Attorney General Loretta Lynch took to the podium on Monday to announce the Justice Department’s lawsuit against North Carolina over HB2, the state’s transphobic bathroom law. It could have been a forgettable speech, dry and boring, thick with legalese, though perhaps just a little combative.
It wasn’t any of those things. It was historic. It soared.
To the transgender community, Lynch said, “We see you, we stand with you, and we will protect you.”
These were words the transgender community had never before heard from such a high-profile government official.
Lynch’s speech might be the most significant step in LGBT rights since the American Psychiatric Association ended the policy of branding homosexuality a mental illness.
In Texas, our leaders aren’t quite so enlightened. They’ve made it clear that they won’t stand with transgender Texans, certainly won’t protect them, and if they had their druthers, would prefer not to have to see them.
Leaders like Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, for example, who was so incensed by the Fort Worth school district’s decision to craft a transgender-inclusive nondiscrimination policy that he sought out the nearest microphone to call for Fort Worth Superintendent Kent Scribner’s immediate resignation. (Scribner politely declined.)
Never mind that Houston, Dallas and Austin school districts implemented similar policies some time ago, and without incident.
Or leaders like Attorney General Ken Paxton, who sent an angry screed to Target insisting they publish their transgender-friendly bathroom policy.
Never mind that he proudly announced his transphobic position on Twitter, a company that shares Target’s position on bathrooms. And never mind that the NBA, the NCAA, American Airlines, Google, Apple, Facebook, PayPal and Bruce Springsteen (and on and on) also full-throatedly oppose hateful attempts to discriminate against transgender people.
Leaders like Patrick and Paxton claim their goal is to protect women and girls, the idea being that men will dress up as women in order to indulge their predatory appetites in public facilities.
Never mind that it’s already illegal to enter a bathroom or locker room for the purpose of harming someone or invading someone’s privacy.
Never mind that in the 17 states, 200-plus cities and innumerable school districts throughout the country that have extended equal rights to transgender Americans for years, that nightmare scenario of a transgender impersonator has literally never happened. Ask any police officer.
Never mind that the bathroom law planned for the next legislative session is, short of stationing genital inspectors at every public restroom, totally unenforceable.
There’s something Orwellian about the thought of law enforcement patting down or asking folks to drop their pants before crossing a public restroom threshold.
Aren’t the people proposing these laws the same ones who say they want less government in our lives? Even Fox News’s Chris Wallace calls these bathroom laws “a solution in search of a problem.”
Let’s be clear: Bathrooms can be dangerous — for the transgender community. Seventy percent of transgender men and women report having been verbally or physically attacked while using one.
Where our public bathrooms are concerned, transgender Americans aren’t the predators — they are the prey.
Patrick has referred to the bathroom issue as a “priority” for the 2017 legislative session. Surely we have more pressing concerns.
Those with such a sincere interest in protecting our children should hold news conferences and deliver impassioned speeches about how they are going to overhaul the state’s failed Child Protective Services agency.
Surely our legislators have better things to do than pass laws that will drive businesses out of our state in a very public hurry.
History will not look kindly upon leaders who seek to marginalize — indeed, criminalize — transgender people for being who they are.
This post originally appeared in the Fort Worth Star Telegram.