It can be risky for advocates for civil rights and social justice to advocate outside of their lane. Martin Luther King was shot while preparing for a march against poverty. I'm going out on a limb and not focusing on disability today, but I feel this is an important limb to go out on.
I've written about how most of the successes that the Disability Rights Movement had, up until this point, either came from the lessons or with direct support of other movements, such as the African American Civil Rights Movement. Most importantly for this blog, is that a lot of support came from the LGBTQ community.
The LGBTQ community assisted in the major protest in San Francisco to guarantee Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. The Civil Rights Restoration Act included people with disabilities, along with other African Americans and LGBTQ affinities at the table. The Black Panthers were also present and accounted for. All fighting for the same cause. Disability intersects with every community.
We have worked together in the past and I feel it is important that I work with them now. I might have a special insight into this issue. I have been going into all different types of bathrooms my whole life. You see, bathrooms are not very accessible. It is rare for them to have electronic door openers, so I can't get in by myself, which is part of why I require help in the bathroom. I also require help with my clothing. Sometimes, I might be helped by my mom, other times it is my pca, who is also a female, so in that case, we have a decision to make. One of us has to go into the other genders bathroom. We wait for the bathroom to be empty and sometimes we ask someone else to guard the door (if there is someone else around.)
I have never had a problem. I've never had anyone express having an issue with me doing that. And yet, the first version of North Carolina's bathroom protection bill, NC-HB2, would have made me going to the bathroom not just inaccessible, but a crime, also.
The argument being used is that this bill will make women and children safe from a man walking into the woman's bathroom. Who knows how many straight men will don dresses in order to have access to all those woman's restrooms. I'm sure this bill will make everyone rest easier. We all know that sexual predators obey the laws.
Legislating attitudes changes everything. Just ask the nearest African American if racism is still a problem. The anti-racism laws have stopped all that nonsense. Right? This law will not prevent sexual predators any more than anti-racism laws have protected African Americans or Muslims from hate crimes. Oh, and Black Lives Do Matter.
I have a great amount of respect for people who have been victims of sexual assaults and or other violence. I am not downplaying the possibility, in fact, people with disabilities are very likely to experience the same violence. I just found that the percentage of children with disabilities who will experience violence, equals the same percentage of transgender people who will experience violence. Even more reason for me to stand with them.
I'm thankful that the disability community was, at the last minute, excluded from this restrictive law. I would like to see some form of protection for the LGBTQ people. Why isn't the violence against them being addressed by our legislation? It is pretty clear to me that this bill is more of a reaction against the impressive and rapid progress the Gay Rights Movement has made in the last decade. I wish my community would learn from them, so we could make the same progress.
HB2 was also a vehicle for our legislators to push through wage restrictions in North Carolina. Disability is mentioned as being a protected class, in terms of employment, but LGBTQ people are excluded from those protections, as well. What does that have to do with same sex bathroom use?
If HB2 is really a non-discriminatory law, as some legislators would lead us to believe, it should not exclude one particular group. As Martin Luther King once said, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."
I have ideas. Let's take the restrictive signage off the bathrooms and make them more accessible for more people. I'd love to see at least one accessible gender neutral bathroom where we can all be safe and comfortable. There are "family" bathrooms out there in some places. They could be changed to be inclusive.
I'm always an optimist. Maybe the fact that people with disabilities and LGBTQ people were both initially attacked by this bill, will bring us back together again.
That's how I roll....