Guest Column: Bathroom Bill: I’ll go with you

India Weese and Faith Medlock

North Carolina passed HB2 on March 23. The so-called “bathroom bill” has been called a step backwards by members of the trans community and their supporters. It specifies that all individuals must use public bathrooms that match the sex listed on their birth certificate. The rationale for the bill is that some people, particularly women who have suffered abuse at the hands of men, would be uncomfortable with someone whose sex assigned at birth is male being in the same bathroom as them.

In accordance with this law, trans men, who are male and who tend appear to be male in every outward sense must use the women’s bathroom. The same applies to trans women having to use the men’s bathroom.  In reality, the discomfort a person would feel if a trans person showed up in their bathroom would be far less than the discomfort a trans person would feel being forced into a bathroom not their own.

Furthermore, it may work against what some pro-HB2 people have argued is the purpose of the law. These advocates claim trans individuals choosing their bathroom could open the door for sexual predators to enter a bathroom of the opposite sex and assault its occupants. The issue with that logic is that this law forces those who present one way to enter the opposite bathroom which doesn’t solve any problems or add any protections. HB2 is also a state-wide law and as such prevents counties and jurisdictions from creating their own trans protection measures.

North Carolina’s HB2 is not the only law to be proposed recently that is a step backwards in equal rights for the trans community, though it is one of the most prominent to have passed. Many states have proposed measures like this one and it is our fear this may happen in Ohio, particularly since Ohio was one of the hold-out states for something as simple as marriage equality.

Should such a law be proposed on a national scale or in your home state, we encourage you to write to your representatives—let them know that these bills are not issues of privacy, they are instances of clear discrimination. Every person deserves to go about their lives with the peace of mind that they will not face potential harassment for something as inconsequential as going to the bathroom.

As a way to support trans rights, a campaign has been spreading around the country–allies can now wear buttons with the label “I’ll go with you” to signify that it is safe for someone to ask them to accompany them in public bathrooms. Kent State is hoping to have the campaign in full swing by fall 2016, distributing these buttons to students at PRIDE!Kent and Trans*Fusion-led events, as well as general gatherings like Blastoff. Though this is definitely not a long-term solution, it is something that anyone can participate in to support trans individuals.

We can each make a difference in the lives of individuals affected by these laws, as Robert F. Kennedy said, “each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope.”