Bathroom Politics

From Politifact North Carolina - Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band in concert at Raleigh, NC's PNC Arena Thursday night, April 24, 2014. Photo by Scott Sharpe

From Politifact North Carolina – Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band in concert at Raleigh, NC’s PNC Arena Thursday night, April 24, 2014. Photo by Scott Sharpe

Yes, it’s come to that. An international militant group has eyes on killing Americans, serious politicians are at odds with certain facts of science, a major American political party is headed toward disintegration. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, our attention has become focused on who can use which bathroom. Yes, we do have our priorities straight:

Understanding HB2: North Carolina’s newest law solidifies state’s role in defining discrimination
In a one-day specially convened session Wednesday, North Carolina’s legislature passed a sweeping law that reverses a Charlotte ordinance that had extended some rights to people who are gay or transgender.

The law passed by the General Assembly and signed that same night by Gov. Pat McCrory goes further than a narrow elimination of Charlotte’s ordinance, which had generated the most controversy by a change that protected transgender people who use public restrooms based on their gender identity. The new law also nullified local ordinances around the state that would have expanded protections for the LGBT community.

The state has long had laws regulating workplace discrimination, use of public accommodations, minimum wage standards and other business issues. The new law – known as HB2, the Charlotte bathroom bill or, more officially, as the Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act – makes it illegal for cities to expand upon those state laws, as more than a dozen cities had done including Charlotte, Raleigh, Chapel Hill and Durham.

North Carolina’s new law sets a statewide definition of classes of people who are protected against discrimination: race, religion, color, national origin, age, handicap or biological sex as designated on a person’s birth certificate. Sexual orientation – people who are gay – was never explicitly protected under state law and is not now, despite recent court decisions that legalized same-sex marriage.

So this is nothing about blacks versus whites using a restroom, and it’s not about homosexuals-bisexuals. It’s about transsexuals only. And now for an explanation from somebody who knows absolutely nothing about the transsexual phenomenon. A transsexual is a person born biologically as one of the two famous sexes, male and female. I am going to presume something. A person born as a male has 23 pairs of chromosomes. In the case of the first 22 pairs, the chromosomes are identical. In the case of the 23rd pair, they are different. In people, and in mammals in general, one chromosome of the pair is called X, and the other is Y. The presence of the Y chromosome determines a biological male. Females have two X chromosomes in the 23rd pair—no Y chromosome.

So, that supposedly determines who is male and who is female. The matter with transsexuals is that a person, though biologically of one sex, has physiological characteristics of the other. Apparently the biological differentiation engineered by the chromosomes is not complete. Transsexuality manifests a person with predilections contra to his/her chromosomes. As described by at least one, it’s like being a woman in a man’s body.

This results in great consternation on the part of persons affected. The matter has always existed in our species, and modern society has resolved the issue by attempting to make accommodations for those affected. The exemplary case is that of Christine Jorgensen. George William Jorgensen Jr. was born in the Bronx in 1926 and served in the Army in World War Two. Following the War Jorgensen went to Denmark for transformative surgery and returned to this country as Christine Jorgensen. She died in 1989.

And that’s been the history of transsexuals in America since. People who cannot fit into their biological origins get relief and attempt to live otherwise normal lives in a new sexual identity. It has become the subject of legend, lapping over into Hollywood. The movie Dog Day Afternoon concerns a bank robbery driven by the need for money for a sexual conversion. Much fun is made of it. And that was about the extent of accommodation for transsexuals until some, including local governments, began to recognize the issue and to take steps.

“Not so fast,” says a large block of conservative politicians and voters. The motivations vary, and again I’m going out on a limb and making guesses at motives:

  • It’s contrary to God’s plan.
  • It’s carrying this civil rights business a bit too far.
  • These people are icky, and they need to stay in the closet.
  • I don’t want some guy flashing his wiener in the restroom where my daughter has gone to pee.

This lack of compassion on the part of the North Carolina legislature (and Governor Pat McCrory) has generated some backlash. A number of popular entertainers canceled appearances in North Carolina in response to HB2. A quick search reveals the following:

  • Pearl Jam
  • Cirque du Soleil
  • Ringo Starr
  • Boston
  • Cyndi Lauper
  • Mumford and Sons
  • Duran Duran
  • Tacocat
  • Lionsgate decided to move production of its new show “Crushed” from Charlotte to Canada.
  • Author Sherman Alexie

And then there’s The Boss:

Bruce Springsteen canceled his April 10 show in Greensboro, North Carolina. “To my mind, it’s an attempt by people who cannot stand the progress our country has made in recognizing the human rights of all of our citizens to overturn that progress,” he wrote on his website. “Some things are more important than a rock show, and this fight against prejudice and bigotry — which is happening as I write — is one of them. It is the strongest means I have for raising my voice in opposition to those who continue to push us backward instead of forward.”


From all appearances this stung more deeply than all the others, because North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory pushed back with a great amount of vigor if not with a great amount of forthrightness:

Pat McCrory says Springsteen canceled North Carolina show after poor ticket sales

Gov. Pat McCrory took shots at critics of North Carolina’s controversial new law, commonly known as HB2, during a morning radio appearance May 3 on The John Boy and Billy Big Show.

The law banned transgender people from using the bathroom of the gender they identify as, banned cities from enacting their own minimum wages or LGBT-friendly discrimination laws and got rid of anyone’s ability to file a discrimination lawsuit in state court.

It was widely panned by progressive politicians as well as entertainers, some of whom even canceled shows in the Tar Heel State.

On the show McCrory, with encouragement from John Boy and Billy, went through a laundry list of critics he said were mistaken or hypocritical.

Oops! That is not exactly true. From all appearances it’s the Governor who is “mistaken or hypocritical.” The saga continues. More from PolitiFact North Carolina:

Here at PolitiFact North Carolina, we’ve seen our fair share of videos from Springsteen’s live shows (mostly to marvel at Nils Lofgren’s guitar solos). The crowds are always sizeable, if not sold out. We would be quite surprised if Springsteen had sold only half the tickets to his Greensboro show just two days before the concert.

The Greensboro Coliseum, where he had been scheduled to play, can seat more than 20,000 people. Stadium officials said the capacity for the Springsteen concert was actually about 16,000 due to stage and seating logistics.

So that 8,000 number, if true, would say a lot about Springsteen – especially keeping in mind that the Coliseum tracks attendance for all of its shows, and Bruuuuuuuuuuuce has two of the 20 largest crowds in stadium history.

But those were years ago, in 2002 and 2009. Is McCrory right that North Carolinians in 2016 don’t care much for the Jersey rocker’s music, much less his liberal views? Was he really only using a convenient political stance to cover up embarrassing sales numbers?

No, according to the Greensboro Coliseum.

Andrew Brown, the arena’s PR director, told us Springsteen had sold more than 15,000 tickets.

“No idea where 8,000 may have come from,” Brown said, adding that there were fewer than 100 tickets left when Springsteen canceled with two days’ notice.

“It’s safe to say it would have sold out,” he said.

Like Brown, we also have no idea where the 8,000 number came from. McCrory’s campaign hasn’t responded to our questions, but we’ll update this if we hear back.

The Greensboro Coliseum previously reported that Springsteen’s cancellation cost it $100,000.

North Carolina and its hapless governor are going to have to limp along, hobbled to the zombie of a law they created. News reports point to businesses reconsidering locating to the state and a sports organization taking another look at their schedule. Mendacity on the part of elected officials does not appear to be helping matters.

Later news is that Governor McCrory has recognized the error if his statement, if not the error of his ways. And he remains a Springsteen fan, planning to hold on to his album collection. Now if he can salvage his election prospects, well, that would be great.



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