Last month, North Carolina lawmakers passed what they called a “compromise repeal” of the state’s notoriously costly and discriminatory anti-LGBT law, House Bill 2. HB2 mandated statewide discrimination against trans people in schools and other government buildings and restricted the ability of localities from passing nondiscrimination ordinances protecting against sexual orientation and gender-identity-based discrimination.
But the HB2 replacement, House Bill 142, is no repeal — it is just a slightly restructured version of the same discriminatory mandates of its predecessor and once again singles out trans people for discrimination in both rhetoric and law.
Shortly after the passage of this fake repeal of HB2, both the NCAA and the NBA announced that they would again consider North Carolina to host events after they had pulled events from the state in 2016 — costing the state hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenue — following the passage of HB2. Showing just how quickly the defense of civil rights collapsed in the name of profit, the NBA and the NCAA have now further opened the door to new waves of discrimination in North Carolina and across the country.
Wasting no time, leading anti-trans lawmakers in Texas are now rushing to pass a clone of North Carolina’s HB142 — seizing on the tacit, if not explicit endorsement, of discrimination by the NCAA and NBA. The Texas bill, House Bill 2899, is expected to be heard on Wednesday, April 19. And like its clone in North Carolina, and the bill once again animated by the dangerous lie that it “provides clear direction to public schools and government institutions on how to protect privacy and safety by ensuring that men do not enter women's showers, locker rooms and restrooms.”
But make no mistake — this bill protects no one.
Texas’s HB2899 and SB6 — the HB2-like ban on trans people using restrooms that accord with their gender — and North Carolina’s HB142 are not about privacy or safety. These measures are about cultivating fear of trans people in public space, and they ultimately seek to expel us from participation in public life.
The proposed laws and the support for them rely on and reinforce the idea that women who are trans are “really” men and that trans people, by living as our authentic selves, are deceiving others. And the subtext is always that our mere presence in single-sex spaces compromises the safety and privacy of others.
But this is simply not true.
Most of these lawmakers have already shared restrooms with trans people, and it went unnoticed because like all people, we (trans) people go to the restroom to do our business and get out. The only people who seem fixated on our presence there are the lawmakers seeking to bar us from the spaces we have been using for as long as we have existed.
And whether North Carolina, Texas, or any other state uses overt or covert tactics to restrict us from using the restroom that accords with who we are, the effect is the same and the message is clear: “You are not welcome here.”
In December of 2016, Roy Cooper, then governor-elect of North Carolina, rejected a proposed repeal of HB2 that was far less discriminatory than the fake repeal he signed last month. Nothing changed in the meaning of the law or the dignity of trans people. All that changed was that Cooper, the NCAA, the NBA grew tired of defending civil rights while profits waned.
Well, you know what is far more exhausting than holding a principled line against discrimination? Living under relentless discrimination and the demonization of your existence. That is happening to trans people in North Carolina, in Texas, and across the country. And the costs are dire as trans women of color are being murdered in record numbers, trans students are wondering whether they will face state-sponsored bullying and harassment in school, and entire generations of trans people are hearing the message that we are not welcome in public life.
But thankfully, we are far more committed, have far more endurance, and far more principle than Cooper, the NCAA, and the NBA. We will never cave when it comes to our rights. We will never back down when it comes to defending our humanity and neither will our allies. We will welcome back the NCAA, the NBA, and even North Carolina lawmakers should they choose to re-join us on the right side of history.
On Wednesday, we will show up in opposition to Texas’s HB2899 and every other anti-trans, anti-LGBT measure Texas puts up for consideration.
There is no such thing as compromising on civil rights. As I have said elsewhere: “Compromise on justice is not a beginning — it is an end. It does not build but forever changes the target away from our vision of decency and justice.”
There is still time for Texas to do the right thing. We are watching. We are fighting. And we are not giving up.