If Gov. Pat McCrory or House Speaker Tim Moore happened to see me enter a women’s bathroom, they wouldn’t think anything objectionable had transpired. In fact, they wouldn’t give it a second thought.
Yet, judging from their comments, I’m putting every other woman using that bathroom at risk.
In February, Charlotte passed an expansion to its nondiscrimination ordinance to include the LGBT population. The most controversial part protects transgender women and men when using the bathrooms that corresponds with their gender identities.
Before Charlotte passed the measure, McCrory emailed the only two Republicans on Charlotte’s city council, warned of a reprisal by the state legislature if Charlotte acted and said, “This shift in policy could also create major public safety issues by putting citizens in possible danger from deviant actions by individuals taking improper advantage of a bad policy.”
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Once the measure passed, Moore weighed in: “The recent radical actions of the Charlotte City Council … pose a real danger to public safety concerning the sexual identity and bathroom matters.”
As someone who has transitioned from male to female and who goes out of her way to understand why some can’t accept me as a woman, I have a hard time understanding the concerns expressed by McCrory and Moore.
I think the real fear driving their statements and threats is that allowing women like me to use women’s bathrooms opens up the possibility that someone, who by all appearances is a man, may waltz into a women’s restroom and claim he is, in fact, a woman – whether or not he uses the opportunity for nefarious ends.
Under Charlotte’s new law, though, this wouldn’t happen. When you transition from male to female, or female to male, you take only the steps you’re prepared to make. Using a public bathroom marks a certain point in your transition when you have a certain amount of confidence in yourself – confidence that can be obtained only through larger, previous steps. It’s only when you think you’ve sufficiently proven to yourself this is who you are – by taking steps such as cross-sex hormones for a year and publicly presenting as your transitioned gender – do you use that bathroom.
In 2014, MediaMatters spoke with officials from 10 states that have measures similar to Charlotte’s. There were no reported incidents of the like that McCrory or Moore fear. Some may cite a development in Washington state after its human rights commission clarified gender identity protections, but that matter was promptly dealt with. No one thinks, or agrees, that when public accommodations have a reasonable suspicion that someone isn’t where he or she should be, action can’t be taken. And if a mistake is made, it wouldn’t be something to fear or fight over, but an opportunity to learn.
As McCrory and Moore demonstrate, there’s still much to learn about transitioning. No matter the circumstance, transitioning feels like a lifetime of stress compressed into a very short time. My transition began during my last two years of college, and when I wasn’t busy with classes and my part-time job, I spent nearly all my free time at home crying from all the strain. At one point, I admitted myself to a psychiatric ward because I was afraid I was going to hurt myself.
For those wondering why I didn’t just stop transitioning, transitioning isn’t some lifestyle choice. Transgender men and women are afflicted by gender dysphoria, a medical condition characterized by an extreme discomfort with the primary and secondary sex characteristics of one’s body. It isn’t something you wish to feel or can will away. It’s ever present and can be diminished only through transitioning.
I knew that I was a girl since the second grade. It wasn’t until college that I felt I couldn’t keep fighting myself anymore, and, given the lack of public awareness of gender dysphoria in the 1990s and the 2000s, it took me that long to figure out what was going on with me.
Just last year, two teens in Charlotte committed suicide because they felt their situations were too unbearable to live with. The suicide and attempted suicide rates of the transgender population are terrifyingly high – primarily due to unforgiving social factors.
Letting Charlotte’s action stand would help North Carolinians who desperately need it.
Lily Carollo is an incoming graduate student at UNC’s School of Media and Journalism.