This week, we continue our look at some important contemporary social problems in order to get us in the habit of thinking from an interdisciplinary social science perspective.
It may be that 2016 will be remembered as the “year of the restroom.” In March, 2016, the state of North Carolina created a firestorm by passing the Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act (HB2) which requires people to use public restrooms and changing facilities that correspond with their biological sex. While this is not an issue for most people, the question of which bathroom to use is anything but clear for individuals who identify themselves as “transgender.”
Proponents of the legislation claim that HB2 is just “common sense,” while opponents claim that the bill violates the civil rights of the LGBTQ community; indeed, the very existent of the bill is seen by some as directly targeting the transgender community. The response to the bill has generated a great deal of discussion among social scientists as well as social activism from the public.
Then in May, 2016 under the directive of the Office of the President, the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education released a set of guidelines to Help Schools Ensure the Civil Rights of Transgender Students, that “to help provide educators the information they need to ensure that all students, including transgender students, can attend school in an environment free from discrimination based on sex.”
HB2 could be viewed as North Carolina’s problem, yet the federal directive on transgender guidelines in public schools brings this same issue to every community across the nation.
Here is the actual text of North Carolina HB2, the Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act: http://www.ncleg.net/Sessions/2015E2/Bills/House/PDF/H2v4.pdf
Here is the actual text of the Guidelines issued by the Departments of Justice and Education:
On March 30, 2017, possibly owing to pressure from the public and influential organizations like the NCAA, North Carolina repealed HB2, but even this was not without controversy.
Review the following resources, then answer the questions that follow.
North Carolina OK’s anti-LGBT bathroom bill (video: 1:24)
Stolberg, S. G., et.al, (MAY 21, 2016). How the Push to Advance Bathroom Rights for Transgender Americans Reached the White House. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/22/us/transgender-bathroom-obama-schools.html?_r=0
Bradford, A. (2016, Jun 1). What is transgender? Retrieved from http://www.livescience.com/54949-transgender-definition.html
Miller, C.C. (2015, Jun 8). The Search for the Best Estimate of the Transgender Population. New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/09/upshot/the-search-for-the-best-estimate-of-the-transgender-population.html?_r=0 .
Dastagir, A.E. (2016, Apr 29). The imaginary predator in America’s transgender bathroom war. USA Today. Retrieved from http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2016/04/28/transgender-bathroom-bills-discrimination/32594395/
Peralta, K. (2016, Apr 18). Updated list: Who has come out against, in favor of NC’s House Bill 2. The Charlotte Observer. Retrieved from: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/news/business/article72407477.html
Eckholm, E. & Blinder, A. ( 2016, Aug 22). Federal Transgender Bathroom Access Guidelines Blocked by Judge. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/23/us/transgender-bathroom-access-guidelines-blocked-by-judge.html
Berman, M & Phillips, A. (2017, Mar 30). North Carolina governor signs bill repealing and replacing transgender bathroom law amid criticism. The Washington Post. Retrieved from: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2017/03/30/north-carolina-lawmakers-say-theyve-agreed-on-a-deal-to-repeal-the-bathroom-bill/?utm_term=.6151be82b0e1
Fausset, R. (2017, Mar 30). Bathroom law repeal leaves few please in North Carolina. The New York Times. Retrieved from: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/30/us/north-carolina-senate-acts-to-repeal-restrictive-bathroom-law.html?_r=0
After reviewing these resources, respond to the following questions:
1) What are some of the important issues that need to be considered when discussing the North Caroline “Bathroom Bill” (HB2)? The Guidelines for Transgender Equality in public schools? Compare and contrast these two “policies.” Generate a list of items and when you have submitted your response, look and see what your classmates have identified as issues in their responses.
2) How might social scientists from different disciplines talk about these issues? For example, what questions would a psychologist ask compared to an anthropologist? What issues would be the focus of a sociologist? How might a gerontologist frame this problem? What other social scientists might be interested in this issue?
3) What are some potential controversies inherent in this issue? Think about why this social problem might be difficult to solve. Are there gaps in our knowledge? Lack of resources? Opposing political views regarding funding? Think broadly and from an interdisciplinary perspective in order to respond to this question.
4) Why is the repeal of HB2 controversial?
5) Where does the solution lie? Are there policies that need to be changed or enacted to resolve the issue? Are there programs or services that might help to close the digital divide? What agencies or industries are best equipped to help?
For this discussion, I’d really like to see this be a conversation among peers. That is, I want to see you come up with your initial thoughts, but then read and provide comment to the ideas of your classmates so that we can generate a rich and fruitful discussion. This kind of brainstorming and discussion ultimately makes for better solutions.
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