Debate Forum: 5/31/16

Game of thrones

What should be the final word in the single-sex restroom debate?By Sarah Sidlow

Bathrooms have a special place in the annals of American history. They have served as sketchpads for graffitists, informative community bulletins (“for a good time call…”), public places of procrastination and porcelain cornerstones of protest.

Now, once again, the nation turns its eyes to the potty.

The U.S. Department of Justice has recently informed North Carolina’s Gov. Pat McCrory (R) that the Tar Heels’ law, HB2, violates the federal Civil Rights Act. HB2, known as the “Bathroom Bill” states that restrooms must be used by people in accordance with their biological sex. This includes bathrooms in all public schools and state buildings. It sparked an outcry among transgender individuals, whose gender identity differs from the sex assigned to them at birth. In fact, the law, and other state laws of the same ilk, has spawned a national conversation about who can use the little boys’ and girls’ rooms. Basically, the JD gave NC an ultimatum: promise you won’t enforce HB2, and we’re good. North Carolina responded by filing a lawsuit, claiming the Justice Department was adopting a “radical reinterpretation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.” The Feds responded, “anything you can do, we can do better,” and filed a lawsuit of their own, accusing North Carolina in no uncertain terms of violating both Title VII and Title IX of the Civil Rights Act, which protect against discrimination on the basis of sex in employment and education, respectively.

North Carolina is also at risk of losing its $861 million federal education funding.

Recap: HB2, and other bills like it, defines “biological sex” as “The physical condition of being male or female, which is stated on a person’s birth certificate.” Many communities view this as a pretty narrow interpretation of sex with no consideration of a person’s sexual identity. The purported purpose of the measure is to “maintain order and dignity”(words taken from a similar bill in Kansas) in facilities where people may be in compromised or embarrassing situations (read: caught with their pants down). Supporters of such measures often cite that allowing anyone to enter a bathroom they “identify” with opens the door for perverts to waltz into a women’s locker room. The law also bars cities from passing anti-discrimination ordinances to protect gay and transgender identity, which is now a power reserved for the state.

Those opposed to the measures—and there are many—indicate a slew of problems for trans individuals. For example, if transgender students request accommodations in school, they’ll only be able to use single-stall bathrooms, unisex bathrooms or faculty bathrooms, further segregating and ostracizing transgender students who probably don’t have the easiest time when it comes to bullying.

After North Carolina adopted the law, a lot of businesses said “no thanks” to North Carolina. Most recent: Pearl Jam and Bruce Springsteen have both cancelled gigs in the state, and PayPal said it would take their facility—and their 400 jobs—elsewhere.

Meanwhile, in Kansas, a similar pair of bills with additional baggage is causing quite a tizzy. SB 513 and HB 2737 pack all of the usual bathroom bill punches, with one startling addition: the “Student Physical Privacy Act” would apply to public universities in the state as well, and guarantees that anyone who sees a transgender person in the bathroom could sue their school for $2,500 every time it happened. And in other news, conservative group The American Family Association (AFA) has taken credit for testing Target’s new trans-friendly bathroom policy by sending men into women’s restrooms in protest. (We think it’s because they’re cleaner.)

Everyone’s getting in on the bathroom conversation. With state legislatures claiming it’s a state issue, the federal government launching investigations and private companies throwing their purses where their plungers are, it’s hard to tell whose sink commode will reign supreme.

Reach Dayton City Paper editor Sarah Sidlow at

Get over it

By Timothy Walker

The restroom. The lavatory. The potty. The loo. Never before in these United States has the bathroom received so much attention, not even from Mr. Clean.

On March 23, 2016, the legislature of North Carolina passed HB2, the “Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act,” triggering a national debate and a firestorm on social media and radio talk shows over public bathrooms and which facilities transgender adults should be allowed or required to use, based on their sex—“sex” now defined by North Carolina as the sex on your birth certificate, an arbitrary standard at best. Gov. Pat McCrory signed the bill that same day, making it a state law. The bill, of course, contained no language regarding how to enforce the issue, whose responsibility enforcement might be, or penalties for potential law-breakers, who might have the audacity to pee in the wrong stall.

North Carolina representatives drafted the law in response to the city of Charlotte’s February passing of an ordinance that prohibited discrimination in public accommodations on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Seems Charlotte was getting just a bit too progressive for the Tar Heels in power, and the hue and cry was long and loud in the Old North State, with supporters of HB2 claiming that it was now needed, in order to protect — what else? — both the state’s children and religious liberties.

The response from Washington was swift. The federal government stepped in on May 4, with the U.S. Department of Justice notifying the state and the governor that HB2 violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. Millions of dollars in federal education funds are at stake if North Carolina chooses to enforce its new legislation. Then, on May 13, the Obama administration issued guidance directing the nation’s public schools to allow transgender students to use the bathrooms that matched their gender identity. In a laudable move, the administration issued the guidelines to ensure that “transgender students enjoy a supportive and nondiscriminatory school environment.”

As if in a race to be the most bass-ackwards state in the union, Kansas and Oklahoma began hurriedly drafting legislation similar to HB2. Oklahoma’s law goes even further, saying that any student can request a “religious accommodation” from a school for restrooms, athletic changing facilities or showers that are exclusively used by people with the anatomical sex at birth that is similar to their own. Theoretically, this means that a male student could request that the school provide facilities only for use by other students who were male when they were born.

This controversy may well be the nadir of public debate in our society. The prevailing attitude among most supporters of these bills appears to be that we are all born either one way or another, based on our plumbing and a pair of sex chromosomes—dammit, you’re either XY or XX, male or female, and that sex is assigned at birth (as if mandated by God himself) and you’re never allowed to alter that. And by the way, while we’re at it, if you’re a boy, then you should like girls. And if you’re a girl, then you should like boys. It’s as if a huge segment of our society — Trump supporters, perhaps? — want to drag our nation backward and erase the progressive strides our nation has made over the past 50 years.

It goes without saying that an individual’s sexual identity can sometimes be a complex matter. This is a difficult situation for the individual, who would much prefer to not draw attention to themselves or their gender—and it’s not like this is a new situation. For decades now, transgender individuals have been using restrooms that correspond to the gender they’ve embraced—have we really ever had any problems with this? Does it really even matter? Or are you planning to peek under the stall’s wall to see if the man or woman sitting on the throne next door shares the same junk as you?

If I were in charge, no one but the individual business would be allowed to determine how their bathrooms are used. In my own personal business, this is exactly how I would handle it. In schools and in public restrooms—yes, the federal government has a mandate to protect the rights of American citizens. If the U.S. Department of Justice has to step in to protect your rights from being violated by your own misguided state legislature, then so be it.

But this is such a ridiculous issue, that it’s barely even worthy of debate. It doesn’t matter where people go to the bathroom. If you’re worried about who’s in the bathroom with your child, then go in there with them. It’s not like transgender people don’t have it rough enough as it is—let them pee where they want to, for God’s sake.

Tim Walker is 50 and a writer, DJ and local musician. He lives with his wife and their two children in Dayton, where he enjoys pizza, jazz and black t-shirts. Reach DCP freelance writer Tim Walker at

Separate by nature

By David H. Landon

In any direction one might choose to look, the last seven years under the Obama Administration has brought chaos and disruption to the American “grand experiment” of living in a democratic society that celebrates the pursuit of personal freedoms. Freedoms thought by earlier generations of Americans to be our bedrock seem to be under siege from the left. An imperial president is willing to bypass the democratically elected Congress by using executive orders to shape this country into the image of his liking: a politically-correct, apologetic nanny state where every difference in our human experience gives rise to victimhood and to an overreaching federal government which is there to validate every wrong, real or perceived.

If Americans thought that the president must surely be finished with his efforts to “fundamentally reshape America,” they would be wrong. Now the Federal Government has decided who should join us in public restrooms. The Obama Administration, through its Department of Justice has recently informed North Carolina that their recently passed law HB2, violates the federal Civil Rights Act.

The clear meaning of the law states that if you were born with a penis, you use the men’s bathroom; if you were born with the female genitalia, you use the ladies’ bathroom. This includes bathrooms in all public schools and state buildings. The reason given for the new law was one of public safety. Lawmakers in North Carolina were responding to concerns by parents that their daughters have the right to not be confronted in the vulnerable confines of a public restroom by a member of the biological opposite sex.

It’s been 45 years since the movie “Myra Breckinridge” shocked mainstream America with a story about gender identity. We come a long way towards understanding and acceptance, but now with this bathroom issue we’re at an impasse.

Despite being threatened with the loss of nearly $861 million in federal educational funding and some national corporations such as PayPal and Deutsche Bank announcing their decision to not expand into North Carolina, the Governor and state legislature seem to be digging in. Earlier this month they filed a lawsuit in federal court claiming that the federal government had adopted a “radical interpretation of the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. The Obama Justice Department fired back with a lawsuit of their own bringing a sex discrimination charge against North Carolina under the authority of both Title VII and Title IX.

The Obama Administration issued guidance last Friday directing public schools to allow transgender students to use bathrooms matching their gender identity. A joint letter from the Departments of Education and Justice went to schools Friday with guidelines to ensure that “transgender students enjoy a supportive and nondiscriminatory school environment,” the Obama administration said.

This North Carolina bill provoked an outcry among transgender community. To those individuals, their gender at birth based on the combination of XY chromosomes does not match the sexual identity they now choose to inhabit. Transgenders, estimated to make up less than one half of one percent of the population, are angry with the law. They have many groups rallying to their cause as they are urging boycotts of North Carolina until the law is changed. As a result of the law, everyone is talking about bathroom politics as a heated national conversation is underway about who should be allowed to be in the public bathroom stall next to you.

So what is the right answer when two basic rights collide? We have North Carolina addressing the right to privacy by citizens while using a public restroom. And we have the right of those who identify as transgender to not face discrimination because of their sexual identity. Let’s be honest. The real concern is for women, young women especially, who are placed in, at the very least, an uncomfortable situation when a person, however she identifies sexually in her own mind, is in the next stall with male genitalia swinging. This is the cause of the angst for those who applaud the action taken by North Carolina.

As much as we all want to accept the notion that we all should be treated equally in every instance, there are occasions where societal norms have separated us based on nature and experience. This would seem to me to be one such instance. There are steps which going forward all schools and government offices will be forced to take in terms of facility design, so that a third option is available for a transgender person. Many businesses today have three restrooms, with the third marked as a family bathroom. And yes, asking a transgender individual to use either the restroom which matches their biological sex or that third “family” restroom is treating them differently than non-transgender individuals. They are different, to a degree, and having the courage to say so might be the first step in finding a solution that while not perfect, accommodates everyone.

David H. Landon is the former Chairman of the Montgomery County Republican Party Central Committee. He can be reached at

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Reach DCP editor Sarah Sidlow at

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