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The unintended consequence of bathroom bills that lawmakers don’t want you to think about

Transgender Americans are in the midst of a public health crisis. The homicide rate for trans people hit a historic high last year, and roughly 41 percent of trans people have tried to kill themselves. But what are lawmakers in North Carolina upset about?


North Carolina's new law forbids transgender people in public buildings and schools from entering bathrooms that align with their gender identity. Supporters of the law say not doing so would put women and girls at risk of assault in bathrooms by men. But what politicians like Gov. Pat McCrory, who signed the bill into law, have failed to understand is that their law will just do that.

Some trans men, like Texas activist Michael Hughes, have demonstrated on social media the loophole of bathroom bills like HB2: Transgender men who identify and live their lives as men would be forced to use women's bathrooms.

Michael C. Hughes poses in women's bathroom.
Michael C. Hughes/Twitter

Bathrooms are already dangerous spaces for trans people without the added burden of complying with HB2. One study found that 70 percent of trans individuals had experienced harassment in a bathroom, and laws like HB2 heighten that danger.

Trans people told Georgia State University researcher Kristie L. Seelman that anticipating (and experiencing) harassment or being asked to leave the restroom makes the simple act of relieving oneself incredibly stressful. In fact, research suggests bills like the one in North Carolina, even if they don’t pass, could spark a health crisis for local transgender people: Restricting bathroom access on the basis of gender identity is linked to a 45 percent increase in the risk of suicide attempts.

Maybe those figures should be the ones keeping lawmakers up at night.