I’m certain I’m not the first to raise this question about the North Carolina anti-transgender law. We’ve all heard that the state now requires those who use public toilets, locker rooms and other male-female separated facilities to relieve themselves only in spaces designated for their gender on the day they were born: My question is, how will that be determined? Will there be potty police stationed at each entrance to check birth certificates? What if you’re like most of us and don’t carry your birth certificate with you? Then what? Are you denied access? If so, I have some investment advice for North Carolinians: Buy stock in the company that makes Depends.
Actually, North Carolina is not the only jurisdiction that has found it necessary to crack down on a menace we didn’t know we had: pervs taking advantage of laws protecting those whose sexual identity has evolved. Apparently, politicians feel a need to raise the ramparts against the hordes of mainly male predators who will want to gain legal access to ladies rooms, endangering little girls everywhere. This is much more than fodder for bathroom humor. This is serious, uh, business.
The real business is election-year politics. Never mind that laws such as North Carolina’s passed with no evidence that sex offenders, for instance, were toidy stalkers; those on the right have created an issue that resonates far beyond their extremes. Let’s face it, we all — or at least most of us — will protect our children at whatever cost. So parents of little Melanie or Heather are easily frightened about exposing them to this kind of peril, no matter how contrived and no matter how it violates the legal protections and feelings of transgender children. Normally, these same parents would have compassion for someone going through a gender-confusion struggle, but their sympathy ends where their child’s welfare begins, even though the whole commotion is based on a fraud. In other words, this is the kind of irrational but potent political issue that could sway a lot of voters.
The Obama administration feeds this frenzy by doing its job, warning states and school districts that such restrictions violate civil-rights laws, with the barely implied reminder that millions in federal financial aid could be jeopardized. That’s all the politicians in a place like Texas need. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick calls this “blackmail,” saying that Barack Obama can keep his “30 pieces of silver.” Making sure he left no doubt that he and the others were pandering to religious zealots, Patrick described this latest confrontation as the “biggest issue facing families and schools in America since prayer was taken out of public schools.” He’s operating on a Texas mindset that the best way to guarantee a political future is to live in the past.
He’s also reaching back generations when it comes to sexual matters. There are many who base their politics on sex. And deviation from the norm, whatever that means, is evil. Gay marriage is another popular cause for these theocrats. Now they’ve managed to sound another alarm creating these bathroom bills to protect us all against transgenders.
Far too many people out there in the voter-rich suburbs don’t have any earthly idea what transgender even means. Chances are, they’ve never talked to one (that they know of). So they can’t really relate to the pain that those going through such transitions experience. Civil-rights laws exist to protect minorities of any sort from the agony of prejudice. Those who oppose the obsolete status quo raise the same objections whether it’s racial or sexual. They cite religious excuses for oppression and argue supremacy of the states. Neither point is consistent with the Constitution, but that doesn’t stop them. Oftentimes they win politically even when they lose in court. This may be one of those times. Unfortunately, as a nation, we all lose.
Bob Franken is a longtime broadcast journalist, including 20 years at CNN.