Viewpoint

North Carolina’s discriminatory House Bill 2 will hurt transgender youth

From left, Rev. Andrew Shipley, Mary Patelos, hold up signs during the Transgender Day of Visibility Rally held at the Charlotte Mecklenburg Government Center on March 31.
From left, Rev. Andrew Shipley, Mary Patelos, hold up signs during the Transgender Day of Visibility Rally held at the Charlotte Mecklenburg Government Center on March 31. rlahser@charlotteobserver.com

From Bob Simmons, executive director of the Council for Children’s Rights, a Charlotte child advocacy nonprofit.

Safety, particularly the protection of children and women from male predators in women’s restrooms, was the principal justification offered by the General Assembly and the governor for their adoption of the law known as HB2. Otherwise, they say they would not have invalidated the nondiscrimination ordinances in Charlotte and in other North Carolina cities and towns.

But there is no evidence from any of the other places in America with broad nondiscrimination ordinances like Charlotte’s that male predators have ever used the cover of the ordinance to enter a women’s bathroom to commit a crime against a child or a woman. None. Some of those ordinances have been in effect for years.

On the other hand, there is ample evidence that LGBTQ children and youth have been the victims of bullying and assaults based on their expressed identity. The danger is especially acute for transgender children and youth.

Lack of protection for LGBTQ people in laws like HB2, and negative messages in the rhetoric behind those laws, embolden the peers of our LGBTQ children and youth to bully them and to assault them, most often in the restrooms and locker rooms they must share because of the sex listed on their birth certificate. A study released in 2009 found that 53 percent of transgender students have been physically harassed (e.g., pushed or shoved) in school in the past year because of their gender expression.

Those negative messages received by LGBTQ children and youth about their identity are also significant risk factors for mental health difficulties resulting in self-harm and suicide: 41 percent of transgender people have attempted suicide.

Finally, those negative messages often deprive LGBTQ children and youth of the protection they should receive from the adults entrusted with their care: 39 percent of transgender students heard school staff make negative comments about someone’s gender expression sometimes, often, or frequently in the past year; and only 11 percent of transgender students said that school staff intervened most of the time or always when hearing negative remarks about someone’s gender expression.

As a result, 82 percent of transgender students feel unsafe at their school due to gender expression; 47 percent of transgender students reported skipping a class at least once in the past month; and 46 percent report missing at least one day of school in the past month because they felt unsafe or uncomfortable.

As we consider laws to protect our citizens from danger, we should base our decisions on facts. The facts show that the safety of our LGBTQ neighbors, especially our children and youth, is at risk. There is more information at the website of our community partner Time Out Youth, www.timeoutyouth.org. The facts should lead us to tell our LGBTQ children and youth that we value them and that we will support laws to protect them.

Data Source: Greytak, E. A., Kosciw, J. G., and Diaz, E. M. (2009). Harsh Realities: The Experiences of Transgender Youth in Our Nation’s Schools. New York: GLSEN.

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