Two transgender perspectives on potential repeal of HB2

With the repeal of HB2 likely to come in tomorrow’s special legislative session, there has been some controversy over the Charlotte City Council’s repeal of the LGBT protections in its original ordinance in a deal with legislative leaders in Raleigh.

If both the Charlotte ordinance and HB2 are repealed, the status quo will essentially revert to March  – when there were no protections related to transgender people choosing public restrooms in accorance with their gender identity, but there were also not the restrictions of HB2.

Does that amount, as some on both the left and the right are now suggesting, to throwing transgender people under the bus?

I decided to call two North Carolina transgender women to whom I’ve spoken on HB2 stories before: Candis Cox, the transgender activist who met with Gov. Pat McCrory on HB2 and Callie Schmid, an activist and board member of the Guilford Green Foundation.

Cox said she’s proud of the Charlotte City Council – and doesn’t agree that they compromised.

“I think it’s important to point out this isn’t really a compromise,” Cox said in a Policy Watch interview Tuesday. “The non-discrimination protection that Charlotte had on its books is now null and void under House Bill 2. It isn’t protecting anyone right now, so having it is kind of a moot point.”

Further, Cox said, having HB2 in place prevents individual communities from passing their own ordinances like those that exist in cities like Charlotte, Raleigh and Greensboro that offer important LGBTQ protections.

“I appluad the Charlotte City Council because they see the much larger picture,” Cox said. “We have Gov.-elect Roy Cooper now, who is an advocate for the LGBTQ community and put in place things that can better the lives of all LGBTQ people. With a new governor in office, we now can have dialogue about how we can move forward – we won’t have a road block like HB2 on the books.”

Ideally, Cox said, the HB2 controversy would never have happened – but as the law did invalidate the Charlotte ordinance, those fighting for LGBTQ rights have to do the best strategic thing to make the gains that are possible.

“It’s politics,” Cox said. “And unfortunately in politics, it’s a giant game of chess. Every move has to be well thought out and calculated, but you have to think of your opponent’s move five moves ahead.”

Schmid said that’s what worries her. With a Republican supermajority in the N.C. House and the N.C. Senate, she said, Governor-elect Roy Cooper won’t be able to do much in the way of advancing LGBTQ rights through statewide legislation. And gay and lesbian protections may continue to advance at the local level in some places in the state – but specific transgender protections like the restroom and locker-room pieces of the Charlotte ordinance is likely to ignite another political firestorm.

“It’s very bittersweet for me,” Schmid said. “It’s a victory to repeal HB2, but it comes at a price for us. For transgender people – if places like Greensboro or Durham tries to offer these protections again, they’ll reinstate HB2 or something else like it.”

Schmid said she’d personally hoped the Charlotte City Council would hold out and that through lawsuits and political pressure, HB2 would be overturned and the Charlotte ordinance would be reinstated and become a blueprint for other communities.

“But unfortunately I think it’s a money deal,” Schmid said. “I think North Carolina has taken so many economic hits because of HB2 that everyone just wants it to go away. But doing it this way, I think it was a deal that was done without consulting with people in the transgender community.”

For transgender people, Schmid said, it’s more than an economic calculation.

“We have skin in the game,” Schmid said. “The reason the Charlotte protections were so important is because we do see harassment and even violence just going to the bathroom. And now people who hate are so emboldened, that’s just gotten worse. And it’s not the people like me I’m most worried about – it’s kids in schools who are experiencing harassment.”

Now, Schmid said, the best hope is breaking the Republican supermajority’s hold on the legislature in next year’s special election and beyond.

“We have to get people out to the polls, we have to elect some people with some more compassion and better perspective,” Schmid said. “That’s what needs to happen next.”

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