When North Carolina passed its discriminatory transgender bathroom bill, there was swift, out-of-state response and objection. In protest, musician Bruce Springsteen cancelled his upcoming show in the state and the NBA moved the 2016 All-Star game to Canada. As a result, North Carolina publicly lost millions of dollars in tourism revenue and would later go on to amend the original law in attempts to straddle the national government’s non-discrimination policies. Boycotts of this nature, however, have neither ended North Carolina’s obsession with suppressing LGBTQ equality nor has it deterred other states from their attempts to do the same. In the 2017 legislative session, 16 states including my home state Kansas and where I currently live in Tennessee, are among those who have actively considered how to control when and where transgender people should be allowed to go to the bathroom.
I was asked in a recent interview, “Are LGBTQ people, really, still marginalized?” Marginalized? I thought. Are you kidding me? LOOK AROUND! More than half our States are attempting to pass Religious Freedom exemption laws, discriminatory bathroom measures and continue to refuse protection for LGBTQ employees. Are we “still marginalized?” Simply put, we’re not just that, we’re targets. We are ordinary, pursuit-of-happiness citizens that are being actively pursued by legislative bodies and religious zealots as the targets for expressing their power and disdain.
LGBTQ equality concerns securing big-ticket items like healthcare, marriage, and jobs. Yet, what is most concerning is seeing the reality of deep and invasive LGBTQ discrimination. Even in the most mundane, seemingly insignificant matters of our daily lives are affected. If you think these bathroom measures are superficial, think about it the next time you need to pee so bad it’s an emergency. Imagine having to make a choice between a $10,000 fine and criminal charges for using in the wrong restroom or peeing your pants? Sure, a gay couple refused a wedding cake from a “Christian” baker can likely get a cake elsewhere, but consider the end game of what these kinds of laws actually mean. In the Utopian minds of those wishing to pass these kinds of socially controlling laws, it says that LGBTQ people shouldn’t get jobs. Starve them out. Don’t let them eat cake. Let them pee in the woods. At the very core, it sends a message that LGBTQ people are marginal, wrong, “less than” and completely disrespected.
The laws that we pass reflect our societal code. Every standing anti-LGBTQ law sends the message that the only acceptable citizen is a straight, white, cisgender citizen. That’s why we fight so hard to get it right. No matter how many laws are passed, this will never stop the fact that LGBTQ is not a choice of behavior. We are people. These measures seek to legislate against a kind of people, not behavior. The laws that we pass should protect us from our worst behavior because we seek peace with one another. They should not be about protecting and enabling prejudice.
Unfortunately, not all of us can move to Canada or have the financial sway of Bruce Springsteen and the NBA to use as leverage against discriminating legislatures. As a touring musician, I have been in almost every state that has been actively seeking to limit LGBTQ equality. Yet, unlike Bruce, I am an L of the LGBTQ and my out presence creates its own protest. I’m eager to get to Dallas and Austin this weekend and do what I do best. My protest against Texas’ RFRA measures is to not let it stop me from being a meaningful member of society.
I sing songs, people listen and come to shows. It’s that simple. However, my being gay, makes it complicated for some. People preach to warn others against listening to artists like me because I’m gay and for what, exactly? To my knowledge, not a single straight person who has listened to one of my songs, shared a beer with me or peed in the same toilet has ever been turned gay. By living my life out, however, I’ve have made friends and found support. That’s what music does, it makes community and our laws should do the same. Laws should unite us, not tear us apart. Sharing music with others has taught me to respect the dignity of all human beings. We want to be at peace, with ourselves and in our communities. Ironically, we want to be in not legislated out.
This Fourth of July, I keep thinking: America “land of the free and home of the brave” – that’s my country. I am free, yet being gay here takes being brave. It’s my American dream that my country, fellow citizens and law makers will be brave alongside me. Stop trying to create laws that marginalize those too few to win majority votes. Let us sing, eat cake and pee in peace.