Jasper Christie, 16, visited New York City over spring break, where he could use any bathroom he wanted.
But two days after he got back, House Bill 2 was passed, meaning Christie can no longer use the men’s bathroom at school.
“When transgender students are asked to use the wrong bathroom and forced to use the wrong bathroom it gives other students the ability to bully them,” he said. “It gives them ammunition, and it also makes (transgender students) really uncomfortable.”
Christie, a sophomore at J.D. Clement Early College High School, spoke Wednesday to about 100 people at a community event in Durham to protest a new North Carolina law requiring that people use public restrooms matching their gender at birth.
Christie said he avoided using the bathroom at school for months because it was so uncomfortable.
Most of his friends support his gender identity, he said, but some students refuse to use the right pronouns or snicker when he walks by.
“Some teachers have posted my work in the hallway and other students have come by and crossed out my name and written my birth name in marker on my work,” he said.
Christie worries the new law could make that bullying worse.
“Gov. Pat McCrory says this bill will not allow discrimination and not allow bullying,” he said, “but I know that there are some students in my school who would use this bill as another reason to continue harassing me about my gender, invalidating my identity, and declaring who I am is wrong, and that is bullying.”
Heidi Carter, chairwoman of the Durham Public Schools Board of Education, announced at the event that the board will expand its school nondiscrimination policy to include gender identity.
The school board also passed a resolution opposing HB2 on Monday. Durham City Council member Charlie Reece, another speaker, said the council will pass a similar resolution Thursday.
Peter Skillern, executive director of Reinvestment Partners, planned Wednesday’s event, held at the Bull City Cool Food Hub.
He explained that, while remodeling the hub last year, Reinvestment Partners discovered a hidden second bathroom with a door labeled “colored.”
“It was like a time capsule of the South when it was segregated,” he said.
Skillern believes HB2 perpetuates prejudice.
“That southern legacy of stigmatizing minority groups and playing that out in bathroom politics is a way of making one group feel bad in order to take away the civil liberties and economic opportunities of a broader group of people,” he said.
In the wake of HB2, Skillern was also inspired to install a sort of public art exhibit: seven porta-potties with signs labeled “white,” “colored,” “men,” “women,” “trans,” “Republican,” and “Democrat.”
At the end of Wednesday’s event, the signs were turned over to reveal seven labels saying “Welcome.”
50 years ago
Floyd McKissick, one of the Democrat state senators who walked out during the HB2 vote in protest, also spoke Wednesday.
“It’s hard to imagine that here we are in the year 2016, and we’re still talking about discrimination related to restrooms the same way they did it 50 years ago,” he said in an interview.
“What is it about (restrooms) that makes them such a sacred place?” he said. “If anything, they’re the most communal aspect of everyday life. Everybody uses them, and we need to respect everybody’s right to use them.”
McKissick hopes that, if the law is not revised by those currently in office, voters will elect new representatives in November to repeal or amend it.
“We need to begin once again to rebuild our image as a state, rebuild our brand as a state, and this bill has taken us a tremendous step backwards,” he said.