Just like campaigns that sought to humanize gays and lesbians through personal narratives in the fight for same-sex marriage, a new ad (above) from the organization Freedom for All Americans revolves around a transgender man’s experiences. Its purpose here is to educate the public and to criticize North Carolina’s controversial bill allowing anti-LGBT discrimination — particularly the law’s premise that allowing transgender women into men’s public bathrooms would be akin to opening the doors to male sexual predators.
In the one-minute ad, Zeke Christopoulos, a transgender man, sits and talks with two coworkers about his gender and about North Carolina’s HB2 law — which repeals all of the state’s local LGBT nondiscrimination ordinances and bans transgender people from the restrooms that match their gender identity. Governor Pat McCrory signed the bill in March, referring to North Carolina’s expectation of privacy and “basic community norms.”
In the new ad, Christopoulos’s colleague Patricia Hickling Beckham says, “I remember when I learned that Zeke was transgender, and had transitioned from female to male. And I was a little uncomfortable…” Zeke notes, “And I get that,” before Hickling Beckham adds, “But when you stop and think about it, everyone needs to use the bathroom just to get through their day. And a law that forces Zeke to use the women’s restroom is totally inappropriate.”
The ad then takes viewers on a little journey with Christopoulos — to the outside of his office’s two restrooms, where he forlornly stands and looks at the “men” and “women” signs, and words across the screen tell us that HB2 makes it illegal for Zeke to use the men’s room, which is absurd, since he is clearly a man. “HB2 goes so far that when I use the men’s room, I can be thrown in jail,” Christopoulos says. Then he, Hickling Beckham, and a third coworker, Chester Spier, discuss how the law is already hurting North Carolina’s economy — referring to companies and conventions leaving and, assumedly, performance and game cancellations from the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Cirque de Soleil, and the 2017 NBA All-Star Game.
“This is clearly a piece that has been missing,” Matt McTighe, executive director of Freedom for All Americans, told BuzzFeed News on Monday. “It shows a different approach. We need to humanize this issue and to educate people on who transgender people really are.” McTighe noted that the ad also shows the absurdity of the situation, in which opponents of the discrimination believe that male perverts and fake transgender women will stroll into women’s bathrooms to molest and rape unless HB2 and other laws like it are in place.
But there has been no statistical evidence to back those fears. And according to Katherine Franke, director of Columbia Law School’s Center for Gender and Sexuality law, those fears aren’t even the crux of the issue. “The anxiety isn’t men in women’s bathrooms, it’s about masculinity in the wrong place,” she told USA Today. “It’s portrayed as a threat to women, but on a much deeper level, it’s about what it means to be a man and what it means to be a woman.”
The ad frames the bathroom issue in a way that’s been seen in the media recently, including through a video posted to social media by Caitlyn Jenner, in which she uses the women’s restroom at Trump Tower in New York City and said, when she emerged, “By the way, Ted [Cruz], nobody got molested.” The issue came up again on the Kelly File, both when Megyn Kelly pelted Governor McCrory with tough questions about the bill, and also when she spoke with Montel Williams as a follow-up, with Williams holding up photos of transgender individuals to show how nonsensical it was that they will not be able to use the bathrooms matching their respective gender identities. “Stop the stupid,” he said.