The battle continues against transphobic legislation in the United States. (Photo Credit: ink drop via Adobe Stock)

March 23 marked a still painful anniversary that I’m sure many North Carolinians would like to forget: it had officially been five years since House Bill 2 (HB 2) was signed into law.

Although HB2 — later HB 142 — has since been partially repealed, here in North Carolina and all across to the south and midwest, advocates are still fighting horrible battles against legislated transphobia. HB2’s passing is a grim milestone not only because of what it meant for North Carolina, but for the larger political backlash against trans rights that we’ve seen all across America in the years since.

Five years ago, the N.C. General Assembly (NCGA) passed the Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act, commonly known as House Bill 2, an extreme attack on this state’s trans and gender-nonconforming communities. The bill banned trans people from using the restroom that aligned with their gender identity, invalidated local LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination protects and prohibited the passage of new local nondiscrimination ordinances. Advocates marshaled their strength to overcome the bill, organizing and taking to the streets to fight against the law. Many major corporations and states boycotted the state, causing devastating economic losses for North Carolina’s economy.

Eventually, the pressure from advocates and major corporations forced the General Assembly to change its tune. In 2017, the state legislature passed House Bill 142, a bill which repealed some of HB2’s most notorious provisions, but which kept in place many of the worst parts of the bill, including exclusively bestowing power to regulate restrooms on the NCGA. HB142 also kept some other provisions from HB2 but put a time limit on them, such as the ban on passing new local nondiscrimination protections until December 2021.

Since the ban on LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinances expired last December, we’ve been leading a campaign called #NCIsReady alongside Campaign for Southern Equality and a coalition of other organizations. Since then, we’ve seen five cities and one county pass LGBTQ protections, with more on the way.

Unfortunately, outside of North Carolina a wave of transphobic legislation has swept the country, primarily targeting trans and gender-nonconforming youth. At the time of this article’s production, over 80 anti-trans bills have been introduced in states across America this legislative session.

Some states have introduced laws that outlaw providing gender-affirming care for minors, including puberty blockers, which have no permanent effects and simply delay the onset of puberty. Moreover, many of these laws would give criminal penalties to doctors who provide trans-affirming care for minors. All of these bills are dangerous, harmful and ultimately rooted in fear and misinformation.

State legislators in many states have also introduced laws that would restrict trans athletes from competing in sports programs that align with their gender identity. These bills exclude trans kids from the benefits of sports, like a supportive community, camaraderie and greater physical fitness. Instead, it singles them out, isolating already vulnerable kids by treating them with disrespect. Research has found that when trans students are included in sports, they have higher self-esteem, better grades and feel safer. These bills have passed in Mississippi and in South Dakota.

Five years after HB2, we’re still entrenched in the struggle for equity and justice for the transgender and gender-nonconforming community. But we believe that we can prevail over these powerful forces that have done so much harm to the most vulnerable members of our communities.

That is why, here at Equality NC, we’re deeply committed to protecting and uplifting trans rights and trans people at all levels. We chose to highlight four powerful trans politicians for Women’s History Month — Andrea Jenkins, Stephanie Byers, Sarah McBride and Kim Coco Iwamoto — who have made powerful contributions to American culture. And we’re dedicated to helping advance local nondiscrimination ordinances, which are now possible again after the sunset of HB142, and fighting for a world where the trans community is protected at every level of government.

You can help too. You can go to NCIsReady.org and contact your local elected officials about the importance of nondiscrimination. You can raise your voice against transphobic bills, whether they’re here or in another state. And finally, you can contact your elected officials in the N.C. General Assembly, via our Advocacy Day on March 30.

We may still be fighting the same battles of five years ago on a greater scale, but we firmly believe that justice, liberation and compassion will win in the end.

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