April 7, 2021
Hard as it may be to believe, it’s already been more than five years since North Carolina Republicans rammed through the transphobic House Bill 2 — more commonly referred to as the state’s “bathroom bill” — designed to legislate where and how transgender people can use bathrooms. Although that bill has since been partially repealed under Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, HB2 marked the start of what has since become a mainstay in conservative politics: the policing — and increased criminalization — of transgender bodies.
It’s perversely appropriate, then, that North Carolina is once again at the forefront of the GOP’s anti-trans push, with a trio of Republican lawmakers sponsoring a new bill that would effectively ban a suite of gender identity treatments for trans patients — including some adults — as well as force state officials to out trans children to their parents at the first sign of “gender nonconformity.”
The deceptively named “Youth Health Protection Act” (or SB 514) not only bars doctors from providing gender reassignment surgery, hormone treatments, or puberty blockers to children; but also classifies anyone between 18-21 as “minors” as well, raising the age threshold for discrimination beyond that of Arkansas’ recently vetoed (and subsequently overridden) anti-trans law. Equally alarming is a separate clause within the bill that mandates state employees out transgender people to their parents — again, even if the person is a legal adult under 21 — for even acting in a way that seems “incongruent” with the person’s presumed sex.
Per the bill (emphasis mine):
If a government agent has knowledge that a minor under its care or supervision has exhibited symptoms of gender dysphoria, gender nonconformity, or otherwise demonstrates a desire to be treated in a manner incongruent with the minor’s sex, the government agent or entity with knowledge of that circumstance shall immediately notify, in writing, each of the minor’s parents, guardians, or custodians. The notice shall describe all of the relevant circumstances with reasonable specificity.
Crucially, the bill doesn’t expand on what could be construed as “gender nonconformity,” leaving open to interpretation a huge range of behaviors — some presumably stemming from gender dysphoria, others simply deviating from a staid, inflexible, and largely anachronistic sense of how people of different genders should present themselves. For instance, if someone who identifies as male chooses to wear fingernail polish, is a state employee legally obligated to report that person to their parents? The law as it’s currently written certainly seems to suggest so.
Should it pass both North Carolina’s Republican-held Senate and House, the bill would face an almost-certain veto under Democratic Gov. Cooper. It was introduced about a week after state Democratic lawmakers introduced their own suite of bills designed to strengthen LGBTQ+ protections in the state. That bill includes the full repeal of HB2, a ban on conversion therapies, and a ridding of the “panic defense” in criminal cases wherein a victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity could be used by the accused as a justification for their crime.