On Friday, UNCG’s Office of Intercultural Engagement held a CommUNITY Dialogue, in partner with the residential college Ashby, about House Bill 2.
House Bill 2, The Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act, was passed by the General Assembly and signed by former North Carolina Governor, Pat McCrory, on March 23, 2016. It was repealed and effectively replaced by House Bill 142 on March 30, 2017. Chris Brook, the legal director for the North Carolina chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, stated this at a news conference: “H.B. 142 is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, crafted to keep discrimination intact but sporing a new look… Local protections for transgender people have been effectively banned.”
The most controversial aspect of this bill was the part which dictated that people must use the restroom corresponding with the gender they were assigned at birth; meaning many transgender individuals were forced to use a bathroom with a gender marker they do not identify with.
The bill, however, did not just focus on bathrooms. Issues such as allowing workplace discrimination and hiring and firing laws were also put into action by the bill. Later, the bill was revoked, although that won’t really be a reality until 2020.
At the CommUNITY Dialogue, students came to discuss the repercussions of the bill on those who it directly affected, which is predominately people of color, LGBTQ+ people and women.
Assistant director of the LGBTQ+ Outreach and Advocacy program, Elliot R. Kimball, hosted and facilitated the event. Kimball said, “The purpose of these events are to really encourage dialogue … an exchange of ideas, of culture and experiences, and to try to move toward a place of understanding.”
The dialogue began with a discussion on what the participants thought they knew about House Bill 2. At the beginning of the discussion, facilitators asked everyone to keep in mind that when discussing topics as vast and important as one like this, it is not possible to come to one answer or solution, but rather to find ways to move forward and to improve from where people currently are in their understanding of the topic.
In response, many students simply referred to the bill as the bathroom bill, as well as other things the bill includes that are less popularly known, such as workplace discrimination. As a result, a lot of attention in the dialogue was put towards the misconceptions and discriminatory rhetoric regarding what surfaced from the bill.
Kimball said, “How LGBTQ people were characterized in the media will be the focus of our dialogue today.”
The participants were asked to write down words they associated with or heard from others in reference to the bill. Offensive associations with transgender people such as “pervert,” was a word that was commonly mentioned as a way that the media characterized transgender people using the restroom which corresponded with their gender identity.
Attendants also discussed the various protests and transphobic media which arose in response to the passing of the bill, as well as the ways in which LGBTQ+ people worked to organize and fight against it.
Ultimately, House Bill 2 took on a large presence on the media. This furthered the tension in the state on individuals affected by the bill and those in support of it. Many activists negatively affected by the bill took their voices to the internet in order to counter transphobic narratives relating to the bathroom aspect of the bill, such as the claim that transgender women use the women’s restrooms to prey on cisgender women.
While the bill has been repealed, the question attendants were being asked to consider was: are the impacts of the bill really gone? And if not, how do we improve this situation?