Get the ‘T’ out of LGBT

by Jim Longworth

Late last month, Charlotte City Council opened up a can of worms about how men and women use the can. Specifically its new ordinance would have allowed transgender persons to use public restrooms based on the gender to which they identify. The ordinance was to go into effect on April 1. In response, the North Carolina General Assembly met in special session last week and passed HB2, The Public Facilities and Privacy Act, which, in effect, vacated the Queen City ordinance. Since then, a host of corporations, organizations, news agencies, columnists, and elected officials have criticized HB2. Some have even threatened to punish our State with bans, boycotts, and relocation.

The NBA issued a statement on March 24 which implied that it might not hold its All-Star game in Charlotte next year unless HB2 is repealed. Meanwhile, Facebook, Apple, American Airlines, PayPal, and other companies have publicly condemned HB2, implying the threat of moving their operations out of the State. Then there’s San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee who has banned his employees from any non-essential travel to North Carolina. Adding fuel to the fire was Greensboro News & Record columnist Susan Ladd who wrote that passage of HB2 “conflicts with Title IX gender equity law, possibly risking $4 billion in federal education funds.” The AP reported that the new law will “deal a blow to the LGBT movement,” while the Charlotte Observer said HB2 nullifies local ordinances that would protect gays from being fired due to sexual orientation. The problem is that all of these knee jerk threats and reactions are based on misinformation.

First of all, the Charlotte ordinance not only would have allowed transgender persons to use the public facility of their choice, it would have required private businesses to, for example, accommodate transgender men who identify as a woman, to use women’s restrooms and locker rooms. In so doing, Charlotte Council superseded its authority under the State Constitution. Thus, the ordinance forced the General Assembly to act, and it did so in a bipartisan fashion. Eleven House Democrats voted for HB2, and when a number of Senate Democrats were prepared to do the same, Democrat leaders staged a walk-out, claiming they had not been allowed to participate in the process. The walk-out was politically motivated and disingenuous.

Governor McCrory told the News & Record, “I empathize with (transgender) people on this issue, but that doesn’t mean that 99 percent of people have to adjust to empathize with a few people who are dealing with a very tough issue.” McCrory was right. Charlotte City Council acted irresponsibly, and demonstrated a brazen disregard for the privacy rights of the so-called 99 percent.

Now to the myths being propagated by critics of HB2. Contrary to what Ms. Ladd opined, North Carolina is not necessarily at risk of losing $4 billion in federal education funds because at least one federal court has already ruled against such action in a similar case. And what about all of the companies lining up to say how appalled they are by HB2? Perhaps they should have read the bill more carefully before taking a stand. The fact is that HB2 allows private businesses and universities to accommodate transgender employees and customers in any way they so choose, and they can adopt any non-discrimination policy they want. Moreover, HB2 allows private and public facilities to offer single-use bathrooms, where only one person (of any gender) can occupy the facility at a time. And HB2 places no restrictions on restrooms and locker rooms at privately owned sports facilities. In addition, the AP was wrong in stating that HB2 dealt a blow to gays and lesbians. And, the Charlotte Observer was wrong in reporting that HB2 would allow employers to discriminate against anyone based on their sexual orientation. HB2 clearly states that North Carolina opposes discriminatory hiring practices, and affirms that the Human Relations Commission of the Department of Administration will review all charges of discrimination filed by the EEOC.

Much of the heated rhetoric and misguided ill will about HB2 stems from people who believe that gays and lesbians are somehow being targeted and discriminated against by the new law. It does not and they are not. In large part, it is a combative and uncompromising transgender movement that triggered this recent firestorm. Further, as I pointed out in my columns of June 15, 2013 and December 2, 2015, parents of Transgender students have largely been the driving force behind the movement’s vitriolic campaign for unrealistic reforms when it comes to use of public facilities.

When threatened with legal action by parents of alleged transgender students, school officials in Illinois, Colorado, Massachusetts, and other states have tried to accommodate the needs of those students by offering any number of compromises, none of which were acceptable to the parents. One Colorado principal offered a male transgender student the use of the school nurse’s private bathroom, but the boy’s parents demanded that their son be allowed use of the girls’ restrooms and locker rooms instead. Enlightened educators in those states are sympathetic to transgender students, but they also have a responsibility to meet the needs of and protect all children under their care. One District 211 school official told the Chicago Tribune, “The students in our schools are teenagers, not adults, and one’s gender is not the same as one’s anatomy. Our responsibility as school administrators is to protect the privacy rights of all of our students.” In addition, Andrew Beckwith of the Massachusetts Family Institute told the AP, “Boys need to use boys’ restrooms, and we base that on anatomical sex, not some sort of internalized gender identity.” Beckwith also warned that policies being forced upon local schools by federal courts, “put transgender kids at higher risk for ‘peer ostracism, victimization, and bullying.”

Transgender advocacy groups in Charlotte and other cities have pushed their agenda on politicians who want to appear politically correct, but they’ve only gained traction when attaching their cause to those of gays, lesbians, and bisexuals. Frankly that act is wearing a bit thin. Roughly 60 percent of North Carolinians support same sex marriage, but that same percentage is opposed to biological men using women’s restrooms. Meanwhile many gays and lesbians are none too happy about having their fight for equal rights lumped into a battle over gender identity. Gays and lesbians are in a constant struggle to obtain and retain their basic rights, like the right to secure a marriage license from religious nuts in the magistrate’s office, their right to adopt children, their right to make medical decisions for each other, and their right not to be discriminated against in the workplace. In other words, gays, lesbians, and bisexuals only want the same rights as everyone else – no special accommodations, no special privileges. Nor do gays and lesbians make demands that will inconvenience or otherwise violate the privacy rights of others. The same cannot be said of the transgender movement.

No doubt the North Carolina General Assembly is riddled with a few backward thinking homophobes who will hopefully be replaced this fall, but threats from the transgender movement do nothing to advance the causes that are so crucial to a better quality of life for gays, lesbians and bisexuals. That’s why it’s time for the LGBT movement to jettison the “T” from their name, and focus on their singular cause, which should not be encumbered by the demands of persons who are no longer comfortable with their own gender. !

JIM LONGWORTH is the host of “Triad Today,” airing on Saturdays at 7:30 a.m. on ABC45 (cable channel 7) and Sundays at 11 a.m. on WMYV (cable channel 15).