Transgender rights issues have once again been sparked by statements stemming from the political arena, specifically from a gubernatorial candidate in North Carolina. The candidate, who wishes to lead the state of North Carolina, purposively stirred up controversy with his public statement suggesting that trans women should face arrest if they use bathrooms that correspond with their gender identities rather than the sex they were assigned at birth.
North Carolina’s political landscape has been fraught with debate over such issues in recent years. It was the battleground of House Bill 2, also known as the bathroom bill, in 2016, which triggered widespread controversy and protestation. This piece of legislation prohibited individuals from using public restrooms that did not align with their gender assigned at birth—effectively targeting and marginalizing the trans community.
The gubernatorial candidate’s statement aligns with a similar archaic strand of thought. By suggesting that trans women should be arrested for using facilities they identify with, he is echoing the same note of discrimination that was embodied by the bathroom bill.
One major point of opposition to this line of thought is the concept of gender identity itself—the internal, deeply rooted understanding of one’s own gender. Gender is not solely about physical or biological attributes. It extends to one’s psychological identification and societal interactions. Trans women identify as women, live as women, and thus, prefer to use the women’s room—just as cisgender women do. To criminalize this is to delegitimize their personal identity, sending harmful and regressive signals to society at large.
This proposed penalization also fails to account for the negative ramifications it would bear on the mental health of transgender individuals. Several studies have underscored the elevated rates of anxiety, depression, and suicide amongst the transgender community, a significant portion of which can be attributed to societal rejection and discrimination. Actions such as criminalizing the use of certain public facilities would undeniably amplify these feelings of stigmatization.
Furthermore, it could lead to several logistical and safety concerns. For a trans woman to be forced to use a men’s restroom would significantly increase her risk of suffering verbal and physical abuse, which is already alarmingly high within the transgender community.
Another point to consider is that this proposed rule would practically be unenforceable without infringing on privacy rights. How would the gender of each individual entering a restroom be verified without violating personal boundaries? Introducing such invasive measures would not only exacerbate existing discrimination against transgender people but could also have