North Carolina Republican Gov. Pat McCrory is currently tanking in the polls due largely to his support for HB2, an extraordinarily nasty law that bars most transgender people from using government bathrooms and repeals local LGBTQ nondiscrimination ordinances. But instead of salvaging his campaign by rescinding his support for HB2, McCrory has decided to go down with the ship. During a Tuesday debate between McCrory and his Democratic opponent, the governor declared that Caitlyn Jenner should be forced to use the men’s restroom.
“In the private sector in North Carolina, she can go wherever the private sector wants her to,” McCrory said of the famous transgender athlete, gesturing to the fact that HB2 nullified existing protections for transgender people in some cities. “If she’s going to a shower facility at [University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill] after running around the track, she’s going to use the men’s shower.”
What’s fascinating about this comment is that, by its own terms, HB2 requires trans people to use the bathroom and locker room that corresponds to the sex on their birth certificate. That’s an onerous requirement, because many states severely restrict trans people’s ability to alter their birth certificates. Some explicitly prohibit anyone from changing their birth-certificate sex, including North Carolina’s neighbor Tennessee.
But Caitlyn Jenner did change her birth certificate! Her official paperwork lists her as female. That leads to a much more interesting question: Would McCrory still want to bar her from the bathroom? Or, upon learning that Jenner’s birth certificate lists her as female, would he welcome her into the women’s facilities throughout the state? The answer would reveal McCrory’s true motives in championing HB2. Does he really, as he states, simply want to keep sexual predators out of women’s bathrooms? Or is does he actually reject the validity of trans people’s gender and want to keep them out of their preferred bathroom altogether?
I have my suspicions, but I don’t know McCrory’s heart, so I can’t say with certainty that he’s merely disgusted by trans people and eager to dehumanize and humiliate them using state power. (One possible clue: He correctly genders Jenner while shunting her into the men’s room—so he knows that she should be seen as a woman but personally refuses to do so.) What I do know is that McCrory finally understands just how terribly he erred by signing HB2 and seems to grasp that his political future is quickly sliding down the drain. In an address to anti-LGBTQ pastors last Friday—delivered shortly before Hurricane Matthew hit the state—McCrory complained that “the silent majority has got to quit being silent and speak up” before the election because “the surveys are showing you are the minority.” He informed that pastors that “you’re being purged because of your silence,” then described the toll that HB2 had taken on him and his family:
It’s almost like the George Orwell book 1984, where if you disagree with Big Brother, or you go against the thought police, if you remember that book, you will be purged and you will disappear. My wife, for example, in Charlotte, she primarily stays in Charlotte. She’s been disinvited to charity events, and basically, they call her up and they say, “You know, you better not come. You better not come.” …
My wife and I, we’re being shunned for a political disagreement, a value disagreement. … And it’s personal, it’s death threats. Last week I was verbally assaulted by a 21-year-old drunk student. And she was arrested. And those are tough. Everyone says, “Gosh you must have thick skin.” I don’t have thick skin, I just hide it. … It gets to me, I just hide it until I go home and sit in a room or walk a dog and I go, “Wow, this is depressing.” So I need to let you know it’s not easy.
You really do have to feel for poor Pat. But one quick quibble: Opponents of HB2 are not interested in purging thoughts. They are interested in repealing a law that he signed and is vigorously defending. If McCrory truly cannot understand the difference between thoughts (not the law) and statutes (the law), he has much bigger problems than transphobia to contend with.