It’s been a long road for families in North Carolina. I’m one of the lucky ones. I have elders. I have a supportive family. I have the privilege to chose where I live and have chosen to build a dynamic queer community to surround myself with in the south. I grew up in Utah, so hostile transphobia and homophobia are pretty normal to me. Plus, the south has boiled peanuts.
I have been known to think of moving to the bay as a cop out. But as I see the exhaustion in the eyes of my loved ones with the passage of HB2 surpass that of the newly postpartum families I work with, I worry. I think to myself, maybe you should just go. Move away. I know I need you, but you aren’t wrong to want to leave. When queer people start talking about moving they aren’t bluffing about a move to Canada during a pre-election debate. They actually move. If they have the privilege to. We have to protect ourselves somehow.
It has happened before. Those elder’s I mentioned? They threatened to leave once. At the time it was hard for me to understand, but standing on the precipice of having my own kids, I’m starting to get it. They laid down roots here on purpose just like me. As young people in love, just working the AIDS hotline and dealt with drama from their exes. They wore leather vests, they rode on pride floats. Then after years of so much death in our community as the AIDS epidemic raged on, it was time to bring in some life. They were watching that fertility window close, and they jumped. They had all the usual devastation and joy that comes with conception and birth as it stands in reality and they had two kids. They home schooled, because laws in North Carolina make it a great place to home school. They lived with the stress of what would happen if “something happened”. They raised their kids, politely explained to the fundi-christian homeschoolers that “not believing in two moms was kind of like not believing in trees”. They found me. They made me their weird queer nanny who they looked after as much as I looked after their kids.
Prop 8 shocked California. North Carolina waffled about second parent adoptions and they watched families spend tens of thousands of dollars to adopt their own kids only to see the adoptions fall through. Then Amendment 1, and suddenly it felt like they weren’t just ignoring our rights anymore, they were coming for them. It was no longer just about paying triple what straight families did for health insurance because the state university would not cover same sex partners. It was about raising their now middle school aged, aware kids in a place that outright banned their family legitimacy.
So they started talking about moving. They looked at homeschool laws, jobs, and their unbelievably loving and supportive community. They dragged their feet a little. Had the sweetest marriage ceremony I have ever witnessed in Maryland and finally, by divine grace, they outran the clock.
Ding Dong The Witch is dead! I waited with them at their work debating how it was going to go. It’s five o’clock. But they are keeping things open. Should we buy flowers? Get $75 in cash?
My partner and I decided not to marry that amazing day in October, waiting instead for last summer when we could be more intentional about who was there and how we took that step.
But oh how we celebrated! For the kids in our life with queer parents, for our friends who signed papers that day. Given the right to divorce, to sign birth certificates and to finally feel like homophobia was at least considered “impolite” in the workplace.
Because that’s what legal changes do. They give people rights, but they also give us clues into how we are allowed to treat one another in polite southern company.
So what does HB2 communicate to our families? Well, for starters this law isn’t just about us. It’s about race, it’s about veterans, it’s about people with disabilities. But the law specifically comes for us as LGBTQ people. Just like Amendment 1 did.
It makes us feel unwelcome. In our own state.
Let me tell you right now. Queer and trans people do not relish using public restrooms. They are a place of deep stress. In my family we always go to the bathroom together. We plan road trips around where we know single occupancy ones exist. We get in. We get out. Heads down, no chit chat.
I don’t know what HB2 will mean for us when we have kids in diapers let alone potty training kids. It’s likely that my spouse will get stuck with no good option. And that makes me worry. Will we skip the swimming pool all together? Change our kids I the car? Will my kids have to watch me or my spouse defend ourselves when rushing our kids to a toilet?
Will we stay in North Carolina anyway? Will we still have kids here? Yeah. We love it here and I am working hard to build a community of queer families that I can talk about all of this out with. Trying to build a place where we feel welcome.
So, my cisgendered families, have you thought about how this affects you too? Cisgendered Dad’s with no changing table except in the single occupancy women’s room, sorry, you are out of luck. Parent with the vomiting child who just needs the nearest bathroom? Not ideal.
But for our families and loved ones this law does more than restrict our bathroom use, it has brought our private bathroom stress into the public eye and given people permission to police us. It has told the people of North Carolina that we who do not neatly fit into a gender presentation/genitals/driver’s license alignment have no place in a bathroom.
We have been fighting for accessible, un-gendered bathrooms with changing tables for a long time. Will you join us now? Will you go with us?