North Carolina Tells Court Trans People Aren’t Really Trans, Just “Delusional”

An anti-HB2 poster at Bull McCabe’s Irish Pub in Durham, North Carolina. 

Sara D. Davis/Getty Images

North Carolina filed a brief on Wednesday, opposing the federal government’s motion to halt the enforcement of HB2 as a legal challenge makes its way through the courts. The brief begins with a typo, calling itself a “BRIEF IN OPPPOSITON” [sic], and only goes downhill from there. Most of North Carolina’s arguments in defense of its indefensible anti-LGBTQ law are familiar by this point. But Thursday’s brief also puts front and center a claim it has heretofore deployed only as subtext: Not just that trans people don’t deserve rights, but that trans people don’t exist at all.

North Carolina describes sex as being “defined in terms of the complementary roles that males and females play in reproduction.” Sex, the brief claims, “is accordingly a ‘binary,’ either-or proposition: a person is either male or female, and the hypothesis of a ‘third’ sex is contrary to a sound medical and physiological understanding of the human person.” Wait a minute, you might think: Aren’t some people, often called “intersex,” born with both male and female attributes? Yes, the brief admits, but this condition is “extremely rare,” so the law must ignore its existence altogether. (One wonders if the brief’s drafters ever paused their writing to watch intersex Olympian Caster Semenya compete.)

We soon learn that “some small number of individuals experience incongruence between their gender identity—how they internally perceive themselves as male, female, or some other category—and their sex. This rare condition is today called ‘gender dysphoria’ and was formerly called ‘gender identity disorder.’ ” But these “transgender” people (the brief puts the word in scare quotes) certainly don’t deserve to have their gender identity respected. That’s because gender dysphoria isn’t “determined at birth and fixed.” Quite the opposite: According to North Carolina, trans people suffer from a disorder inflicted upon them by “familial psychopathology (especially paternal)” and childhood abuse.

Admittedly, the state acknowledges that trans kids should be treated with “compassionate care.” But it insists that the correct care involves refusing to accept trans kids’ gender identity and forcing them to attempt to adapt to “biological sex.” The brief asserts that “the vast majority” of gender dysphoria diagnoses in adolescents are false and that almost every child will eventually “outgrow cross-gender identification.” In the meantime, trans kids should be treated by therapists who refuse to affirm their gender identity until nature can “do its work in puberty.” (North Carolina assumes, without explaining why, that any child who goes through puberty in accordance with her “biological sex” will come to disavow prepubescent gender dysphoria.) The upshot of this rant is that the state has every right to discriminate against trans people, since their very identity is really just a lie.

Of course, all of this is pure nonsense, most of it peddled by an anti-LGBTQ hate group called the American College of Pediatricians, which exists to put a legitimate-sounding name on rubbish research. Actual medical organizations like the American Psychological Association recognize that the data here all points in one direction: Gender dysphoria is a real, biological phenomenon, and trans kids cannot be “cured” of their identity through conversion therapy. Indeed, the evidence clearly demonstrates that trans kids thrive when their gender identities are affirmed and suffer gravely when they are not.

These facts do not stop North Carolina from providing the court with a statement by Quentin L. Van Meter—vice president of the American College of Pediatricians—alleging that “gender identity discordance” is most likely “a delusional state.” But I wonder whether the real delusional state here isn’t the dissociative fugue into which North Carolina Republican Gov. Pat McCrory seems to have wandered. Two days after his state filed this absurd brief, the NBA announced that it would host the 2017 All-Star game in New Orleans, having scrapped plans to hold it in Charlotte due to HB2. “This is another classic example of politically-correct hypocrisy gone mad,” McCrory declared. Somebody has definitely gone mad in the uproar spurred by HB2. But it wasn’t the NBA.