Mark Robinson could be the Governor of North Carolina by this time next year.
Lt. Governor Robinson could be on the path to becoming one of the most extreme far-right governors in the country, and he has a plan for North Carolina. It involves excluding transgender people (or people who are presumed to be trans) from public life, and bathrooms are the first target.
Robinson hasn’t yet offered specific legislation but he is telling supporters that he will preside over a state where a transgender person — specifically, someone he deems to be a man but presents as a woman — gets arrested or worse for entering the “wrong” bathroom. Instead, he says, someone in that situation should just go find a corner out of doors.
(Never mind the fact that public urination and defecation are generally not seen as acceptable — or legal— behavior in any civilized society.)
He’s already earned the support of the most extreme right-wing groups for his positions on abortion (the one he paid for is an exception), climate change (which he thinks is another word for seasons), and the Holocaust (which he implies is exaggerated and says people should stop talking about).
Now, he’s targeting one of the most vulnerable demographics in modern America. WUNC reported:
“We’re going to defend women in this state,” he said, according to a video of his campaign stop in Cary earlier this month. “That means if you’re a man on Friday night, and all the sudden on Saturday, you feel like a woman, and you want to go in the women’s bathroom in the mall, you will be arrested — or whatever we got to do to you.”
In another rally speech, he told supporters that trans people seeking a bathroom should “find a corner outside somewhere.”
If this sounds familiar, North Carolina has already been through it with the last governor, Pat McCrory, who signed legislation forbidding anyone aged 7 or older to go in a bathroom not aligned with the sex on their birth certificate.
The backlash hit the state hard, with movie productions, a Paypal expansion, a DeutschBank expansion, and a real estate company’s expansion into the state all canceled — but that was in 2016.
Since then, many states have passed laws restricting rights and protections for transgender people, and the right-wing furor to conflate transgender people, drag queens, and sexual predators has been in full swing.
Florida has even passed legislation allowing the state to take “temporary emergency jurisdiction” in custody disputes where a child may receive gender-affirming care.
The backlash that pushed McCrory out of re-election and put the current governor, Roy Cooper, in office might not be quite as strong now that the far-right is all-in on bathroom bills and other hate legislation.
Also, the McCrory legislation lacked an enforcement method. That didn’t make it toothless — it just meant that instead of an arrest, transgender people, along with anyone else whom an observer didn’t find to look sufficiently like the gender they presented as, were at special risk of being harassed and quizzed when trying to enter a restroom.
Back then, stories surfaced like the one shared by Aimee Toms, a cisgender woman with a pixie cut (after growing her hair out to donate it), in which she entered a bathroom wearing a baseball cap over her short hair and was told she was “disgusting” and didn’t “belong” in the room. NewsTimes reported in 2016:
“I think this is all just a response. No one was telling these people to be scared of transgender people before. No one was telling them that they should be throwing people out of bathrooms,” Toms said. “As if it wasn’t scary enough for transgender people to use the bathroom before.”
If Robinson has his way, it won’t merely be strangers harassing trans women — it will be full-scale enforcement by law.
North Carolina could finally get the answer to the question that has been raised since the McCrory version of this law: how, exactly, do far-right politicians propose to determine gender at the bathroom door? And what do they do with hermaphrodites and others with indeterminate genitalia?