Winston Salem needs to take a harder stance on HB2

It’s time we move beyond stalling tactics

For those who are unfamiliar with the recent HB2 Legislation (commonly referred to as the Bathroom Bill) in North Carolina, Section 1 requires that all individuals use public bathroom and changing facilities that correspond with their “biological sex.” This means that transgender and gender non-conforming individuals are required to use bathrooms that correspond, not with their gender identity, but the sex they were assigned at birth.

Some have argued this portion of the bill is “common sense” and that it protects women from bathroom assaults by men posing as women.

However, this statement is wildly inaccurate.

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There are about 200 cities in the United States which allow people to use public bathroom facilities that correspond with their gender identity, and of these 200, there are no recorded cases of cis-gender men, posing as women, in order to gain access into women’s bathrooms and sexually assault any occupants. It is important to note that in cases where men did enter bathrooms with the intention of assaulting women, they violated the privacy and security of these spaces without changing their appearance.

Section 2 of this bill strips cities of any right to pass local legislation on issues of wages and employment. You may be asking yourself, “What does that have to do with bathrooms?” Well, we have asked ourselves the same question.

For a conservative legislature and governor to extend government oversight, unnecessarily, over their local municipalities is a bit contradictory to their basic beliefs of small government and locally-based freedoms. Contradictions aside, this portion of the bill does not allow for cities to raise wages, regulate contractors’ employment practices, or mandates regulating how businesses distribute their goods and services.

Finally, Section 3 of this bill, strips citizens of their ability to sue on the basis of discrimination. I repeat: citizens of North Carolina, under this law, cannot sue if they are discriminated against. In addition, cities are not allowed to expand their non-discrimination policies on public accommodations or private employers, beyond what is protected on a State-wide level.

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Luckily, cities across the state have been taking stances since the passing of this bill. On Monday, April 18th, in my hometown of Winston Salem, community activists scored a win against HB2 by influencing our City Council to take a stance against HB2. However, our stance must be critiqued.

Our resolution called for a legislative investigation of potentially adverse consequences of the inadequately considered HB2 legislation, as well as called on members of the Forsyth County delegation to reconsider and undo this legislation during the short session.

Let’s be real for a moment.

We cannot softly call on the North Carolina General Assembly (NCGA) to investigate or “reconsider” this bill, if it took them 24 hours to pass it without considering the state-wide implications. We are already seeing the impact HB2 is having on our state.

Asking for further investigation is a stalling tactic. Cities like Greensboro and Durham took much stronger stances on this issue, and centered the concerns of LGBT individuals – something Winston Salem failed to do. Carrboro took an even stronger stance stating in it’s first resolve, that it would continue to affirm its own non-discrimination policies, putting them at risk for court battles with the state.

When we consider that trans women of color suffer the highest rates of violence, transmisogyny is taking lives and terrorizing people every day. When the livelihoods of trans citizens are being attacked, it is unethical to consider a “moderate” stance an acceptable stance. Moderate stances in the face of injustice do not change the status quo –  they leverage the louder, ever present voice of the unjust. I call on everyone to actively work against laws that implicitly and explicitly legitimizes transmisogyny.

Some in our city applauded the passing of this resolution, stating that our city had reinstated rights to our transgender community, but that this is not the case. Winston Salem did not take a hardline stance, and consequently de-prioritized the transgender community, and denied to stand up for the humanity of all of its citizens. The city simply said, “Eh. Let’s investigate. And our legislators out in Raleigh should repeal it.”

But, it is time to move our efforts forward. This stance opens the door for local activists to begin working with their local legislators to pass improved non-discrimination policies, to expand employee protections, to increase minimum wages, and to continue any work that improves the lived experiences of marginalized communities so that when HB2 is repealed, these measures can quickly go into effect.

On a state-wide level, as we enter the short legislative session on Monday, April 25th, we must continue to push our local representatives in NCGA to repeal this harmful bill. We must stand by our transgender and gender non-conforming family and tell our state government that we will not sit idly by as they attempt to further dehumanize a community of people which is already systemically marginalized.

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