Republished at The Huffington Post
We know. Catching clips of that inaugural address was painful. You tried to erase the doom-and-gloom “American carnage” idea on which Trump waxed poetically, only to see the clips of his CIA press conference the next day quickly melt down into: “How ’bout my speech, huh? Did you like my speech?! How ’bout my numbers?! ME, ME, ME! LOOK AT ME!”
But then news started pouring in regarding the turnout of peaceful protest marchers in Washington and beyond. Hundreds of thousands of people – exponentially more than were expected – turned up to march in solidarity. They were resisting an election cycle that produced an unlikely president – a president who demonized people from every marginalized community across the nation. That display of peaceful solidarity made you feel a whole lot better, didn’t it? It just felt right. It felt so American. But then maybe you woke up in the morning and again realized, Trump is still President.
North Carolina is here to reassure you (like Indiana before us) that we have seen this sick political climate before, and yet, we persevered. We even came out better. As recently as March 2016, House Bill 2 was made into law by an out of control, very corrupt, super majority of Republican General Assembly members. HB2, (the bathroom bill) was the most anti-LGBTQ+ law in recent U.S. history that stripped many people of their rights, but most especially targeted transgender people.
We had many friends who were marching or peacefully protesting during the Women’s March on Washington. To all those people, we say thank you. Thank you for showing up. Thank you for standing up. Thank you for making a difference. Please don’t stop with the March. Continue your advocacy, because we have a lot more work to do in order to take back this nation.
A group we founded, Safe Environment for the Acceptance of Rainbow CHildren was one movement that was an act of positive resistance to the corrupt former governor of North Carolina, Pat McCrory. Our secret Facebook group now has over 250 members, from all over the world, all of whom are either supportive in raising their own gender creative/gender diverse or transgender children, or are advocates to our ever growing community.
We did this to be better connected and provide a place of celebration for this awesome population of kids and the parents who raise them. But also, we did this to send a message that we won’t be bullied into the closet by racist, homophobic, transphobic, xenophobic, misogynistic, anti-Muslim, ignorant fear mongerers (sound familiar?) like McCrory, who spearheaded the HB2 movement. His damaging homophobic & transphobic rhetoric set our beloved state backwards in time about forty years, and cost our state billions of dollars in revenue as lots of companies, artists, entertainers, sports, and programs of all kinds all boycotted our state. They sent a clear message to our former governor that civil rights cannot be taken away.
All throughout this debacle, our Attorney General (now Governor), Roy Cooper stated publicly that he would not legally defend any law that was unconstitutional, such as HB2. He warned against the fallout and fiscal damage. He warned us all that this type of law would destroy relationships beyond repair and discriminate against our most vulnerable citizens. And he was right. He was just right. And it happened anyway.
Dear America, let us remind you that change starts locally. We started collaborating with countless others last March, helping to expose the disgusting and corrupted underbelly of the GOP in North Carolina. We fought against them for months. We read, researched, and repeated our knowledge with countless others. We called the news and spoke with reporters. We stood, marched, supported protests such as the Air Horn Orchestra, donated, and petitioned. We gave free educational speeches to anyone who would listen. And slowly but surely, word spread like wildfire. People started paying attention. Even die-hard Republicans who would’ve otherwise voted McCrory for a second term changed their minds when they actually read this bill and sought to understand what damage it would do.
And so, the little law that was pushed through at $42,000 a day of taxpayer’s money, in emergency session during the night when no one would notice was suddenly noticed by a whole bunch of us. And boy, did the NCGOP underestimate the collective power of the people. And now, to show what is capable when people get up, go out, reach out, and do something, we unseated the first Governor up for re-election since the Whig party was in place. We now proudly have Governor Roy Cooper (D), who said he would fight HB2 from the start, and in his first inaugural address declared, “no party gets it right all the time but here is where I draw the line: when a law attempts to make any North Carolinian less in the eyes of their fellow citizens, I will fight it. I will stand up for you if the legislature cannot or will not.”
Dear America, please take a lesson from North Carolina, for we’ve been down this road: just when you think the GOP nightmare can’t get any worse, that’s the moment when the levee breaks, love trumps hate, and people motivate to be the change they want to see.
As Governor Cooper stated to world weary North Carolinians recently, “our proud history didn’t come out of thin air. It came from us. It happened because we weren’t afraid to dream big and we kept our focus on the future.”
If there’s any silver lining in this election outcome, it is that people who might have never been politically motivated before will suddenly become avid advocates for civil rights, solid allies to marginalized communities, and emboldened to make a statement with their words or with their actions.
As Carrie Fisher was reported to have said before her untimely death, “Take your broken heart and make it into art.” Whether that art is in the form of writing, speaking, singing, dialogue, entertainment, activism, or simply sprouting up discussion and support groups like we did, it is all important, necessary work. After all, the Women’s March on Washington started out as a tiny Facebook group but grew to roughly over 500,000 locally in Washington, with just-as-big crowds marching in 673 sister marches around the nation. If we learned nothing else from fighting HB2 in North Carolina, we learned that our voices will not be silenced. It’s so good, and so American, to see this sentiment echoed around our country. Please hear us when we shout from the south: it gets better.
America, Don’t ever think your voice doesn’t matter.
Love, North Carolina
Republished at The Huffington Post