This week, Donald Trump shocked the Republican party when he came out against North Carolina's HB2, the law forbidding transgender people from using the restroom that corresponds to their gender identity. "There have been very few complaints the way it is," he told Matt Lauer on the Today show. "People go, they use the bathroom that they feel is appropriate. There has been so little trouble."
My first reaction was pleasant surprise. Wow, I thought, look at Donald standing up for transgender people! Maybe he's not ALL bad! It was like when the obnoxious bad boy in high school accidentally smiles at you, and even though your brain knows better, your heart falls momentarily in love.
But my second swift reaction was quite the opposite. Never mind what he's saying now (for whatever inscrutable reason he's saying it) -- the truth is, HB2 is Donald Trump's fault.
Over the past year, Donald Trump has condoned, and gone out of his way to outright promote, otherness. He has singlehandedly given birth to an American culture of fear and distrust that is going to take years -- perhaps even generations -- to erase.
Don't like Mexicans? Call them rapists and build a giant wall to keep them out. Despise women who score high-power jobs? Accuse them of being bimbos who look better on their knees; that'll put them in their place. Sick of terrorist attacks? Declare that "something's going on with Muslims," put each of them on a national registry, and have the cops police their neighborhoods so we can catch those sneaky Arabs as they try to take us down.
It is exactly this type of us-vs-them thinking that allowed any of these "bathroom bills" to ever see the light of day. Transgender people make you nervous? Accuse them of being "perverts" and "criminals" and create a law that makes every one of them feel like monsters, just for minding their own business and privately living their lives.
It's not because I'm an LGBTQ advocate that I'm so angry about HB2. It's because I'm a logical, mature, reasonable adult. I like facts. And there is NO FACTUAL BASIS for the now ubiquitous allegation that men routinely dress as women and attack little girls in restrooms. If you don't believe me, call your local police department and find out if this has EVER happened in your community. Ever.
These are not laws that were carefully researched and vetted and necessary. These are laws that were haphazardly thrown together at a political moment when people have been whipped into such a reckless emotional frenzy that crazy, panic-based legislation could actually get passed. People aren't thinking clearly. People are reacting to Donald Trump.
Much of Donald's damage has already been done and unfortunately will reverberate through American culture for a very long time. But it's not too late to do something about these bathroom bills. If we don't, Donald will go back to living in his New York penthouse, and transgender people will go back to living in shame.