In Wake of Extreme Anti-LGBTQ Law, These North Carolinians Are Rising Up
“Our people will not be forced back into the closet but will claim our rightful place among the residents of North Carolina who have a right to public spaces,” Serena Sebring, North Carolina organizer for Southerners on New Ground, told AlterNet over the phone. “We will not be ashamed.”
Just days after after the state’s lawmakers passed the most extreme anti-LGBTQ legislation in the country, the people who are directly impacted have already staged a civil disobedience and mass protest—and filed a lawsuit which names North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory, Attorney General Roy Cooper, and the University of North Carolina.
Now, grassroots organizers are gearing up for a long fight to defeat House Bill 2 through partnerships on local, regional and national scales. Transgender and gender-nonconforming people and communities of color are at the forefront of those efforts, said Sebring, whose organization describes itself as “a beloved community of LGBTQ people in the South who are ready and willing to do our part to challenge oppression in order to bring about liberation for ALL people.”
“There’s certainly a sense of steadfast commitment to fighting this all the way through,” Sebring continued. “We heard people chanting at the protest at the governor’s mansion last week again and again, ‘It ain’t over!’ There is a recognition that this bill is part of a larger conservative backlash that affects us all over the south, in line with the spirit of Trumpism and far-right conservatism.”
House Bill 2, signed into law last week by the governor, prohibits localities from passing protections from discrimination on the basis of gender and sexual identity—thereby targeting LGBTQ people as uniquely undeserving of safeguards.
Going further, the new rule mandates that all public facilities, schools among them, determine bathroom access on the basis of “biological sex.” Under the law, a transgender person would be forced to use a bathroom that does not conform with that individual’s gender. The rule was passed in an unusual special session convened by the legislature, which cost tax payers more than $40,000.
According to an analysis by the ACLU of North Carolina, the bill “also jeopardizes the more than $4.5 billion in federal funding that North Carolina receives for secondary and post-secondary schools under Title IX, which prohibits sex discrimination, including discrimination against transgender students.”
But those who are directly targeted say its impact goes even further, restricting the abilities of LGBTQ communities to move freely and earn a living wage—and consigning them to the status of second-class members of society.
“HB 2 is hurtful and demeaning. I just want to go to work and live my life. This law puts me in the terrible position of either going into the women’s room where I clearly don’t belong or breaking the law,” said plaintiff JoaquÃn CarcaÃ±o, a transgender North Carolinian whose lawsuit was filed Monday with the backing of multiple civil rights organizations, including the ACLU.
“But this is about more than bathrooms,” CarcaÃ±o continued, “this is about my job, my community, and my ability to get safely through my day and be productive like everyone else in North Carolina.”
Kris Hayashi, executive director of Transgender Law Center, declared last week, “To rush legislation past the House, Senate, and the Governor’s desk in a single day, without time for consideration or debate, is bad governing no matter what the bill. Doing so for a law like this, with consequences that range from billions in lost federal funding to direct harm to youth and families, is nothing short of dereliction of duty by the state’s leadership.”
Sebring agreed, noting that the impact will be widely felt, particularly among low-income people and communities of color who are targeted by the torrent of right-wing legislation that touched off the Moral Monday movements. “On Thursday, we saw over 500 people take the streets in front of the governor’s mansion in Raleigh,” said Sebring. “We saw people from many different walks of life with the overall messages that Black Lives Matter and Trans Black Lives Matter.”
Hermelinda CortÃ©s, communications coordinator and organizer for SONG, told AlterNet that the struggle in North Carolina has nationwide implications.
“LGBTQ people have always been a part of the right wing’s ‘southern strategy’ to move pieces of legislation by targeting groups with fear mongering to create divisions,” said CortÃ©s. “The Trump effect is creating lightening strike moments that are allowing White people who are feeling all kinds of ways about the economy to blame LGBTQ communities.”
“They are creating a culture of violence that is aggregating,” CortÃ©s continued. "But we’re looking at making sure people know their rights. We’re collecting stories to help support the lawsuit. We’re building a larger statewide strategy, to see how we actually help move power and energy so that it is not sustainable for the state of North Carolina to do business based on violence and fear of LGBTQ people.”