I sat through eight hours of fear-mongering, bigotry, and hate as I watched my legislators pass House Bill 2, a bill that decriminalized discrimination against LGBTQ people. The bill also barred trans people from using the bathroom that correlates with the gender they identify with.
I watched as brave, wonderful transgender people spoke to lawmakers about the pain of being harassed when using the restroom because of the way they look. I watched as they struggled through tears as they begged elected officials—their elected officials—to not discriminate against them.
I held back tears of my own as Skye, a 15-year-old boy who happens to be transgender, told his legislators that he felt bullied by them.
And then I watched a man, claiming to be a “man of God,” scream that he would be “a homophobic bigot” until he died.
I watched a high school girl tell lawmakers that “being a teenage girl was hard enough without having a boy in the girls’ bathroom.”
I watched as a grown woman called transgender women “transvestites,” and claimed transgender women are sexual predators.
If hateful words could cause physical damage, the North Carolina General Assembly would have crumbled.
North Carolina is my newly adopted state. I moved here less than two months ago, and, up until yesterday, have felt completely safe here. I was proud to call this place my home.
Was being the operative word.
I am the first to admit that I am an incredibly privileged individual. As a cis, heterosexual white woman, I will never know how it feels to be afraid to use a bathroom I do not belong in. I will never know the pain of being harassed in a bathroom because of how you look. This law does not affect me.
Except it does. It affects everyone.
Regardless of your gender identity, this law has sent a powerful message to the people of North Carolina: Our legislators, and our governor, are fueled by fear and hate. They do not know the definition of “gender identity,” and they do not care to learn what it means. They are not afraid to discriminate against an entire group of people and then make discrimination law.
There is nothing more terrifying than that.
When I reflect on Wednesday, the one thing I think about the most is Skye and his powerful message. I didn’t get the privilege to speak to him, but if I had, I would have told him to keep being exactly who he is; to not let these heinous people who hold elected office change how he lives his life. To take his bravery and use it to create change in North Carolina, in the world, and not let these abhorrent people—mostly cis, heterosexual, old, white men—deter him.
I am horrified, embarrassed and ashamed of my current state legislators and state government. Looking at Skye, though, I am proud and optimistic of the future generation that will bring change and compassion to North Carolina.
Today, I am heartbroken for the LGBTQ community in North Carolina. Tomorrow, I stand with my family in the LGBTQ community as we fight together for change.
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