Media Asking Wrong Questions on North Carolina’s ‘Bathroom Law’

In the wake of North Carolina’s new law banning transgender people from using restrooms that correspond with their gender identity in publicly run facilities and schools, you will have heard media asking what things like the cancellation of a Bruce Springsteen concert might mean for the state’s economy.


You will have heard how Gov. Pat McCrory, who signed the law, now finds himself in the “Crossfire of  GOP Civil War,” as a Washington Post headline sympathetically put it.

You will have heard the question posed as a battle between freedoms: The Today show April 10 spoke of backlash against “various religious freedom laws,” and explained, “At issue: the rights of the LGBT community pitted against those of people with religious objections.”

What you have heard little or none of is what Media Matters research fellow Carlos Maza called “The Question Every Reporter Should Be Asking About Transgender Bathroom Bans,” namely: “How Is the Government Supposed to Figure Out a Person’s Biological Sex?”

Maza noted that media are amplifying right-wing myths about privacy and women’s safety, even though

the idea that men will pretend to be transgender to sneak into women’s restrooms has been debunked by law enforcement expertsgovernment officials and women’s safety advocates in cities and states across the country.

But while media are busy working through anti-LGBT talking points, they aren’t  asking Republican politicians to explain how they’ll enforce laws that would require people to prove their “biological sex” at the bathroom door. The law says people must use facilities that corresponding to the sex “stated on a person’s birth certificate.” So people should carry their birth certificates with them at all times?

You can’t prove someone is transgender just by looking at them. But business owners and, hey, other bathroom-goers should make snap judgments about who does and doesn’t belong?

Scarier still, Maza notes that some states are looking at bills that would award damages to anyone who shared a bathroom with a transgender person. So if media are indeed concerned with encouraging violations of privacy and safety, there are plenty of questions to ask. They just need to be sure they’re asking the right people.

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