I’ve been insurance shopping for the non-profit I run, and this week I received two quotes from my agent. The more costly one includes protection if someone claims the board or I discriminate against them. When discussing the policies with the board president, he said the extra cost wasn’t needed. Discrimination in North Carolina is no longer illegal.
It took a moment for his words to penetrate. Because of HB2, there is no longer any state-level discourse for people who are victims of employment discrimination. Sweet. This saves my organization roughly $200 a year. See? Even hate-filled, discriminatory, backwards laws can have an upside.
So what if, I wondered, I viewed HB2 through rose-colored glasses? What would I see?
My husband and I were devastated when Eddie Vedder cancelled Pearl Jam’s stop in NC, joining the growing number of artists who won’t perform in our state. Silver lining? For the price of the refunded tickets, we saw Cabaret and ate sushi. We couldn’t have afforded to hear my husband’s favorite band and have a swank date night, but because of HB2, we didn’t have to choose. With the rate at which producers are pulling the rights for their musicals, we can feel part of an elite group who will say they were there for the death knell of curtains closing on the state’s stages.
Target’s transgender bathroom policy is making news as 1 million people swear to boycott the store. This will make shopping there so much more enjoyable! Less crowds equals a more pleasurable consumer experience. People have also said that they will boycott some of my favorite local establishments who have made their bathroom signs more inclusive. I’m all for that. If the Mom and Pop stores can withstand the business loss, my coffee will taste a lot less bitter without the two teaspoons of overheard bigotry.
While I sip that coffee, (okay, that soy vanilla latte) I know the cost of it and of any pastry I nibble won’t go up just so people can earn a living wage. Even if my local government wanted to raise the minimum wage in my city, it couldn’t. It’s not like minimum wage was going to be raised anyway, so those whose hopes were hanging on this pipe dream can start thinking more realistically: we don’t move forward in this state, and it’s time they realized it.
Is backwards always bad? I may not think so as I wait in shorter restroom lines at sporting events, movie theaters, and the like. I’ll feel guilty as I sit in my stall and think about the transgender women who are using the men’s room in fear or the moms with little boys who need to wait for the “family” restroom, but really, nothing feels better than an empty bladder.
Once I’ve left the bathroom, I can ponder how we got where we are and crowdsource the answer. My social media feeds have been erupting in battles. Friends and acquaintances argue about how best to protect women and children in public restrooms. Feelings are hurt, people are misunderstood, some are alienated. Still, insight into people’s ideologies that comes as a status update or a tweet saves me a lot of time that I could have spent talking to and trying to understand the person. Instead of KonMari-ing my house, I KonMari my friends. I hold each post under my thumb for a moment and decide whether to like it, hide it, or report it.
If I look at it this way, HB2 has simplified my life, removing the variegated factions and leaving only the haves and the have-nots: the have-enough-money and the have-too-little, the have-a-vagina and the have-an-opinion-about-everyone-else’s-genitalia, the have-a-voice and the have-none.
I fall in the “have” categories in those divisions. That might not always be the case, but it is now. The most important “have” is my voice, and it is yours, too. If we have a way to speak up, we need to do so for those who can’t. All of the companies and artists leaving the state or declining to visit are making a statement and we need to join them by calling and writing our representatives, having conversations with people about these issues, and being good neighbors. This united voice calling for a repeal? This wake up call? That is the real silver lining.
Jennifer Brick is a freelance writer and former teacher in Durham, North Carolina. She earned her Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Nonfiction from Goucher College. Follow her on Twitter @jenbrickwrites.