Resisting HB2 Bill: the North Carolina Legislation Against Trans People Is About So Much More Than Public Bathrooms

Published

Article published in The Funambulist 13 (September-October 2017) Queers, Feminists and Interiors. Click here to access the rest of the issue.

Imagine having to sigh.

Imagine wearing an orange crop top, a black skirt, a cute headband, and still wondering if the outie between your thighs and a pesky law will force you to use the men’s restroom…

I remind myself that I will be in the men’s restroom wearing an orange crop top, a black skirt and a fucking headband. This outfit was cute a few minutes ago and now somehow it might cost me my life.

I remember the day House Bill 2 passed. Our worst fears, ratified overnight. Thanks to cis white capitalists, we can expect to experience more legalized violence. And Mofos get hella bold when protected by the law.

Although House Bill 2 (HB2), or “The Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act,” is known as “The Bathroom Bill,” it is about so much more than bathrooms. In February 2016, thanks to the efforts of local queer and trans community organizers, the city council of Charlotte, North Carolina passed a nondiscrimination ordinance extending legal protections to LGBTQ people. By law, Charlotte businesses could no longer deny someone service or a job because of their gender identity or sexual orientation. The ordinance also granted transgender people the right to use public bathrooms marked for the gender of their choice. While the new law itself did not include any protections against many of the systemic barriers trans women of color face – like discriminatory access to housing and medical care – conservative rich white state officials clapped back.

Almost overnight, North Carolina then-governor Pat McCrory and his cronies in his legislature began drafting a state bill to shut down the nondiscrimination ordinance in Charlotte, and prevent future anti-discrimination bills from arising on the local level across the state. HB2 had five points:

(1) Transgender people must use the bathroom that matches their gender assigned at birth, regardless of their gender identity.
(2) City governments cannot pass laws protecting LGBTQ people from job discrimination or from being denied service because they are queer or trans.
(3) City governments cannot pass laws protecting working people under 18.
(4) All pre-existing laws passed by city governments protecting LGBTQ people, as well as local laws about worker wages and benefits no longer exist.
(5) People can no longer sue for any type of discrimination on the state level.

Johnson Marsicano Funambulist
Activists against HB2 Bill at the Moral Monday Rally in Raleigh, NC on April 25, 2016 / Photo by Nathania Johnson

Through these five points, HB2 attacked LGBTQ people and annihilated all workers’ and marginalized people’s rights. With one law, North Carolina’s state government granted businesses and employees the right to discriminate against people. Most people in our cities had no idea. To most, it was simply “The Bathroom Bill” because Governor McCrory, as well as local, state, and national news sources built traction for HB2 by marketing it on their hatred of (and fascination with) trans people, in particular trans women of color.

To rally support around HB2, McCrory constructed the image of hypothetical dark men-in-disguise throwing on wigs and dresses and sneaking into the women’s bathroom to rape, kidnap, or perhaps even kill North Carolina’s cisgender women and children. This racist and transmisogynistic trope appealed to conservatives and liberal white feminists alike. Just one month after Charlotte’s passed its nondiscrimination ordinance, the state legislature blocked the local ordinance and pushed civil rights in North Carolina by decades back in the process. All in the name of “protecting” women and children; trans women became the scapegoats, the perverts, the criminals, the monsters.