Opinion: Why do I have to keep telling North Carolina I’m a human woman?

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When I first read some Republican representatives co-sponsored a bill to ban same-sex marriage in North Carolina, I thought, “That can’t happen since it’s already been decided by the Supreme Court. That’s stupid.”

But I thought the same thing when House Bill 2 was introduced last March. And look what happened. So I stayed steely. I talked to friends in the know about what could happen. I re-looked at my secret wedding Pinterest(s) and wondered if I should get an early start. My very own “nuclear option” in taffeta and lace.

One of the sponsors of the “Uphold Historical Marriage Act” was Republican Rep. Larry Pittman of Cabarrus County, who on the day House Bill 2 passed, heard my girlfriend Lara Americo’s testimony about the hardships of being a transgender woman in North Carolina. He shook her hand afterwards, looked her in the eyes, and said, “Thank you, but I will never vote your way.”

Then North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore said the bill would not be heard because of “strong constitutional concerns” related to the Supreme Court’s definitive decision on same-sex marriage in 2015. The proposed bill, dubbed House Bill 780, was dead on arrival.

Whew, right?

No. No whew.

We still don’t have a real repeal of House Bill 2. We have a “compromise” HB2.0 that keeps all the gross transphobia of House Bill 2 and adds a clause that prevents local cities and municipalities from making their own non-discrimination ordinances until 2020. That means cities can’t protect their own people and will be at the whim of these nutters hijacking our state for at least three more years.

And then Rep. Brenden Jones (Republican, natch) floated a bill that would increase the penalties for “entering the restroom or changing room of the opposite sex,” according to his Facebook post.

Oh well that’s just great. Then I’d get to DOUBLE worry about my girlfriend going out. Just great.

If this passes under our limp Democratic Governor Roy Cooper, then maybe I’ll become a fiend. I’ll never sleep when Lara is out with her friends — or, gasp, by herself — and worry that the love of my life will be handcuffed and sent to jail because she drank too many margaritas and needed to pee really bad and had to use a public restroom. Great. This is exactly what I needed in my already stressful life.

And it doesn’t even matter if these bills pass or don’t pass. It’s the nod and a wink to acceptable bigotry and transphobia that emboldens already bigoted, racist, and transphobic people to stand tall in their thinking. And so, bill passed or not, people can harass LGBTQ people just because it’s out there now. It’s the dark version of that scene in “When Harry Met Sally” when Billy Crystal says that once a man or a woman has romantic feelings for their opposite sex friend, it’s too late. The thought is already out there.

If none of this scares you, you must live on some mountaintop with your very own frozen margarita machine and personal golden toilet. You must be one of those people who say, “I’m sorry about what’s happening” and do nothing else. But since you are reading this rambling, I’m hoping you’re someone who wants to learn more and be a person.

Can you tell I’m a tad angry? Good, because I am. I’m tired of being levelheaded and trying to prove myself to be a regular human woman when I should already be seen that way. I am. Very human. And it is human to get pissed and cry when a state that you love and have lived in for over 20 years is being run by bigots, and that when you talk to some people about it, they tell you, “Give it time. Progress is one step at a time.”

Sure. If the state comes for your rights, then I’ll be the first one to say, “Hey, progress takes time.” If it starts coming for your husbands, straight cisgender ladies, then I’ll say, “Well, just text him more to be sure he doesn’t get clobbered outside!”

There should be no compromise on equal rights, because when we’re not all free, no one is free. If you’re one of those people who don’t want to stand next to your queer son or your transgender cousin because you’re afraid someone will hurt you, you’re part of the problem. You are part of the emboldening, and I’m not having it anymore.

Voting for better representatives in a gerrymandered state is not going to help, so save me the speech about how we are going to vote these people out in 2018. It’s possible, but we need to do more. We need to create meaningful community, call our existing representatives, show the people who are already riding shotgun on our state that we’re not cool with this shit.

And maybe if you’re on the fence, it will take you seeing one of your transgender or queer friends experience discrimination. And I don’t be begrudge you that, because, well, we are human and tend to care about issues once we see them happen to the real people around us.

And as Lara told Mother Jones this week:

“When you don’t allow cities to give people protections, you put people in danger. Our state government made it clear that they put profit and sports ahead of our safety, and that mentality trickles down. We still don’t have the protections we need — all we have is a spotlight on us, so that people who don’t like us can target us. I feel less safe now than I did a few weeks ago, and so do a lot of people.”

Oh yeah, and my dream wedding will be great. But I’m going to need time to work out the kinks on the super gay fireworks display after the reception.

Photo: Graham Morrison

2 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you for your much needed post!!
    It’s time we tar heels put our southern hospitality on the back burner for a bit and raise a little hell about this fake repeal.
    I can’t figure out why my home state can’t see through this BS and call our representatives out on that ugly red carpet in Raleigh.
    How dumb do they take us for?
    Like you said, it is very clear that basketball and all things, ACC, NCAA and professional sports are much more important in NC then the safety and recognition of ALL citizens as free and equal. Protecting the GLBTQ community is on the back back burner for the foreseeable future.
    Of course , now that Trump has started playing, “What can this bomb destroy” in Syria and Afghanistan, rest assured we ARE less safe then we were just 3 months
    ago.
    Its up to us to all be level headed, smart, and not alone as much as possible.
    Don’t go to the women’s restroom alone if at all possible.
    Carry mase if legal where you are.
    And again, just be smart,.
    Like you said, our lawmakers have basically given the green light to treat the GLBTQ and especially the trans community any way they want to,.
    Let’s just all look out for each another!!!

  2. As fearful as it might be, exposure and education seem to be the most effective. People fear what they do not know. How many times do I have to explain that transgender people aren’t pedophiles hanging out in bathrooms? Parents have more to fear from a relative, coach, teacher, priest than a transgender. I wonder how fast laws would change if all businesses were required to provide a gender neutral bathroom? When it will force a cost onto them things seem to move a little quicker. Change and progress do occur. Maybe not as fast as we like, but I remember the time when the play Angles in America was shut down. Would that happen today?

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