When Home Is Hate: A Reflection on HB2

North Carolina is sticky summer nights catching lightening bugs. North Carolina is fading blue mountaintops and salty ocean crests. North Carolina is the best barbeque in the South and tea so sweet it makes your teeth tingle. But, North Carolina is also discrimination, proven by the passing of House Bill 2 (HB2) on March 23.

I am currently studying abroad in London and, despite being over 3000 miles away, tears still seemed to find my face as I read about HB2 and its damaging effects for the LGBTQ community. I cannot describe how it feels to have your home, the place where you were born and raised, reject you. I felt unable to breathe, as confusion, anger and sadness tormented my throat and lungs. This is not the first time I have felt like this and I am almost certain it will not be the last.

I identify as queer, wandering somewhere on the spectrum of sexuality. And, though my sexual identity does not define me, it does make me who I am. It took going to college in New York for me to come out. In high school, I refused to think I could be anything other than 100 percent straight. Though I am open about my sexual identity at school, I still haven't come out to my relatives back in my home state of North Carolina. I made this choice because it was always easier to avoid that conversation; I felt it was not necessary.

The passing of HB2 made this conversation necessary. I will tell my story because I refuse to be ashamed of who I am and who I have the capacity to love.

As part of HB2, North Carolina legislators refuse to include sexual orientation as an identity that should be protected from discrimination. This means that any North Carolinian (or anyone who travels to and through our state) who identifies as LGBTQ can be refused service and can be fired or demoted from their job. It means that I can be fired while working in my hometown. It means that despite being a full-tuition scholarship recipient, a dedicated student, and an avid writer, my sexuality ultimately holds more weight than my hard work and dedication.

HB2 also denies trans people from using restrooms that align with their gender identities in state-related facilities, instead forcing them to use the bathroom that coincides with the sex assigned to them at birth. This part of the bill also bars trans youth from accessing appropriate facilities in schools across our state.

This bill adversely affects university students as well, eliminating the non-discrimination policy established by the University of North Carolina, which has been put into practice in the university system's seventeen campuses. HB2 also restricts cities from expanding upon laws regulating workplace discrimination and use of public facilities, delegitimizing rulings previously made in Charlotte, Raleigh, Chapel Hill, and Durham.

Businesses have already begun to speak out about the HB2 ruling. Companies such as Apple, American Airlines, Google, Lowes, PepsiCo, and IBM have publicly voiced their disapproval of the discriminatory bill. Nationally, the bill has come under heavy fire. New York State and the cities of Seattle, San Francisco, and New York have all placed a restriction on non-essential public-employee travel to North Carolina. In one statement, the NBA suggested it may reconsider its plans to host the All-Star Game in Charlotte in 2017. The NCAA made a similar statement about reconsidering hosting its annual college basketball tournament in our state.

The Obama administration is looking into whether or not HB2 makes North Carolina ineligible for billions of dollars in federal aid. However, this backlash has not stopped other conservative states, such as Georgia and Mississippi, from attempting to follow in our hateful footsteps.

I find it deeply embarrassing that the pushback from big business may be the only thing troubling current North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory. Time and time again, equality is overlooked in the name of conservative preservation, masking hatred with seemingly good intentions. HB2 is so obviously backwards and so clearly inequitable. However, the culture of fear that still beats through the heart of North Carolina clings onto hatred of the unknown.

Except LGBTQ people are not unknown.

We are your neighbors, your friends and your family. We are the people in line with you to get coffee in the morning and the people that are already using the same public restrooms as you are. We are people that share your love for a good biscuit and who love this beautiful state we all live in - North Carolina.

We are people, and we are not going anywhere.