HB2 agitates fear and anger for political gain

by Roch Smith Jr.

It’s good to see people passionate about civic matters. It sure beats apathy. But when it comes to HB2, the bill that, among other things, requires transgender people to use bathrooms in government facilities that align with the gender on their birth certificates, there is a lot of rhetoric that goes beyond zeal and reaches to unmitigated bigotry.

It’s a mistake, however, to assume that all of those who support HB2 are bigots. To be sure, bigots support this new law and bigotry can be found in comments directed to local elected officials. I’ve included a few to the Greensboro City Council, who passed an ordinance (8 to 1) opposing HB2 (original spelling preserved):

“Everyone one of you are as sick as the lowlifes that dress like a woman and is a man. I think in the back of your minds all 7 of you are pedifiles to even consider the idea of a man going into a woman’s restroom where a little girl would be.”- Randy R., Greensboro, email to Greensboro City Council

Willful bigots cannot be engaged; they are lost and immune to reason.

“I do not want and I will not tolerant your insane, no common sense, immoral stance on this law that will help protect my Grandkids from the disgusting LGBT groups! These people should go to the bathroom that a lines with their gender stated on their I.D.. No special treatment should be given to these perverts period!”- Gerald B., Asheboro, email to Greensboro City Council

Those for whom LGBT people, “pedifiles” and perverts are one in the same have irrational perceptions that are not going to be affected by an appeal to good thinking. But if we assume that everyone who supports HB2 is a bigot, we deprive ourselves of a chance to inform and perhaps, persuade, because some of the HB2 supporters raise legitimate questions that they deserve to have answered. Ignorance is not the same as bigotry, it just means lacking certain knowledge and those who are ignorant (on any subject) but not bigots are susceptible to reason and new information.

“No one wants to do the right thing anymore so as not to upset the clamoring of the minority in this country. You may not have a concern about people with penises using the same facilities as you, your daughter and your granddaughter, but I do.”-Thomas C., Greensboro, email to Greensboro City Council

That’s a perfectly legitimate concern, even if couched in the angry language of a cultural warrior.

“I also have a daughter. Do you realize you are going to allow Grown Males to use a public bathroom right along side of MY LITTLE GIRL? How sick is that. Sure, you say there will be privacy, but how can you guarantee me this so called privacy.”-Heather M., Greensboro, email to Greensboro City Council

That’s a good question and, honestly, it’s not one I am convinced I can answer to the satisfaction of those who ask it. I’m trying, and the answer goes something like this: Those people “with penises” for whom the Charlotte law intended to permit to use women’s rooms, are people who perceive of themselves as women. Chances are, you wouldn’t even know or notice. They are either transitioning or have transitioned physically to being a woman. It is these people for whom the Charlotte ordinance tried to make accommodation.

“Who will most likely exploit the new right of males being allowed in female changing areas? Answer: Predators and adolescents, of course.”-Tina F., Greensboro, email to Greensboro City Council

This seems to be the most serious concern: that HB2 was needed to provide some kind of “protection” against predators and pranksters. But HB2 doesn’t bring any such protection. The intention of HB2 was not to protect anybody, it was to agitate fear and anger for political purposes. That is its purpose and it’s working. The masterminds of HB2 are gladly counting on a large chunk of the public being suckers. They gin up fears of horrible worst case scenarios while skipping over the fact that their law does nothing to protect against those scenarios (and if marginalized people get vilified in the process, so be it; these manipulative bullies don’t care).

Phil Berger, President Pro Tem of the North Carolina Senate, representing Rockingham and Guilford counties is a great example.

Berger is enthusiastically stoking fear and pretending that HB2 is a solution to real concerns. In one post, he writes that it’s about protecting people against “peepers.” That is so disingenuous, it really deserves to be taken apart to show just how craven Berger’s argument is and how little regard he has for the intellectual abilities of those he hopes to scare.

Berger warns that without HB2, people who appear to be persons of the opposite gender will be able to go into bathrooms for nefarious reasons. We all agree that we don’t want people going into bathrooms to bother or harm people, but Berger has people disengaging their brains there. No men in the women’s room. Stop thinking. But if we keep going, we can see how hollow HB2 really is.

HB2 actually makes it more likely that people are going to be uncomfortable and feel threatened in the bathroom. Indeed, the mandates of HB2 assure it. Here’s how.

Under HB2, a transgender person who is anatomically a woman, but outwardly appears to be a man will be compelled by HB2 to use the woman’s rest room. In waiving a false warning flag that the Charlotte ordinance would have given cover for a man to dress up as women to gain access to a woman’s facility, HB2 has now made it so that we will now be assured to see men in women’s bathrooms. How do we evaluate potential threats now that HB2 is the law? There’s a guy in the women’s restroom, do we call the cops to see if he is transgender man merely complying with the law or are we less able to assess real potential threats because HB2 requires certain people who look like men to use women’s facilities? For those who truly worry about privacy and security in bathrooms, Berger and his HB2 supporters haven’t made you any safer, they have given you a false sense of security, but if you think it through, they have actually made bathrooms less safe for everybody.

Here is another way, perhaps the most revealing way, we can expose the true motives of those who voted for HB2. If it were truly a threat to public safety to allow transgender people to use bathrooms that match their appearance, as Charlotte would have allowed, how could Berger have been so derelict and so irresponsible as to only apply the provisions of HB 2 to government bathrooms? If the “threat” is real then it absolutely, as a duty, would be incumbent upon lawmakers to apply to all bathrooms such as those in hotels, restaurants and churches. HB2 doesn’t do that. Why not?

And what happens if someone breaks the laws of HB2? Nothing.

It’s not a criminal statute. It’s administrative. “Employees must wash hands” has more teeth. So concerned were the authors of HB2 with safety and stopping the perverts that those who violate HB2 face no repercussions. Why? Because it’s not a public safety issue. Existing laws already cover things like assaulting and molesting people. HB2 is a vehicle for Berger and his colleagues to agitate people. He’s rattling our cages and that’s it.