UNC transgender employee part of suit against HB2

A transgender University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) employee is among those urging a federal judge to nullify a state law that requires individuals to use the public restroom assigned to their legal gender at birth.

Joaquín Carcaño, who was born a woman but identifies as a man, works as an HIV Coordinator at UNC, according to Business Insider. Carcaño joined several other transgender people Monday in Winston-Salem to ask US District Court Judge Thomas Schroeder to halt enforcement of the law until determining its constitutionality this fall, NBC News reports.

House Bill 2 was passed into law in the Tar Heel state this spring and has created a mess of controversy. Pushed by Republicans after Charlotte passed a municipal ordinance mandating that all public restrooms be made gender-neutral, conservatives saw their response as a victory for common sense and public safety, while liberals derided it as transphobic and discriminatory.

[RELATED: Coach K calls HB2 ‘embarrassing’ as LGBT students avoid NC]

Carcaño’s lawyers claim that for him, using a female restroom was uncomfortable at best and unsafe at worst.

“He would face harassment and violence from those who correctly perceive that he is a man using facilities designated for women,” they argue, alleging that during his transition from female to male, “he was screamed at, shoved, slapped, and told to get out when he tried to use the female restroom.”

On North Carolina college campuses, enforcement of the law remains unclear. The Chapel Hill campus and other schools typically have single-stall, gender-neutral restrooms available for any person to use. UNC system president Margaret Spellings has asked schools to comply with the law while remaining critical of it.

[RELATED: UNC president ridiculed for saying her schools must follow the law]

The UNC system was named as a defendant in court documents. Following the plea, Spellings washed her hands of the law, saying the schools welcome “resolution of these difficult issues by court so that we can refocus our efforts on our primary mission—educating students.”

University lawyers say that no court interference is needed because they claim to have no stance on enforcing the law.

“The university therefore has no intention to take any steps to enforce the act against transgender people who use university bathrooms consistent with their gender identity,” the attorneys write.

To use a gender-neutral restroom, Carcaño must take a service elevator to a housekeeping area of his office building. This upsets him, but he feels obligated to speak for the transgender community.

“Having your identity and body being a point of public conversation can be really exhausting,” he said.

Plaintiffs say that even single-stall restrooms can’t wipe away the nuisance. They argue that being forced to use them “is stigmatizing and brands them as second-class members of the community.”

State lawyers have said that the plaintiffs “seek to overturn millennia of accepted practice by which men and women utilize separate facilities for using the restroom, bathing, and changing clothes.”

The judge has asked for more legal briefs, so a decision is unlikely to be made before next week.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @RiersonNC