Eight Stories About #HB2 and Its Ramifications on the Transgender Community

Photo: North Carolina Legislative Building via Wikimedia Commons.

I have tried to put together this reading list on the passage of House Bill 2 in North Carolina from a dozen different angles, and all I can come up with is this past week was awful on every conceivable level. I want to believe people are inherently good. If you live outside the United States or aren’t attuned to current events, you may not be familiar with HB2 or its ramifications for the transgender community. I hope the following eight stories will be of use to you, to educate my cisgender readers and provide support and solidarity to my transgender siblings. You are not alone.

1. Autostraddle has the most incisive scoop, as usual: “With the Passing of HB2, North Carolina Signs Hate Into Law.”

The author, Alaina Monts, is a non-binary student at the University of North Carolina. My favorite part of their coverage is the emphasis on the queer and POC activists dedicated to staying in North Carolina and doing the hard work of fighting these oppressive laws, rather than the proponents of the #WeAreNotThis hashtag, who hastened to distance themselves from their home state’s history of oppression.

2. “Who Birthed the Anti-Trans Bathroom Panic?” (Melissa Gira Grant, Pacific Standard, March 2016)

Melissa Gira Grant tackles the transmisogyny espoused by certain prominent feminists and integrated into academic spheres, healthcare, and, as evidenced by the events of the past week in North Carolina, legislature.

3. “Why Conservatives Increasingly Care Where You Pee.” (S.E. Smith, Rolling Stone, March 2016)

What a coincidence that this evil anti-trans legislation appears during an election year:

Opposing trans rights dovetails neatly with the interests of the right, allowing candidates to come out swinging against civil rights to appeal to conservative voters. Moreover, reintroducing constant fear brings voters out for downticket races, as right-leaning voters will turn out in force to prevent state houses from passing inclusive legislation and they’ll also vote for Republican Congress members. There’s alarming overlap between states where bathroom access is being debated and those with contested Congressional seats…

And then S.E. Smith examines several of these contested states, dropping names. Trust me: You’re going to know who to vote for after reading this. Don’t fall for fearmongering.

4. “The Personal Politics of Public Bathrooms.” (Ann Friedman, The Cut, July 2015)

Ann Friedman writes about the societal vulnerability we feel in about using the bathroom, and how anti-trans legislation exploits that.

5. “Transgender People Are More Visible Than Ever. So Why Is There More Anti-Trans Legislation Than Ever, Too?” (Joss Truitt, The Nation, March 2016)

You might be surprised to hear that legislation, discrimination, and violence targeting trans people seems to be getting worse…But visibility for trans people, and the mainstream success of TV shows and movies that claim to tell trans stories, do not always mean more safety and acceptance for trans people in real life. Many trans people I’ve spoken with have told me they felt more worried about being targeted in public after Jenner’s story brought so much focus on trans women…Knowing a real trans person in your life is what leads to increased acceptance, not just being exposed to trans narratives through popular culture.

6. “Greater Transgender Visibility Hasn’t Helped Nonbinary People, Like Me.” (Alok Vaid-Menon, The Guardian, October 2015)

Alok Vaid-Menon is one-half of the activist/artist duo DarkMatter. In this essay, they explain that increased trans visibility hasn’t eased the omnipresence of the gender binary. Now, trans people are expected to adhere to cisgender standards of beauty, looking feminine or masculine but never in-between if they want to be accepted and respected. Especially in context of these recent “bathroom bills,” Vaid-Menon rejects this:

The [#WeJustNeedToPee] campaign successfully highlighted the ridiculousness of the “bathroom bills”, but it did so by leaning on old-fashioned gender rules: shock that someone who looked like a “woman” could be in a “men’s” restroom and vice versa.

People like me were erased from this framing, even though we often experience the brunt of gender policing, because society continually misgenders us. Rather than challenging the idea that you can tell someone’s gender from what they look like (or the notion that bathrooms should be gendered to begin with!), many trans activists and allies accepted the idea that certain people who look certain ways belong in certain bathrooms. Nobody should have to look a particular way to pee safely.

7. & 8.

So often I see religion used as an excuse for hate. That’s why I’m including  “Coming Home: Life as a Transgender Convert” (Mahdia Lynn, Muslim Girl, September 2015) and  “What the Bible Says (And Doesn’t Say) About Trans People” (Eliel Cruz, Religion News Service, September 2015). Eliel Cruz is the executive director of Faith in America and the founder of #FaithfullyLGBT, a campaign dedicated to representing queer voices in different religious communities. In his piece for RNS, he eviscerates any biblical basis for oppression against trans people. In her essay, Mahdia Lynn, coordinator of the Transgender Muslim Support Network, explores how the recent visibility of transgender celebrities has made her Muslim community contend with the reality of trans believers in their midst.