LGBT

Lawsuit Challenging North Carolina’s Anti-LGBT Law Focuses On Transgender Men

CREDIT: AP Photo/Emery P. Dalesio

Trans rights activists protested outside the North Carolina Executive Mansion last Thursday.

It took only one day for North Carolina’s legislature to pass the country’s most sweeping anti-LGBT bill (HB2), and only four days after that for Lambda Legal and the ACLU of North Carolina to file a lawsuit challenging it.

The suit takes direct aim at the law’s ban on transgender people using bathrooms that match their gender identity by highlighting the experiences of two transgender men, Joaquín Carcaño and Payton Grey McGarry. A third plaintiff, lesbian Angela Gilmore, further challenges the other anti-LGBT provisions in the law. All three are part of the state university system in some capacity.

Carcaño works for UNC-Chapel Hill’s Institute for Global Health and Infection Disease, while McGarry is a full-time student at UNC-Greensboro. Both have undergone hormone therapy and regularly use the men’s restrooms, which they would now be prohibited from doing under HB2. Because they both spend time in buildings with only sex-segregated restrooms, this creates a real obstacle.

“Using the women’s restroom is not a viable option for Mr. Carcaño, just as it would not be a viable option for non-transgender men to be forced to use the women’s restroom,” the suit explains. “Forcing Mr. Carcaño to use the women’s restroom would also cause substantial harm to his mental health and well-being. It would also force him to disclose to others the fact that he is transgender, which itself could lead to violence and harassment.”

Additionally, “The idea of being forced into the women’s restroom causes Mr. Carcaño to
experience significant anxiety as he knows that it would be distressing for him and
uncomfortable for others. He fears for his safety because of the passage of HB2.” McGarry expresses similar concerns.

As a result, both Carcaño and McGarry would be significantly burdened. Carcaño would have to leave campus to find a local business with a men’s room or find a gender-neutral bathroom in another building, stigmatizing him and interfering with his ability to perform his job duties. Likewise, McGarry would have to find single-use restrooms outside the buildings where he has class, which would “disrupt his ability to attend class and would interfere with his educational opportunities.”

Because North Carolina law does allow transgender people to change their birth certificate if they’ve undergone sex reassignment surgery, there is room under HB2 for transgender people to legally access bathrooms, but that exception does not work for either plaintiff. Such surgeries “may not be medically necessary, advisable, or affordable for any given person,” the suit notes, adding that for McGarry, “surgery is not medically necessary for him.”

As an associate dean at North Carolina Central University, Gilmore and her wife also face consequences. The suit notes that because they have the same first name, they often have to disclose their lesbian relationship. They often travel to Charlotte and will now no longer be protected by the city’s sexual orientation nondiscrimination protections, which HB2 preempts. In regards to the claims that HB2 makes bathrooms safer, the suit also notes, “As a non-transgender woman who always uses the facilities designated for women in both public and private spaces, the passage of H.B. 2 does not make Ms. Gilmore feel safer in these facilities.”

The filing of the lawsuit follows a weekend of national backlash and several attempts at damage control from state officials. For example, Gov. Pat McCrory (R) issued a “myths vs. facts” FAQ that ignores all of the ways the law most disadvantages LGBT people. It also claims that Charlotte’s LGBT protections would have required businesses “to allow a man into a women’s restroom, shower, or locker room if they choose,” which is patently untrue.

State Rep. Dan Bishop (R), sponsor of HB2, also stopped by Meet The Press on Sunday to defend the bill, sharing several false talking points. “What we did was restore common sense, and we did it on a statewide basis,” he claimed, similarly adding that Charlotte “went off the cliff and opened up women’s bathrooms to men.”

Bishop actually denied that the law actually rolls back any LGBT nondiscrimination — the very thing the law explicitly does. Referring to people “who would dishonestly attack this law,” he claimed that “they can point to no protection that’s been rolled back.” He was adamant that “there is nothing that we’ve cut back, nothing at all.” Many have accused Bishop of simply lying in the interview and criticized host Chuck Todd for not pushing back on any of those claims.

By featuring two transgender men, the lawsuit cuts through these claims and highlights the real impact of the law. Like in the fight against Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO), transgender men are regularly erased from the discussion as opponents of transgender protections focus instead on what they believe will happen in women’s facilities.

“HB2 endangers the safety, privacy, security, and well-being of transgender individuals,” it explains. “For example, if a transgender woman were to use the men’s restroom, she likely would be harassed and might be assaulted by men who believed that she should not be in the men’s restroom. Similarly, if a transgender man were to use the women’s restroom, he likely would be harassed and might be assaulted by women who believe he should not be in the women’s restroom.”

And likewise, it does nothing to promote the safety, privacy, security, or well-being of anybody.