House Bill 2, North Carolina’s “bathroom bill,” goes far beyond bathrooms. But let’s talk about bathrooms for a minute.
First, some quick background.
In February, Charlotte City Council approved expanding the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance to protect gay, lesbian and transgender people, adding to the long-standing protections based on race, age, religion and gender. Most controversially, the ordinance said that transgender residents could use the bathroom corresponding to the gender with which they identify.
In March, the North Carolina General Assembly passed HB2, which (among many other changes) negated the Charlotte ordinance. The bill requires people to use public restrooms that correspond to what it says on their birth certificates, leading to situations where people who look like men could be forced to use the women’s room, and vice versa.
— James Parker Sheffield (@JayShef) March 24, 2016
But businesses do not have to abide by that rule. They get to choose. They are free to deny service to gay, lesbian and transgender people and/or require transgender people to use the restroom that doesn’t correspond to the person’s gender presentation. But they are also free to welcome everyone and to allow transgender people to use the restroom that does correspond to their gender presentation.
— Pure Pizza (@PurePizzaCLT) March 24, 2016
So how do transgender people know where they are welcome?
Janice Allison, a local transgender woman, has a deceptively simple plan: Just ask. Then tell. She’s been going into local restaurants and other businesses and asking if she is welcome, and whether she can use the women’s restroom.
If the answers are “yes” and “yes” she adds the business to her list of welcoming businesses, which she maintains on her website justaskandtell.com.
So far, the response has been overwhelmingly positive. Businesses have been contacting her, asking to be added to the list.
“I just ask when I walk in the door if it’s OK I eat there and if I can use the restroom according to my gender identity if needed, and have never had a ‘no’,” Allison says.
Allison isn’t the only one keeping lists. Emily Waggoner, a former North Carolinian, created a Google map of businesses that have publicly stated that their bathrooms are safe for transgender people.
A final thought from Allison
“This bill was created so that North Carolina business owners could have the right to refuse service to anyone they don’t like,” she said. “… Now, personally, I don’t see anything wrong with a business saying they don’t want to serve me. All I ask is tell me to my face or post a sign in your window like they did when they didn’t like Black, Chinese or Hispanic people. This way I can go next door and purchase my hamburger and Coke without being hated while I eat.”
Photos: Observer file photo; Janice Allison