It feels only right to start this post here on my little blog. This started because of an attack on the LGBTQ+ community that forced me to not only pay attention to what was going on around me, but to find my place in the issues and decide how I, at barely twelve years old, fit into those issues and could take action. Almost three years later, my journey has taken me places I never could have imagined back then. My destination point today is my state passing one of the worst pieces of discrimination legislation.
This is not a total shock to me. I knew a month ago we were in danger. Let me explain why I, as a straight cisgender woman, am using the term "we" here. I listened as much as I could to the proceedings on HB2. While listening to the public testimony before the judiciary committee, a girl my age said this as transcribed by Indy Week:
"'Changing in front of my girl peers is already stressful enough due to
societal standards from Hollywood etc. Now the possibility of males
changing alongside of me makes me even more self conscious.' Girls
should never be forced to undress in front of boys. She says being a
teenage girl is as confusing as being confused about your gender
orientation, and that she has rights not be forced to change next to
boys. 'You shouldn't change laws to punish and single out most of us.'
This is a threat to her safety. Knowing a man could easily walk into a
bathroom is completely frightening. There is no stopping what people may
do. Charlotte is the first city and if lawmakers don't fix this more
would follow. I am not the only girl who is scared, we deserve
Over the last three years, my journey has involved many destinations. After starting to get involved standing up against LGBTQ+ discrimination, some of the first issues I found my place in were a woman's right to a safe abortion and rape culture. I've written a little on the inherent sexism often involved in the stereotyping of teen dating and how it negatively impacts both men and women. I've written a lot about slut shaming and the ridiculous dress codes that treat female bodies as impediments to the education of boys. I've written about equal pay, undergarments, and Conservative women trying to impose their life choices on other women and about the Equal Rights Amendment. I've written about the adult war on teen sexuality and how we are being failed by not being provided with adequate, comprehensive sex education. Of course, I've written a lot about voting rights, the regressive actions of the North Carolina state legislature, and the failure of Pat McCrory to exemplify the qualities of leadership our young people deserve after he called me a prop at the age of 12. I've also written a lot about the importance of young people getting involved in creating the future in which we will lead by getting involved in the political process.
The public testimony made by that teenage girl in support of the bullying and discrimination of the LGBTQ+ community brought home why it's so important to continue to speak out on all of these issues. Her testimony highlights why the work feminists do is important not only to continue to expand rights and opportunities for women, but to expand rights and opportunities for all.
The reason that girl is so stressed out over the "societal standards" she perceives as coming from Hollywood that she feels uncomfortable changing in front of her peers is because she has been taught to judge her body against others based on what men are supposedly supposed to want and has been given no alternative. Yeah honey, that's not just Hollywood, that's patriarchy, and it is ingrained in many elements of society, not just the entertainment industry. It's also why she can't see gender in any other way than through the most simplistic definitions of girls and boys. She can't understand that a trans woman is not a man and is just as much a woman as she is because she's been taught gender is based on genitalia. She doesn't understand how she is contributing to rape culture by disempowering not only women with her assertion the mere act of being a teenage girl is confusing just because she's confused, but she's also disempowering men by her assertion that everyone in possession of a penis is a threat and we should all fear all penises. She also doesn't understand that when a transgender woman enters a woman's bathroom or locker room, it's not because she is confused about her gender orientation. It's because that woman has determined her gender identity and feels safer and more comfortable peeing and changing around others who share her gender identity.
I'm not ashamed of my body. I'm not uncomfortable changing in front of anyone. I'm not uncomfortable in a bathroom stall when others are in the bathroom. I'm not threatened as a teenage girl by the idea of sharing a bathroom or changing in front of someone who might or might not have different body parts than I do. I'm threatened by my lawmakers.
I understand that the answer to combating rape culture is not fear culture. There is nothing legislating bigotry will do to prevent sex offenders from sex offending. When a woman, or a man, is sexually assaulted or raped, the person is responsible is the assailant or rapist. Sexual assault and rape occurs in every setting imaginable. There are laws against sexual assault and rape, whether it occurs in a bathroom, changing room, school, church, home, wherever. I know we will never prevent all rapes or assaults, but the way to prevent more of them is to strengthen these laws and to make sure that victims have equal standing in court, regardless of gender. We should be investing in testing rape kits instead of in special legislative sessions for the sole purpose of passing discrimination laws that only contribute to making it more dangerous for the LGBTQ+ community, who is at increased risk for sexual assault, especially in light of the fact passing non-discrimination ordinances that guarantee access to bathrooms have not resulted in increased cases in sexual assault. I'm aware that a lack of sex education, and the fact that even when sex education is offered it is often extremely lacking and reflects inequality in terms of what young men and young women are
respectively taught, contributes to negative outcomes.
It took around 12 hours yesterday to move HB2 from committee, through the House and Senate, and to be signed by Governor Pat McCrory. The fight ahead of us, not just in terms of having this law overturned by the courts, but also in fighting against the attitudes and ignorance that creates unacceptable outcomes for not just the LGBTQ+ community, but for all of us.
It was discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community that started me on my journey, and the latest actions of NC Republicans have awoken many citizens not just around the state but around the nation who, some for the very first time, are asking what they can do to stop the assault on our rights. My hope is that many of these people will start journeys of their own. I hope that as they realize how long the path is, they do not get so wary they permanently drop by the wayside. That's what the legislators who continue to attack our rights are counting on.
It's not good enough to express your outrage today and quit. Constant vigilance and regular action is required. Even if you're not eligible to vote, you can volunteer. You can contact lawmakers. You can inform your friends, family, and neighbors and hold them accountable. You can donate. I've been doing all of these things since the age of 12 and I have continued to do them along with school, a continuous string of theatre productions and other extracurricular activities, a public speaking schedule, my writing, and a social life. You have zero excuses.
We can't get so wrapped up in what we're fighting against and who we're fighting against that we lose sight of what we're fighting for. The things I and other feminists fight for are things that can help generations to come grow up in a more equal and inclusive society. Young people like the one who, through her public testimony, demonstrate that bigoted attitudes toward the LGBTQ+ community are intertwined with attitudes shaped by policies that are anti-equality not just towards the LGBTQ+ community but towards all men and women, deserve better. They deserve better education, stronger laws and the equality under the law necessary to fight discrimination, the right to decide what to do with their own bodies, and a culture that empowers them.
Start today. Start a journey. Find yourself in an issue. Don't quit. Stay woke.
I end a lot of these posts with music videos. As I thought about my own journey leading up to today, I pulled up a Spotify playlist I made back in my early days as a writer. Since this is a marathon, not a sprint: here you go.