WASHINGTON — As Archie Bunker might say, the world is going down the terlet.
Who could have predicted that politics would require serious discussion of who uses what restroom? Or, personally speaking, a second column?
Alas, it seems that yet greater clarity is needed regarding this terribly serious, faux dilemma of proper bathroom usage in North Carolina.
As you likely know, the state recently passed a hastily written bill, signed by Gov. Pat McCrory, to pre-empt a Charlotte law that would have allowed transgender folks to visit the facility corresponding to their gender identity.
Tar Heel lawmakers, ever alert to the presumably rampant problem of gender fakery, so ordered: Men and women must use the restroom that corresponds to their sex as indicated on their birth certificate.
It is actually not insane to insist that men use the men’s room and women use the women’s. Most people reckon this system has worked fine for as long as anyone can remember and see no reason to make accommodations for the roughly 700,000 Americans who are transgender. What has become clear, however, is that North Carolinians and others aren’t worried about transgender people; they’re worried primarily about heterosexual men who pretend they’re transgender in order to gain access to women’s quarters.
For what purpose would a man do this? I can imagine a fraternity initiation prank or a punk on a dare using the women’s facility as a foil. Oh what fun to hear the ladies shrieking. Or, perhaps, not. Maybe the women tackle the idiot and toss him out the door. That’s where I’d put my money.
As to the would-be rapist/fondler/exhibitionist, why would anyone imagine that a law forbidding transgender people from entering the women’s room would stop him from walking through an unlocked door?
The backlash to the new law has been harsh. In the latest squeeze, Pearl Jam canceled a concert in Raleigh, following Bruce Springsteen’s example. Several cities and states, including Boston and Connecticut, have cut government-subsidized travel to North Carolina. And Monday, Duke University President Richard Brodhead said that the law has damaged the state’s reputation and is having both financial and material impact on its colleges and universities.
In response to these concerns and other financial losses stemming from the law, McCrory last week issued an executive order almost as abruptly as he signed the original bill. He has said he’ll urge the Legislature to amend the law to reinstate state employees’ right to seek legal recourse in cases of discrimination for sexual orientation or gender identity. The bathroom part of the bill would remain, as would the law’s mandate that cities and municipalities may not pass their own non-discrimination laws. For McCrory, who is up for re-election, the issue comes down to conservative principles of limited government.
On Sunday’s “Meet the Press,” he told host Chuck Todd that he “will always call out government overreach.” This might be a good campaign motto, but isn’t the state overreaching by telling the residents of towns and cities that they can’t pass their own laws? In effect, this means that a business in, say, Hamlet, North Carolina, where McCrory recently visited what he termed an “African-American buffet” restaurant, could deny service to my delightful gay married neighbors.
As luck would have it, McCrory’s appearance on the NBC program coincided with my own, exactly one day following The Washington Post’s publication of a letter from McCrory excoriating me and my earlier column. What fun! Before the show, we found ourselves seated just inches apart in makeup. Nothing quite neutralizes tensions like comparing foundation notes. Miraculously, I was able to suppress the transgender quip that was performing cartwheels on the tip of my tongue.
We chatted in that Southern way — with Dentyne smiles and lizard eyes. Bless his heart.
While it is certainly understandable that some people would be uncomfortable with the idea of faux transgender males ogling their daughters, I’d be far more concerned about sending a boy into the men’s room where even pedophiles are allowed to relieve themselves. Imagine what would happen to Caitlyn Jenner if she were forced to use the men’s room. Or, what about a transgender man, who, though he’s bald, bearded, muscled and rough, is forced to use the women’s room?
But of course, she and he won’t. Because this bathroom law is utterly unenforceable and therefore unnecessary. What we have is a non-solution to a non-problem.
And my guess is McCrory knows it. He should flush HB2 down the terlet.
Kathleen Parker is a columnist for the Washington Post. Reach her at email@example.com.