N.C. Bathroom Law Harmful to Vulnerable Children
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“If you make a mistake, own up to it, say you’re sorry and try to fix it.”
“Do not bully.”
“Do not discriminate.”
These are the golden rules that we parents try to instill in our children. So it’s disturbing to me that the North Carolina General Assembly has gone to great lengths — meeting in a one-day specially convened session last month — to pass House Bill 2. The “Bathroom Bill,” as it has come to be known across the nation, was signed into law that night by Gov. Pat McCrory, and now people using public facilities across the state must use the bathroom of the sex listed on their birth certificate.
For transgender people who do not identify with the sex on their birth certificate, this law is devastating, forcing them into places where they feel fearful. For transgender children in public schools, the fear of bullying is tangible, and even more so in the bathroom, where they are alone and exposed.
Do we want to support a law that hurts vulnerable populations? As a parent, I say, “Absolutely not.” This law discriminates against transgender people and, in essence, bullies them. Transgender children are already at a higher risk for depression, anxiety and suicide than non-transgender youth, according to research published last year by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
Transgender children just want to be who they feel they are. Is that so difficult to accept? Isn’t that what we tell our children when we say, “Just be yourself,” when they are feeling nervous and anxious.
This week, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and its North Carolina chapter issued a statement calling for the repeal of HB2. When the nation’s most prestigious group of doctors calls for action, I think we should pay attention.
Dr. Deborah Ainsworth, president of the AAP North Carolina chapter, said in a statement: "As pediatricians, we know firsthand how increasing burdens and barriers for youth who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) can increase their risk of depression, substance abuse, dropping out of school or suicide. The law can also have unintentional consequences for children born with gender-related genetic disorders, children with disabilities who may need a different sex parent to help them in the restroom, and children who find themselves homeless due to lack of support for their gender identities.”
She went on to point to a solution based on kindness and compassion. "We also know that supportive and affirming communities, schools, friends and families can buffer all young people — especially LGBT youth — from these negative experiences and outcomes while simultaneously promoting positive health and well-being,” she said. “We all have a fundamental responsibility to support and nurture children and adolescents to ensure that they can grow and develop into healthy adults. Laws like HB2 send a distressing message to transgender youth and can worsen the challenges many already face. We must do better for North Carolina's young people. They're counting on us."
I couldn’t agree more. Compassion is free. It’s the right thing to do. It’s how we help our own children.
So we made a mistake. Let’s clean up this mess and get on with supporting each other.