close in there, it’s our space. There should be stipulations to entering that space.