In adding a clause to Hegel, Marx remarked once that the great world historical events occur twice: first as a tragedy, and then as a farce. For a 21st century version, I propose adding that it’s getting harder to tell the difference. I am of course talking about North Carolina’s infamous HB2, which requires trans* individuals to go to the restroom of their “biological sex” as recorded on their birth certificate, AND makes several forms of discrimination (racial, etc.) illegal in the state (but not against the LGBTQ) AND bars local municipalities from extending further protections (it does more, but those are enough for one blogpost). The clear intent, and the net effect, is to deprive gender non-conforming individuals from equal protection of the law, and to invite discrimination against them.
In defense of the inevitable firestorm this caused, most of the few state leaders who both support it and who have spoken on it have basically gone into a defensive crouch. The governor claimed to be “blind-sided” by questions about the law, and unclear about its implications. More generally, supporters busy themselves telling fairy tales about the danger to public safety that having “biological” men in the women’s room will cause, no matter how much those men have transitioned into being women. Nevermind that there is zero evidence that there has ever been a problem in this regard, including in the hundreds of jurisdictions that have passed ordinances like Charlotte’s, and nevermind that transitioning is about the most difficult possible way to prey on people in public restrooms. Oh, and nevermind that the law is without theoretical foundation unless you think that trans* individuals are sexual predators, and that cis folks are not.
On the farce side, this means that people who appear to be men will have to use the women’s room (and vice versa), which will almost certainly cause greater discomfort for more people than the previous status quo. On the tragic side, the law is totally unenforceable, and so encourages vigilantism against all gender non-conforming individuals, since they are now all on a continuum that ends with “not being not manly enough to use the men’s room.” As Mary Elizabeth Williams writes on Salon: