Marching from the front to the back of the EUC, the atmosphere was tense and electric — clad in orange tape, rainbow flags and holding signs that read, “Protect trans youth,” “impeach McCrory” and “black LGBT lives matter,” throughout campus — on April 5, hundreds of LGBT students and LGBT allies flooded the campus to protest the recent passage of House Bill 2.
LGBT students and allies — predominantly black transgender people and transgender people of color — led the protest to display their opposition to HB2, as the bill affects their ability to use the restroom which corresponds with their gender identity, find and keep jobs, as well as maintain a living wage.
Throughout the protest, participants shouted, “Hey hey, ho ho, HB2 has got to go,” “who shut shit down, we shut shit down,” “if we don’t get no justice, they don’t get no peace,” “no justice, no peace, no racist police,” “when black trans women are under attack, what do we do, stand up fight back,” “Spellings can’t stop the revolution,” “Gilliam can’t stop the revolution” and “I believe that we will win,” among other passionate chants.
One of the most memorable moments of the protest was when protesters came together to block off the intersection of Tate and Spring Garden streets.
Linking arms to form a circular human chain, chanting, singing and dancing at the center of the circle, protesters risked arrest to display their anger and frustration with HB2, while police officers surrounded the outskirts of the circle with zip ties.
Throughout this portion of the protest, one of the most powerful statements echoed regarding the roadblock, was, “Business cannot go on as usual while our bodies are under attack.”
One of the participants in the human chain, protester and UNCG alum, Holden Cession, said, “As a trans person, this bill means multiple things to me, it means to me that, I mean, I was already not guaranteed safety in public restrooms, because, I mean, being trans and going and using public restrooms, is always a challenge for folks in our community, but this bill now puts a giant target on my back as a trans person, but even moreso as a trans person of color, it puts an even larger and greater target on my back, because I have to deal with concerns of being targeted, and stereotyped and profiled when I go anywhere, and to then be trans on top of that, paints an even bigger target on my back, as a black trans person.”
Another participant in the human chain, UNCG junior, Carly Springs, participated in the protest, not as a member of the trans community, but as a supporter, who is still affected by the bill.
“I’m here because my life is directly impacted by this bill. I’m not trans, but I have a trans girlfriend… This bill [HB2] doesn’t have our best interests in mind at all. It’s transphobic, it puts our bodies in danger, so I guess I’m here to make sure they know we’re here to stand against this,” said Springs.
Organizer and UNG alum, Zach Easterling, was one of the prominent voices leading the protest — shouting, chanting and dancing in the middle of the human chain that blocked off the road — they spoke with The Carolinian regarding what the protest means to them as a black trans person.
“For me, it’s important, to like, organize an event to stand in solidarity with other actions that have been going on in different cities and universities around the state.
But other than that, what kind of person would I be to not try to like, organize and advocate for my community.
Especially like, pulling from like, my alma mater, and I know, in many ways, it’s [UNCG is] like, complicit in some of these discriminatory actions.
As much as I want to hold the state accountable, I want to hold the university accountable. I’m agender, so for me, it’s about standing in solidarity with queer and POC [people of color] and low-wage workers.
So it’s like, also very important for me to magnify that this is a workers issue as well. So, all workers, queer, trans, cis, whatever, are affected by this. [Personally] to me, it’s about survival; the ability to like, make a living and navigate the world in a way that I feel free,” said Easterling.
With the chant, “What are we gonna do? Go to Mossman!” Protesters shuffled into the Mossman Building, chanting, intent to air their frustration to administrators and Chancellor Gilliam; as they believed that his email did not condemn HB2 strongly enough.
In Mossman, many trans people aired their personal grievances with the bill, the UNCG administration, as well as what this protest means to them.
Brandon Osley, UNCG freshman and trans person, said, that to them, the protest means, “I am a trans student of color, and it’s [HB2 is] more legislation against minorities, but you know, it’s a simple thing we want really, can’t I just pee in peace? I am [here] fighting for my other trans people out there, who can’t be here, like the trans boy who died in Charlotte a year ago, and this [HB2] was passed on his death-iversary. I’m here for people like him who can’t be here.”
As the protest began to wind down, organizers began to discuss plans regarding future protests, as well as reflect upon the significance of what it is to actively fight against legislation that is negatively impacting their lives.
Suquana Butler, UNCG junior and member of the trans community, shared their thoughts about the significance of fighting HB2. “As a student and a community member, it is my duty to be here.
I’m doing this for everyone, and I’m doing this for myself, as a non-binary person of color in the community, I deserve so much more, and I’m going to fight for what I deserve. [To be here] means fighting, it means revolution, it means power and like, and taking back power.”