WOL – In light of North Carolina’s recent anti-transgender legislation, which states that single-sex bathrooms and changing facilities can be used only by individuals who have that sex on their birth certificates, the Georgia grocery store’s effort to include all people regardless of identity is a heart-warming sign that the laws of the land don’t necessarily reflect the total population’s opinions – especially in a state that almost passed a similar law.
The North Carolina law restricts transgender citizens from using facilities in line with the gender with which they identify, and the backlash against it continues the longstanding fight for equal, gender-neutral bathroom access, which has been a major issue for the non-binary community for years.
“I think there’s a lot of fear and misinformation. Everyone has to use the restroom,” says Olin Winn-Ritzenberg, the Education Services Coordinator at The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center, a New York community center that’s served as a beacon for non-binary youth and adults since 1983. “People should be able to access facilities in accordance with the gender they identify as, no matter what.”
Most anti-transgender laws, like North Carolina’s, work by attempting to regulate according to the gender assigned to a person at birth, which a transgender or intersex person might no longer identify, or pass, as. With no real proof required to enter, say, a bathroom in the middle of nowhere in North Carolina, a transgender person’s basic right to use a bathroom is monitored by fear and anxiety, especially if their transition is more visible than others’. As of now, South Carolina, Tennessee, Kansas, and Minnesota are all pushing similar laws, despite mixed support within each state.
Olin also points out that, in his experience, a transgender person is far more likely to be fearful of public bathrooms than a cisgender person, since they’ve historically been a place of violence on the community these laws claim to be fearful of.
The more these laws take away civil rights, like the right to use a public space, the more likely it is for violence to be accepted towards those being discriminated against, since the law is no longer fully protecting them from harm.
“Equal access does not in any way legalize assault,” says Olin. “Assault and predation on anybody is a criminal offense, and everybody should be safe from that.”
Altering the signs on gendered bathrooms to say they are for all people who identify as the gender listed, as in “This restroom is for all people who identify as a man” is also a great way to avoid confusions and make everyone feel included. Katja notes that signs making the situation about all people, like Kroger’s, can help change a community’s mindset, and doesn’t single out queer customers.
Acceptance of the transgender community has been a long battle, and while more and more cisgender allies are taking up the fight, the need for corrective legislation and protection remains. (teenvogue/nia/data1)