On September 26, Laila Nur, a queer black musician, took the mic at the North Carolina Pride Parade. The announcer gave her group two minutes to speak and warned her not to “say anything offensive.” Sure enough, within a minute, Nur got cut short. An event affiliate stepped on her foot, grabbed her arm, and ripped the mic out of her hand. The offense: calling out the whitewashing and policing of Pride, which the statewide Queer and Trans People of Color Coalition had also done at Greensboro Pride a week earlier. Later, demanding an apology, she wrote, “#ReclaimPride because that’s exactly what it’s all about: Standing up, starting shit and fighting back!”
Six months later, the state’s General Assembly pulled a similar move on QTPoC coalition member Qasima Wideman. As legislators heard testimony on the anti-trans, anti-worker “bathroom bill,” HB2, Wideman got escorted out after demanding time for trans people of color. “I have watched us be forgotten, ignored, pushed to the margins of the fight,” they wrote afterward, invoking Sylvia Rivera and the militant roots of gay rights. “But the truth remains: We started this movement.”
HB2 has stoked opposition everywhere—from the QTPoC coalition, which led a three-hour street takeover outside Governor Pat McCrory’s mansion following its passage, to Deutsche Bank, to even Donald Trump. In such a big tent, the meaning and long game of the fight are up for grabs. What if the complicated, messy connections between race, sexuality, and sexual identity were front and center, reframing the fight against one piece of legislation as a larger, longer-standing fight for a lot more?
In this post, four student activists lay out the relationship between racial justice and the current surge of “bathroom bills” and “religious freedom” legislation.
Trans, Latino, Southern, and Alive
Do you know where the gender-neutral restrooms are at the University of South Carolina? Our administrators aren’t so sure. The “bathroom brigade,” a project of the Trans Student Alliance, works to update the student body by mapping out single-stall, ungendered restrooms around campus. The administration cites a much higher number of these restrooms than we’ve located, likely accounting for single, gendered stalls as well as inaccessible dorm stalls. In reality, it takes 10 minutes to find a gender-neutral restroom from the center of campus, and there are none available in our main food court or library.
When we discovered that State Senator Lee Bright had proposed S. 1203, a bill that would have banned trans people from using the restroom that corresponds with their gender identity, we kicked into gear. Within a few hours, we had rallied together South Carolina’s trans community to create Trans United of South Carolina and the #NotThisTime campaign, which grew to include more than 20 organizations. On the second day of testimony, I delivered my speech to the body. For me, opposing the bill was a priority for my safety and the safety of others. The bill opens the door to discrimination based on the policing of appearance. It makes schools into more hostile environments, especially for youth, who should be encouraged to explore their gender identity and expression. Nobody should feel like they have to move out-of-state to feel safe. Three weeks later, after two days of testimony and ongoing protests at the statehouse, the bill died in the legislature.