Just the other day, my oldest daughter and I were zipping up a two-lane backroad toward the North Carolina/Virginia state line, windows down, music up, hair whipping in the wind, when out of nowhere a little red sports car with Florida plates passed us at dangerous break-neck speed.
"Wow" was all I could verbally manage without inserting a few choice curse words.
"Yeah Mom, he's probably just in a hurry to get out of here. He doesn't want to catch the transphobia."
My daughter sometimes has a dark sarcastic sense of humor, but she has a way of making me think.
I assure you, as a North Carolinian, the issue is a tad more complicated than that, but this isn't really about HB2, or rights versus perceived rights, or gender versus gender identity. It's about people's reactions to a bill most of them haven't even read. Craziness has ensued because flames of misunderstanding have been fanned by just about everyone. Clear battle lines have been drawn in an "if you ain't with us, you must be agin us" fashion the state hasn't seen since the War of Northern Aggression (We still call it that here. If there is one thing Southerners know, it's how to hold a grudge. Especially a well-earned one.)
But it isn't just North Carolinians picking sides. There has been a popular boycott of NC by musicians and corporations and entire US cities. The mayors of Seattle, New York City, Portland, and San Francisco have placed bans on travel to the Tarheel state. Meanwhile, television and movie production companies are fleeing the state. Paypal cancelled a North Carolina expansion citing HB2 and its hatred and bigotry (while maintaining operations in Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, and Singapore where anti-LGBT policies don't stop at public restrooms). And influential artists like Ringo Starr, Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam, Demi Lovato, and Nick Jonas (Okay. The term "influential" may be loosely applied) have cancelled their North Carolina shows. It's like they are afraid to step one toe inside of North Carolina, afraid to be tainted with our transphobia, which is apparently more contagious than Ebola or Zika Virus by the looks of it.
This leaves me livid. Not because I was really looking forward to seeing Demi Lovato rock it out live, either. No, I'm upset because these entities would leave North Carolina a moral wasteland. Not that I necessarily agree with their morals or their politics, but abandoning an entire state to wallow in what they consider out-dated bigotry is inexcusable. If they really cared about LGBT North Carolinians, they wouldn't leave them alone with what they consider wolves.
That isn't how you change hearts and minds. You can't do that from the outside, standing across the border, shouting at North Carolinians about how hateful we are. That's poor form. Instead, you cross the lines, you get down in the muck, you get your hands dirty. That's how you change people's minds. It doesn't happen by shouting your moral superiority at them.
Do you know how you enact change? From the inside. You can't boycott away bigotry any more than you can legislate it away. If those artists and politicians and corporations really wanted to do something for LGBT North Carolinians, they would come to North Carolina and use their influence and raise awareness, or better yet, funds for LGBT charities. Imagine the benefit concert possibilities. Of course, that takes effort. It's a lot easier to cancel a tour date or sign a travel ban from behind the safety of an expensive mahogany desk. No effort required.
And while everyone is busy shouting at North Carolina, I have some news for them: Most of us don't care where anyone uses the bathroom. In fact, before the Charlotte law domino that led to HB2, transgender people walked freely into whichever bathroom they chose and nary a person batted an eyelash. If you looked like a dude and you were entering a facility clearly labeled for dudes, no one was asking for confirmation of a Y chromosome for admittance.
It was government that created this problem that government had to swoop in and try to fix while royally botching it up.
But as a mother and a woman, shouldn't I be afraid of creepy men lurking in women's restrooms?
No, I'm not that delicate.
First of all, a public restroom is exactly that. Public. I have no more right to be there than anyone else. It's a shocker I know, but if my daughters or I enter a public restroom and there is a strange dude in a Dolly Parton wig with obvious intent to harm, we have as much right to leave as he has to be there. I assure you, we have enough brains to do so (I can't speak for the intellectual ability of every North Carolina woman, however). We don't have to use that facility. In fact, we could waltz right on over to the men's room and probably pee in peace. Here in North Carolina, there will likely to be a plethora of bold and noble cisgender men to protect us while we tinkle. At gunpoint if necessary.
And in a pinch, my girls and myself could scream and yell for help while force-feeding our attacker his own testicles if it came to that.
That's just how we ladies roll in the Old North State.