Protecting Women Starts at Home — Not in Public Bathrooms

Written by Cindy Elmore

With North Carolina’s HB2 “bathroom bill” now behind us, it’s worth remembering that the state’s House Speaker and other male members of the legislature routinely promoted the law as a way of “protecting” North Carolina women like me and my teenage daughter. The truth is that it didn’t—and legislation like it never will.

Among other things, HB2 required transgender people to use restrooms corresponding to the sex on their birth certificates in many public buildings—effectively banning trans women, who already face disproportionate risks to their lives and dignity in public and especially in public restrooms, from using women’s rooms. The Associated Press tallied billions of dollars lost by the state from pulled and cancelled conventions, sporting events, concerts and business expansions in protest of the law, which was rescinded in part early this month after more than a year on the books, but HB2 supporters—and those supporting yet a new bathroom bill, HB562—believed their law would heroically save my daughter and me from a bad guy in the stall next door.

There’s no evidence this much-professed threat really existed. But what did happen in North Carolina in the year of HB2? Mary Stoll of Jacksonville was allegedly beaten to death by her boyfriend. Sheryl Dianne Marshall of Raeford was allegedly shot to death by her husband. Rebecca Ann Jones of Wilmington, was allegedly strangled to death by her estranged fiancé. Elizabeth Contrivo of Candler was allegedly shot to death by her husband. Lacey West of Cherryville was allegedly shot to death by her boyfriend. Iris Armstrong of Fort Bragg was allegedly stabbed and beaten to death by her husband. Charlene Ellen Norris of Charlotte was allegedly shot to death by her husband. Garlette Rosette Howard of Greenville was allegedly beaten to death with what was believed to be a hammer by her boyfriend—who also allegedly did the same to Howard’s 11-year-old daughter, Bryana Nicole Carr.

These were just a few of the more than 40 women and children whom the North Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence catalogued as having been shot, beaten, strangled, stabbed or run over allegedly by a husband, boyfriend, fiancé, father or stepfather during the year that North Carolina legislators began “protecting” women and children from transgender people (or from the many fakers whom we were told would materialize) in our public bathrooms. They ranged in age from just 2 up to 84.

In the future, North Carolina lawmakers should stop pretending their goal is to “protect women” when they attack other women with legislation like HB2—and do nothing to address the real threats in women’s lives. They should stop saying they’re “protecting” my daughter or me or any other women in North Carolina from imagined, made-up threats when, by far, most of us really aren’t afraid of the trans woman in the stall next to us—whom I promise wants privacy just as much as I do and who would suffer more from being banned from her rightful restroom. They should stop patronizingly pretending that legislating who gets to use which bathroom will “protect” women and children from while dozens and dozens of them will die not at the hands of a stranger in the next stall but at the hands of the men they share dates and homes and often some sort of love with.

Before lawmakers act in the name of North Carolina women again, they might think about conducting a reliable, random, anonymous survey that asks women how often they worry about the “threat” that HB2 allegedly addressed. Then they should ask how many of us have been afraid of a man who supposedly cared for us. And they should think about Mary, Sheryl, Rebecca, Elizabeth, Lacey, Iris, Charlene, Garlette and Bryana when asking that question. Then, perhaps, they can act in our name.

This post originally appeared on Ms. Magazine.

98 comments

Marie W
Marie W1 years ago

Thanks for sharing

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Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill1 years ago

Our children are less safe without the protection in the bathrooms.

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Telica R
Telica R1 years ago

Thanks for sharing

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ANA MARIJA R
ANA MARIJA R1 years ago

Thank you for the article and some comments.

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Karen Swenson
Karen Swenson1 years ago

@Catherine m---You're welcome and LOL to your remark about "Hair--Trump!"

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Catherine m
Catherine m1 years ago

Growing up as a child we always heard beware off dirty old men that hang about ladies bathrooms ect and always protect yourself wherever you go, and it's nothing to do with being attacked by a transgender it's to do with those who pretend they are to use the ladies, and I have friends who are gay shared loos in the 80s in his club so I am quite comfortable with that in a safe and same mind environment it's the other weirdos out there, and no thank God I'll never be near trump, his hair alone could kill at a hundred paces but thank you karen for your feedback

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Karen S
Karen Swenson1 years ago

Catherine m-- you do not have to feel guilty, but it would be an extra expense for every place where public conveniences are offered.to have a full time staff monitoring the bathrooms. I wonder, have you ever been accosted in a restroom and if you never use public toilets, where does your fear and evidence come from?. In all my life and from all the people I know, not once have I ever heard of them being molested by a Transgender, and no one on this site has ever come forward with a story about them, or anyone else they know being molested by them either...I think you have a great statistical chance of being molested/attacked working for Fox News or getting near Trump than from a Transgender.....

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Catherine m
Catherine m1 years ago

Unfortunately we live in a horrible world where innocent people trying to fit in are finding it difficult because off the wicked people out there who take advantage it's very sad and unfortunately because off this many many women just want more assurance and protection , but also what about women transgendering to male are they safe in the men's loos , maybe no gender bathrooms be better with closed in safe cubicles and monitors to keep an eye on things

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Catherine m
Catherine m1 years ago

Hence why I never use public toilets, and only if needed in a hotel or cafe with nearby staff, and I won't be made to feel guilty as far as I'm concerned a ladies loo means ladies not anyone still a man end off, I think everywhere public convenience should have full time staff if any hassle to be avoided and a deterant against those who prey on women.

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Karen Swenson
Karen Swenson1 years ago

@Catherine m----I do not know how you would ever be safe or feel comfortable from these types of situations. This is the plight of women everywhere. You cannot have police force checking under every toilet and the genitals of who might use them. Catherine, whether you are a tax payer or not, we women have to be constantly on guard and I am sorry, but that is still the way it is and then you are lucky if you are not blamed for every bad situation that does happen to you..We have laws for all kinds of things and they still happen frequently...The only way women are going to be completely safe and comfortable in public bathrooms, I am sorry to say, is NOT to use them.

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