The handwritten sign taped to the bathroom door read “Men (Real Men)” at a local park in a mid-sized coastal town in Eastern North Carolina. As a young man opened the door to exit, I paused briefly before entering as the thought flashed: Is he a real man? Is he really who he appears to be?
It’s a scene that likely played out often across our state over the past few weeks in the wake of the recent passage of North Carolina House Bill 2.
On my way home, I stopped at a nearby cafe. I glanced up from my drink and noticed a young man walk in, dressed in jeans and a baseball hat with a gun resting in a holster at his side; an activity protected by law in our state. A thought flashed again: Is he a bad guy? Was he there to stop violence or to instigate it?
One law presumes that real men who arm themselves in public spaces are “good guys,” while the other presumes that real men who enter a bathroom that matches their gender identification are “bad guys.”
These laws assume that bad intentions are as easy to determine at a glance as gender. No law based on fear or mistrust can serve the public good.