4 questions about the new bathroom bill

It’s time to investigate the latest issue in this country that has people up in arms, causing arguments about the nature of identity, judgment, and fear.

For this, we will have to journey to the Carolinas, although hey, it’s North Carolina this time. Good job finally seizing that mantle from your southern cousin!

It’s time to get to the bottom of the Bathroom Bill.


Which sounds like both a crappy superhero and who the law is trying to stop.

The law, also known as HB2 in North Carolina, mandates that restrooms in public buildings are to be used by people who fit the gender of that restroom as it was recorded on their birth certificate. This is drawing the ire of the LGBT community and those in favor of LGBT rights, since transgendered people identify with the gender opposite the one they were born with.

But this law is fascinating beyond the stark disagreement between its proponents and opponents. There are many questions that such a law raises.

Why is this law needed?

There hasn’t historically been much in the way of legislating restroom usage. It was always sort of understand that men went in the men’s room and women in the women’s room, before people at large really understood what transgendered meant. People just went in whatever bathroom they wanted and no one really kept track.

That means transgendered people have been using the now-illegal bathrooms for years and years. Now all of a sudden there’s a fear that children are in danger because men can go in women’s restrooms.

That’s how it will be phrased, that it’s stopping all men[1] and not focusing on transgendered women. The talking point there is that men are going to use this loophole to just walk right into women’s restrooms and, I don’t know, look at the stall door while they pee? Abuse children whose parents just leave them running with wild abandon in a bathroom?

If those are the kinds of things you’re worried about, you could create laws against those things. Which is what we already have. It’s very illegal to abuse kids, no matter what room you do it in.

And despite all these years of transgendered folks not having any laws stopping them from going into any bathroom at all, there aren’t reports of any of these nefarious deeds happening.

If you’re still not sure exactly what kind of crimes people are afraid of, it’s the ones that politicians commit from time to time.


Not gay, just pled guilty following his arrest for lewd behavior after soliciting sex from an undercover cop in a public men’s restroom. Just an honest mistake, really.

The consequences are already illegal, so this law is trying to make the cause illegal, even though that sounds an awful lot like profiling, and it’s profiling the wrong people.

What are the consequences?

My roughly two minutes of getting depressed reading about this issue didn’t reveal the details of the consequences. What happens to someone caught using the “wrong” restroom?

Are there fines? Are you just kicked out of the building? Is there potential jail time? How big of a deal is using a bathroom marked for someone born with a different gender than you were?

There’s no cutting insight here. I’m just genuinely curious how they’re going to punish the people I’m not even sure they can catch.

As for some of those people…

What about the uggos?

Even among people who identify with the gender bits they were born with, not everyone looks like the classic standard of that gender. Even beyond people who don’t meet standard definitions of attractiveness, some dudes look feminine and some ladies look masculine.

What happens to them? Is there going to be someone who forces them to show an ID, humiliating them by essentially saying “You look ugly enough that I don’t think you’re the gender you say you are”?

This is an especially troubling consideration for teens, who develop at different times and already generally have a lot of issues about fitting in. And this isn’t a hypothetical anymore, since it’s already happened to a 15-year-old girl. Granted, that was in a Krispy Kreme and not a public building, so it wasn’t subject to the law, but the law doesn’t stop private businesses from having the same rules, and the same issues are easily translatable to public buildings.

What about everyone else?

Transgendered people and pervs aren’t the only ones who go into bathrooms labeled with the gender they weren’t born with. Even red-blooded, Constitution-loving, regular Americans could be caught up in this law.

Fathers with daughters and mothers with sons might find themselves in an unwinnable situation. Family and unisex bathrooms aren’t everywhere, and even if they were, sometimes they’re occupied. Little kids aren’t exactly known for their patience when it comes to these emergency situations; waiting is rarely an option. What are they supposed to do, send their kids into the bathrooms alone? There could be creeps in there!

People caring for their infirm parents could face this situation as well. What about a man with his elderly mother who needs assistance using the facilities? Which one of them will you have break the law?

What if I’m involved in some tragic accident involving a tanker full of aerosoled cheese-like substance, and in addition to never being able to look a Philly cheese steak in the eye again, I’m left with serious waste elimination issues?


And you know there are eyes in there. Or at least parts of them.

Assuming my poor, sweet wife stays with me[2], and I need assistance in a public restroom in North Carolina, what do we do?

How is this law going to be enforced?

This is the biggest question in my mind.[3] To have this law mean anything there need to be consequences for not following it–whatever those consequences wind up being. For there to be consequences, there has to be a way to catch people breaking it. How do you do that?

Without some sort of formal method of catching these vicious criminals breaking the law, we’ll turn to the general public, which is vigilantism, which is a crime and nowhere as cool as what Batman does.


Not the vigilante we need, but the one we deserve right now.

Are there going to be armed guards or bouncers outside the restrooms, checking IDs? What if you forget your ID that day? You just don’t get to go to the bathroom? Or does the bouncer pick the one that looks most appropriate?

Perhaps we could use the body scanners used at airports now to check everyone has the proper genitalia. Although since that would involve other people getting a look at your personal bits–and sometimes sharing a laugh over them–that would seem to cause the exact thing the bill is trying to prevent. This is probably not the best way to go.

Without some way of enforcing it, this bill is meaningless. Almost like it was a political maneuver based more on firing up a base of voters than affecting any actual change…


Or a political maneuver so complex and convoluted that showing its consequences will take an entire season, a doctoral thesis, and a madness that allows one to see beyond four walls.

Nah, that can’t be it.

1. And, I suppose, predatory women. That aspect isn’t really talked about, but children are also being theoretically protected from them. See? The law is very progressive! For certain definitions of “progressive”.
2. Out of pity, perhaps? I can’t figure out why she stays with me now.
3. As a straight, gendernormative white male, I’m privileged to not have to have bigger questions in my mind about this, like what it says about the meaning of self-identification or why so many people hate and fear me, but without giving me cool X-Men powers. So I get to focus on the dumb questions.

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