Jesse’s Journal: North Carolina Broke My Heart

Guest Commentary

North Carolina was one of my favorite states. Though I never lived there, my partner Michael Greenspan is a proud Tar Heel who was born in Asheville, N.C., grew up in Charlotte, N.C., and graduated from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, N.C. (then as now a center of progressive politics).

Before Michael got sick we used to visit North Carolina almost every year; to visit his relatives but also to enjoy all that state had to offer. And there was a lot. Vacations in North Carolina might include the Outer Banks, the Triangle (Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill), the Triad (Greensboro, Winston-Salem, High Point) and our favorites, the city of Asheville, the Blue Ridge and the Great Smoky Mountains. Michael and I loved to drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway, stopping along the way to enjoy all of its great sights: Grandfather Mountain, Linville Falls, Mount Mitchell, the Folk Art Center, Mount Pisgah and the Devil’s Courthouse.

North Carolina’s political climate, though hardly progressive, was never horrible enough to keep us away. In spite of Sen. Jesse Helms, North Carolina was considered moderate by Southern standards, at least in comparison to nearby South Carolina, Tennessee or Virginia. This blissful state ended with the Tea Party wave of the last decade, which elected a Republican majority to the General Assembly in 2010 and GOP Gov. Pat McCrory in 2012. Now with total control of the state government, the right-wing majority began to pass a series of Tea Party-inspired laws that pushed the Tar Heel state back a few decades. High on the wish list was a voting law that changed how, when and where voters could cast ballots and also changed the limits and disclosure requirements for political donors. Needless to say, this law has kept from the polls minority members, students and other groups most likely to vote for Democrats.

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North Carolina’s recent outrage against humanity occurred in reaction to a LGBT rights law passed by the city of Charlotte. Outraged by the Queen City’s protection of its lesbian, gay, bisexual and especially transgender citizens, the General Assembly met in special session and rushed through HB2, a bill that McCrory signed on March 23. The new law overturns Charlotte’s ordinance and bans all North Carolina municipalities from enacting sexual orientation and gender identity protections. HB2 also requires trans* people to use bathrooms and locker rooms that do not match their gender identity. HB2 was rightly called “the most egregious, sweeping, hate-filled anti-LGBT legislation in this country’s history” though the State of Mississippi, not to be outdone, rushed through a “Religious Liberty Accommodations Act” that is even worse.

McCrory and his GOP legislators claim that they rushed HB2 through to prevent men from claiming transgender status in order to enter women’s bathrooms or locker rooms for predatory purposes. This ploy worked well in the city of Houston, Texas, where opponents used the specter of men in dresses to convince voters to repeal that city’s human rights law. McCrory called HB2 “common sense” legislation passed “to stop the breach of basic privacy and etiquette, ensure privacy in bathrooms and locker rooms.” The fact that trans* women are more likely to be the victims and not the perpetrators of bathroom or locker room crime was ignored by the governor.

North Carolina’s HB2 is related to the anti-LGBT “freedom of religion” laws that have recently passed or are being considered by the red states. These laws are part of a backlash against LGBT progress in America, especially the United States Supreme Court’s legalization of marriage equality in last year’s Obergefell v. Hodges ruling. Previous “freedom of religion” bills were vetoed by the governors of Georgia, South Dakota, and Virginia. North Carolina was not so lucky. However, its new law did cause a reaction on the part of LGBT advocates, political progressives, and major corporations who threaten to move out of the Tar Heel State if HB2 is not repealed. I hope it is repealed.

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Meanwhile, though I am only one person, I intend to boycott the State of North Carolina until and unless it discards this horrendous law. This is personal. By passing HB2, North Carolina broke my heart, and for this I will not soon forgive or forget.

About Jesse

Jesse G. Monteadudo was born in Havana, Cuba. Along with his family, he immigrated to the U.S. in 1962 and has lived in South Florida since 1964. Monteagudo has an Associate of Arts Degree from Miami-Dade Community College and a Bachelor of Arts Degree from Florida International University. Since 1981, he has held the job of faculty assistant at Nova Southeastern University’s College of Law.

In addition to his day job, Monteagudo has worked as a freelance writer and journalist since 1977 and is the author of two columns: “Jesse’s Journal” and “The Book Nook.” His essays and short fiction have appeared in more than three dozen fiction and non-fiction anthologies.

Monteagudo’s career as an activist dates back to 1976, when he was a foot soldier in the Dade County Coalition for Human Right’s war against Anita Bryant and Save Our Children. Since then he has been a founder, president and/or board member for various organizations and has received a number of awards for his contributions in working for LGBT rights and inclusivity.

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