by Layne Pierce
Dear Governor McCrory:
I, Layne Pierce, your fellow countryman and a denizen of the state you govern, am writing to you in the high hopes that a civil conversation may be started between the people and the government. In writing this letter, I am well aware that we are of differing opinions, differing backgrounds and differing faiths. As such, I find it especially important that we communicate our ideas and express our opinions to one another in a peaceful and effective manner. I do not intend to get into a shouting match, to call names or to partake in needless bipartisan theatrics. I only intend to exercise my right as a U.S. citizen, and that is to criticize my government peacefully.
I am writing to address the nature of House Bill 2. As you know, this bill has received negative attention not only at a state level, but at a national and international level as well. For example, I have a friend who is currently studying abroad in Ireland who says that people who had never previously heard of North Carolina are now greeting him with subtle implications of judgement after the passing of this bill. New York, as well as three other states and seven individual cities, have issued a travel ban to North Carolina and artists such as Bruce Springsteen and Stephen Schwartz, a Tony-Winning Broadway producer, are refusing requests and invitations from North Carolina, crippling our state’s reputation for the arts.
Our economy suffers from HB2 — authors boycott local bookstores, such as Malaprops in Asheville, out of moral obligation. And yet, these bookstores have done nothing to support the bill. North Carolina has lost 400 jobs because PayPal found our state unsuitable. They wish to separate themselves from this government’s bigotry. That is 400 jobs that people counted on to feed their families. My peers in Asheville, North Carolina are furious and scared for themselves, for their friends, for their families and for the economy. So when I write to you, know this: I write to you in the voices of millions around the world who oppose the nature of this new bill. I am not alone, and neither are my LGBTQ+ friends.
First, let me address the direct effect of such a new law on the individual. Two weeks ago, days after you passed HB2, I talked to a friend who I had not seen for some time. My friend is transgender. On her birth certificate, her sex is listed as male, but in every regard, except biologically, this friend is female. She looks “traditionally” female and she feels like she is female. She came to visit UNC Asheville, and she told me that she drove for four hours, from Apex to Asheville. Halfway through the trip, she needed to stop and use the restroom. Despite this, she did not stop to use the restroom for two hours out of fear. Not only fear of verbal discrimination, but also bodily harm. Anyone could have hurt her and gotten away with it under the protection of HB2. Even when she got to UNCA, arguably the most liberal pocket in all of Western North Carolina, she was still afraid to use the restroom and I had to convince her that I would personally protect her should anyone try to do her harm. Only then did she finally use the women’s restroom.
You said in an interview with Fox & Friends that you see it as “basic common sense” for a man to be prohibited from using a women’s locker room, and I understand where that comes from. Men who are allowed into a woman’s restroom might take advantage of a woman in various states of undress. Transgender women, though, are not men. They are women, as their label suggests. Technically they have the body parts that a “traditional” man has, but they have never felt like men. The same can be said for trans-men. Many look like the “traditional” male, they feel like the “traditional” male, and in order to find some place in our dichotomous and binary system, many trans-men feel like they have to act like the “traditional” male. But by your definition, they are women because they have vaginas. In speaking on this matter, let us not forget our friends who were born with both female and male parts, and let us not disregard our kin and kith who feel as though no gender directly suits them — those thousands, perhaps millions, of souls who are uncomfortable using either bathroom.
Another problem with this argument is that women are being sexually assaulted anyway, and we are not doing anything about the perpetrators. Already, we are denying them the rights they need to have agency over their own bodies. Police refuse to investigate legitimate claims and the phrase “boys will be boys” is still used to justify the actions of sexual predators. “She wanted it. You could tell by what she was wearing,” is still used across the state as a means to justify rape and other forms of sexual assault. Somehow, the perpetrators get away with it. According to RAINN, the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, every 107 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted; however, there have been zero reported cases of sexual assault committed by transgender women toward other women, which makes sense. Why would a man go through all the trouble to dress up like a “traditional” woman and sexually assault a woman in the bathroom, if they can assault someone already and get away with it? Why would they risk detection from other women if they can simply drug someone and take her back to their room? If somebody is assaulted in the women’s restroom, it needs to be taken care of immediately, and that perpetrator needs to be charged with sexual assault. But in my view, and the views of my peers, you cannot morally justify charging an entire culture with the hypothetical actions of a few people, especially while cisgendered rapists and sex offenders walk free today. Meanwhile, 70 percent of polled transgender individuals have reported some form of harassment while trying to use the bathroom. You cannot justify it morally, and yet somehow you do.
And you justify this harassment with the concept of religious freedom.
Governor, I don’t know what religion you are personally practicing, but it is not Christianity as I know it. Now let me be clear, I am not a Christian. I used to be, but I discovered that for personal reasons, Christianity did not make sense to me, logistically speaking. That is not to say it is something that should be condemned. In fact, I think Christianity is a wonderful faith, and the message that Jesus Christ sends is very close to the message to which I have dedicated my own life. That message is peace and kindness, acceptance and love, unconditionally.
Prohibiting protection from discrimination is not something that I think Jesus Christ would have advocated for. I don’t know what Jesus’ thoughts on LGBTQ+ rights are. I really don’t. He never mentioned it. But I do know Jesus did say this: “A new command I give you. Love one another as I have loved you, so must you love one another,” and even being a non-Christian, I intend to follow in Jesus’ footsteps. I try (albeit I fail every day) to judge not. I try every day to love my neighbor (though often I fail).
Through discrimination we make it seem as though those who are not like ourselves are not human. How can we love something that does not seem human to us? This is why discrimination goes against this commandment and it is something that we have to purge from our hearts and our souls. And yes, disallowing trans-people to go to the bathroom in public institutions such as UNCA is discrimination.
I agree that what people do in their private lives should be up to them. I doubt any of my friends would be truly hurt in the long term should someone deny them a wedding cake. I don’t see anything in the Bible that condones this, in fact in ancient times, wedding cakes didn’t even exist. There is nothing in the Bible that says anything about being transgender. Even so, if a person’s personal religion should say that they must discriminate against people of the LGBTQ+ community and they own a private business, then there are always other shop owners. If a shop owner wants to lose money from perfectly wonderful people then he or she has such a right, just as a private school unfortunately has the right to discriminate.
In public institutions, though, the separation of church and state is absolutely mandatory. It is something for which our founding fathers fought long and hard. It is something that is directly stated in our constitution. It is the policy that keeps us from the rule of the Roman Catholic Church or Sharia law, or other religious mandates. It is the separation of church and state that also keeps public institutions safe from religious bias: your religious bias, my religious bias and the religious bias of the liberal atheist who might insist on “No religious groups on campus.”
To say that HB2 is a bill of religious freedom is incredibly misguided and considers religion to be synonymous with only some conservative branches of Christianity. It does not represent the will of your people. As such, I am advocating for the LGBTQ+ community and saying that if you want to impose this new bill out of regard for religious freedom, then don’t expect my friends to follow it in regards to their own religious freedoms. My peers and I will respectfully and nonviolently disregard HB2’s demands, while also demanding that those who discriminate in a public setting, those who break the laws that Title IX puts in place, be brought to justice.
Governor, until you respond to this letter, know this: I will send this address to you by several different means; through email, through public forum, through newspapers and articles both public and private until you formally respond through the medium of your choice. I will ask my friends, associates and peers to do the same, and I will ask all activists, allies and advocates for LGBTQ+ rights to do the same. It is not out of the desire to attack you, Governor, but rather out of the desire to make my voice heard that I ask this. I do hope you will understand.
Wishing peace and love on you and your family,