Potty Room Politics

I used to live in Texas, and every so often my politicians would say or do something so bad that I didn’t know whether to laugh or move out of state. Often it was Texas representative Louie Gohmert, who managed such classics as his assertion that having gays serve openly in the military would make the U.S. more vulnerable to terrorism because gay soldiers would act like the ancient Greeks and bring their lovers to the front lines to “give them massages before they go into battle.” Yes, he really said that.

I eventually moved here, though not because of Congressman Louie. When I got here, North Carolina was a far less embarrassing state, or so I thought. But not long after, we became known as the state of the infamous bathroom bill, HB2. Great. Friends from around the country started to forward me the jokes.

Surely you have heard of this law. It was passed about a year ago, and it requires all humans in NC to use the public restroom designated for the gender of their birth. The claim, which few people really believed, was that HB2 was an attempt to protect women from assault. Now, assaulting women in public bathrooms has always been both wrong and illegal, in North Carolina and everywhere else. Men dressing up like women and going into the woman’s powder room to do so, however, has not been a problem, in North Carolina or anywhere else.

According to a CNN affiliate website

CNN reached out to 20 law enforcement agencies in states with anti-discrimination policies covering gender identity. None who answered reported any bathroom assaults after the policies took effect.

Then there is the sheer ludicrousness of expecting everyone to walk around with a copy of their birth certificate, which they can then show to who? Some hall monitor guarding every restroom door in the state? Everyone admits that the enforcement part of HB2 always was a little tricky.

So what is it’s purpose?

Well, the humans who were born male and now identify as female and wish to use the female restroom are transgender humans, either somewhere in the process of transitioning to female, or already female. Either way, they are quite uncomfortable and conspicuous in the men’s room, and also at some risk. They just want to be able to pee without any kind of an incident. I’ve heard that many hold back on drinking water and other liquids so they won’t have to go the bathroom and face this problem. Humans born female and who now identify as a male face a similar problem in using the women’s restroom.

And pretty much everyone in North Carolina knows this.

The infamous HB2 was designed to make life more difficult for transgender people because some lawmakers in North Carolina are uncomfortable with them, as are some of their constituents. As an added bonus, the law contains others parts which also make it legal to discriminate in other ways against members of the LGBT community.

The intent of the law was so obvious that is has resulted in several boycotts that have cost North Carolina both money and prestige; the most notable has been from the NCAA regarding its much loved tournament games in a state that reveres college basketball. Today’s attempt by House Minority Leader Darren Jackson to get HB2 repealed coincided what many believe is the deadline for the NCAA’s decision of where to award championship events through 2022.

But do our legislators reflect the wishes of the people? According to a Reuters report of a Public Religion Research Institute poll, America is as fiercely divided on this topic as it is on so many others, with a slight majority (53%) favoring tolerance, a large minority (39%) fighting to go back to a less tolerant time, and a small swath (10%) who either don’t know or don’t care. A poll taken by WRAL News of just North Carolinians shows virtually the same results. (50%, 38%, 12%)

I’m still trying to figure out how you have no opinion on this subject.

What I do understand is that a state in which more people want to repeal HB2 than want to keep it, our legislators voted 74-44 to not talk about it, in spite of the potential losses to our state.

Do you know who your state representative is? How about your state senator? Until a few weeks ago, I didn’t know of either of mine. It turns our that they probably live near you. You may do your grocery shopping at the same place. They certainly have a local staffer who will take phone calls from you and note down your opinion.

Internet search engines provide countless ways to find out who these folks are, but I think one of the easiest to use is at the Common Cause website. Typing in your address will yield the names, phone numbers and websites of every elected official who votes on your behalf.

Did you think that the stuff they work on doesn’t really matter to you? I used to think that, too.

Of awkwardness, birds and monsters

I have a secret motto for my writing. If I put it in my blog it isn’t going to be secret anymore, so suffice to say it has to do with leaving my fears behind as I pen my prose. I believe that if you comfort zoneconstrain yourself to write only what others expect, or what you think others want to see from you, or what you think is acceptable, then you will never write anything great.

So I was happy to see this on twitter the other day, tweeted by @HeyJamie, who is really Jamie Jo Hoang , author of “Blue Sun, Yellow Sky.” I’m not a big liker and re-tweeter, but this got them both.

Which brings me to the song “Of Moons, Birds and Monsters” by MGMT. Not the song itself, which I’ve loved ever since the first time I heard it because it somehow makes me think of magic, but rather my mention of the song in my novel y1 and the scene it was used in.

y1 is the story of a young man who can reshape his body at will. This is all well and good for his solving crimes but if you start to think about it a little more, sooner or later you end up doing this.

Zane had seldom altered his shape to appear female, but except for his height there was no particular barrier to doing so. He could approximate breasts and wider hips. A wig would work wonders. He could add years, and a more ambiguous ethnicity. He would practice making himself as short as possible. The stooping of age would help. Meanwhile, he needed to learn more about a part of Penthes that he had, up till now, ignored, like most people. That was the beauty of the janitorial group. They just did not get a lot of attention.

In his office, Zane began to gather supplies. A janitor’s jumpsuit just a bit too small for Zane, women’s sneakers, and an unattractive salt and pepper woman’s wig were locked in this bottom left drawer along with an old iPod holding the brightest, shiniest pieces of electronic dance music and remixes that Zane had been able to find.

This last item was so much more than his favorite songs. Over the past months he had discovered how he could use music as a tool to push his body to new limits, with the music he loved helping him concentrate as he became ever more adept at controlling his appearance at will. He had finally, reluctantly, let himself begin to refer to his gift in his own mind as “shape shifting” and he now thought of this particular music as his cache of shape shifting songs.

He plugged the iPod into his computer and let himself enjoy the wonderful Holy Ghost remix of MGMT’s “Of Moons, Birds and Monsters.” Zane savored the ocean imagery and the upbeat tempo of the song for a moment, then as he began to coax his body into another form, Zane tried to imagine how wonder itself might be shaped.

IMG_1625I don’t write erotica, so I didn’t end up taking this nearly as far as it could have gone, and yet, well, my hero’s inevitable transformation from male body to female body made me squirm a little at the fuzzy line between the genders. It was probably a good squirm for me to have, given that I live in a world that increasingly acknowledges how complicated human sexuality is and encourages every human to discover and be in the shape that is right for them.  I welcome this enlightened acceptance, but philosophical agreement doesn’t always convey complete ease with something, at least not right away.

So, as so often happens, my writing took me out of my comfort zone and I was the one who gained the most from it. My hero Zane changed his gender a few times before the book was over. I don’t know what my various readers thought of it, but by the last edit of y1, I was better off.

Back to twitter. One of my other favorite tweets came via writer Jose Iriarte, who described himself in third person as “a Cuban-American writer and high school math teacher …  [who] writes because he can’t afford therapy.”

Exactly.  Except for the Cuban-American and math teacher part, of course. Otherwise, that’s it exactly.

While pondering your own monsters and other discomfort zones, you can listen to and enjoy Zane’s favorite Holy Ghost Remix of “Of Moons, Birds and Monsters.”