Singer Cyndi Lauper meets with LGBT youth in Raleigh to talk HB2

Cyndi Lauper said she never considered canceling her concert in North Carolina because of House Bill 2, as other prominent music artists have since the controversial law was enacted.

Instead she said she wants to educate the public. Lauper was in Raleigh on Saturday to perform at a concert.

“To have people who are willing to understand what the impact of this law really is and what they’re really doing,” the Grammy-, Emmy- and Tony-award-winning singer said during a news conference in Raleigh. “Keep in mind it’s a big discriminator law which blankets everybody.”

Lauper said she was surprised when HB2 was passed.

“I was just surprised that you would want to go back to that kind of law that would promote that much discrimination again,” she said. “I thought we were stepping forward.”

Lauper, who has been an LGBT rights activist for most of her career, toured the LGBT Center of Raleigh on Saturday. She later met with 10 area LGBT youth to hear their stories and their thoughts on the law.

Some of the teens told of having to use separate single-occupancy bathrooms and feeling ostracized.

Zoe Anastasia Hardee, 18, a transgender woman, said that was the case for her.

“It makes me feel like other, as something that doesn’t belong,” she said. “HB2 legalizes this language that leads to so much hate. It’s terrifying, is what it is.”

She said it feels like a personal attack against her.

The teens expressed their frustrations about the law and some said at times they feel that they don’t belong in North Carolina. They said they fear facing discrimination without having any recourse.

“(The law) is basically labeling queer people and all minorities as second class citizens and just kind of taking away the rights that we have,” Katie Regittko, 15, said.

Lauper told the teens that she has a sister who is a lesbian and a nephew who is a transgender male.

Many of the teens said they sympathized with youth who lived in rural areas, where there are not as many resources for LGBT youth.

Lauper said she wanted to help them out and reach out to rural-area schools. She said often people don’t understand youth who are transitioning to another gender.

“I want to take that combative stuff out of the language and start to bring people in so they can see real people,” Lauper said.

Lauper told the group to not get discouraged. She said there are people out there who understand them.

“You have to embrace life, and you can’t make kids be what you want them to be,” Lauper said in an interview. “They weren’t given to you for that reason. They are who they are and it’s our responsibility as adults to nurture them as who they are and help them to succeed as who they are.”

HB2, passed in March by the legislature and signed by Gov. Pat McCrory, blocked local anti-discrimination laws protecting LGBT people. The law also required people in government facilities to use bathrooms and locker rooms corresponding with the gender on their birth certificates.

That means transgender people who haven’t changed their birth certificates could be forced to use a bathroom that doesn’t match their gender identity.

The same goes for transgender students, too.

The law overturned a Charlotte nondiscrimination ordinance that would have allowed transgender people to use the bathroom of the gender with which they identify in restaurants, hotels and other places of public accommodation.

But the bill went beyond the bathroom.

It also blocked a path that North Carolinians had to file state discrimination claims in state court, a process that supporters of HB2 said needed to be reformed. That leaves the more expensive, time-sensitive federal court process as the main route for North Carolinians bringing age, gender and discrimination claims.

Proponents of the bill say it’s an improvement because HB2 establishes statewide standards for nondiscrimination. However, it prevents municipal governments from passing other nondiscrimination rules.

“It doesn’t promote success,” Lauper said. “We’re in a country and in an economy where we need everybody. You can’t just pick or choose. You’ve got to understand what the issues are.”

Jonathan M. Alexander: 919-829-4822, @jonmalexander1

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