I think often about Ruby Bridges, the first African American to attend an all-white public school in the South. She was so young, only six, and faced a mob of angry people threatening her safety all in the quest for public and equal education. School is hard enough if you’re not facing legalized discrimination. It’s end-of-course testing time, and I can still feel a tightening my chest as I think about the long hours of bubbling in sterile forms, racing against a clock, shooting for arbitrary numbers to prove that I was smart, that I was capable. How could Ruby focus? How could she learn and perform well, knowing that only because of her race, she was at risk?
It is with this in mind that the news of House Bill 2’s passage sits heavy on my heart. Of course, histories of oppression are unique and individual and should be treated as such – but I think of the 20th century fight for integrated public education and think of what kind of legacy this bill creates. In February, I wrote a post on the need to create inclusive spaces for transgender and LGBT+ students in schools. At that point, I responded to a bill proposed by Rep. Fred Deutsch, R-South Dakota, which would prohibit transgender students from using the bathrooms assigned to their self-identified gender.In the weeks since, my own adopted state, North Carolina, passed House Bill 2, much to the horror of equal rights advocates everywhere. HB2 establishes a statewide definition for protected classes. Notably, LGBT+ and transgender individuals are absent from these protected classes. This bill prohibits counties and cities from expanding these standards and nullifies existing ordinances that protect LGBT+ employees.
The impact for schools is significant; students can now — and must — face consequences for using the bathroom for the gender which with they identify if it is different from their biological sex. In a way, this law criminalizes transgender individuals on the basis of their identify. This is a significant and explicit violation of their rights.
Plainly put: this law threatens the safety of transgender students in North Carolina.
There are significant consequences of these actions. No doubt academic performance by transgender students, who already face enormous hurdles without legalized discrimination in schools, will be negatively impacted by this law. Economic consequences are also dire. IndyWeek published an important piece detailing potential impacts; namely, that Title IX funding to North Carolina schools could be cut by billions due to the discriminatory nature of this law.
I am certain we will see challenges to this law on Title IX grounds in the coming months, but for the short-term, I hope that schools can find ways to ensure their transgender students feel safe and included. Come November, I hope North Carolina voters do their duty to stand up to prejudice and vote.
Education is complicated, but this is not: this law is blasphemous, clearly delineated prejudice that should require the resignation of every affirming representative. Although We look at integration as something moral, talking about the “wrong” and “right” sides of history. There’s an opportunity here to be on the “right” side; inclusion is the “right” side. The rallying cry of North Carolina’s Moral Mondays is present here: “Forward together, not one step back!”