In a sweeping step backwards, North Carolina’s state government passed a law last week that strips basic rights from transgender Americans, highlighting the discrimination the BGLTQ community continues to face in the United States. The law, approved during a special legislative session that cost $42,000, prevents municipalities from enacting anti-discrimination measures based on gender identity or sexual orientation and forces transgender men and women to use bathrooms and locker rooms that correspond to the gender listed on their birth certificates, rather than the one with which they identify.
At its root, this law is a fundamental violation of the universal right to safe restrooms that deserves the swift condemnation it has received. Unfortunately, such discriminatory measures are far from unique. BGLTQ rights remain consistently under attack, and we write in solidarity not only with the BGLTQ people in North Carolina but also with all members of this population whose rights are being infringed upon. Transgender people already face alarmingly high rates of violence, and this law only stands to put them at greater risk of mistreatment.
This piece of legislation in North Carolina came less than a week after the gender-neutral sign on a single-stall restroom was vandalized in Eliot House. While the incident at Harvard was far less severe, it should serve as a reminder that such misguided intolerance can lurk under the surface of many communities.
North Carolina’s bill is the inevitable product of continued blindness to the normalization of bigotry around transgender people. Marriage equality was only a long-overdue step in support of BGLTQ rights, but it is incumbent upon people who recognize and denounce transphobia in their own communities to strive to continue effecting change through the political process.
After all, while it may be easier to ignore or dismiss events like the destruction of one sign in front of a restroom as isolated and insignificant, that narrative is not reflected by a world in which state legislatures pass overtly discriminatory bills by overwhelming majorities. Unfortunately, even Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker has so far refused to endorse a bill aimed at preventing discrimination against transgender citizens in our own state, which has some gaps in its current civil rights legislation. It is time that we listen to these concerns and actively fight to preserve BGLTQ rights both in our immediate communities and in the larger political system. We urge North Carolinians and all Americans to fight against this discriminatory bill, and to continue to fight similar intolerance in all its manifestations.
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