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Counterpoint: The state overreacted 

African-Americans. Women. Gay men and lesbian women. Transgender people. One thing each of these groups' struggles for civil rights movements have in common? Bathrooms.

Scratch that. What these groups have in common is the experience of an hysterical pandemonium from those opposed to their equality breaking down in a collective freak-out with fear-laden admonitions of the "worst to come" if they were treated equally under the law.

During Jim Crow, whites accused black men of being sexual predators and swore off integration because of a bathroom panic. The proposed Equal Rights Amendment for gender equality caused a flurry of panic over whether or not it would get rid of sex-segregated restrooms and other facilities. Protections based on sexual orientation brought about wild accusations — including during a 1992 debate on public accommodations protections in Charlotte — that gay men would be given free rein to unlimited cruising and public sex in park restrooms.

If you've been following news on Charlotte's LGBT-inclusive public accommodations ordinance passed in February — one undone by North Carolina's HB2, passed by the legislature and signed by the governor after a hurried special session in March — these scare tactics might seem familiar. All that historic panic over bathrooms has come to the fore again, this time targeting transgender people. It's nothing new; just a new target for oppressive ire.

In his column, Jim Longworth plays into these politically powerful and virulent scare tactics by condemning LGBT-inclusive protections. The column is full of small factual inaccuracies. He says, for example, that universities, along with private businesses, will be allowed to set their own policies. That's not entirely true, not for state universities or businesses like the Charlotte Hornets that use space in government-owned facilities like Time Warner Cable Arena.

But more importantly and more broadly, Longworth's column is full of misinformation and condemnation of transgender people. Longworth primarily rests his argument on a patently false and dangerous premise — that transgender people do not even exist. He refers to trans people as "so-called," he refuses the proper pronoun use for the transgender people about whom he writes and he advocates the separation of a united LGBT community, urging LGB people to forget the very real, very courageous pioneers who were among the first to stand up for full LGBT equality and pushed our movement into the mainstream.

Longworth, who has been supportive of gay and lesbian rights in the past, makes the same mistake many others, including some LGB people, have made before. His misunderstandings and misinformation is based on a complete ignorance of who transgender people are and the realities of medical science. Perhaps it would be wise for Longworth, and others who seem confused by the realities of transgender people's lives and experiences, to actually get to know transgender people, hear their stories and share in empathy the pain and turmoil they live through each and every day of their lives. He needs a good history lesson in the LGBT movement, one whose success has been shaped by and would not have been possible without the bravery of our transgender siblings.

For blacks, for women and for lesbian, gay and bisexual people, none of the ridiculous bathroom scare scenarios described by bigots ever came to be. These fears won't come to fruition when transgender people are protected, either. That's because these arguments, however politically virulent they might be, do not hold water. They're based on fear, not facts; lies, mistruths and misinformation, not reality.

The reality is actually so much simpler. Whether you're white or black, male or female, gay or straight, cisgender or transgender, people simply want to be treated equally, with their full inherent dignity as human beings honored, recognized and respected. This universal desire of all humankind, reflected in faiths and beliefs throughout world history, was at the crux of Charlotte's LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination ordinances.

The opposite of that desire — one born of misunderstanding, fear and division — stripped away the much-needed non-discrimination protections for LGBT people passed by the Charlotte City Council.

For North Carolinians, HB2 undoes nearly 40 years of civil rights progress in this state. It's an embarrassment of extreme proportions, harming our economy and our reputation as a state that for so long had rejected much of the shameful bigotry displayed by our other southern neighbors.

For LGB people and transgender people specifically, who remain among the most vulnerable and marginalized communities in our society, HB2 is a clear and unmistakeable endorsement of prejudice and discrimination. It should be repealed and replaced with fully inclusive non-discrimination protections, so our great state can move on to the important work of repairing the divisions and bigotry that's shamefully catapulted us into the national spotlight.

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