Opinion

If it’s better ‘to be rather than to seem,’ let transgender people be.

Steven McCarty, right, and others, attends an event in support of transgender members of the military, Wednesday, July 26, 2017, on Capitol Hill in Washington, after President Donald Trump said he wants transgender people barred from serving in the U.S. military “in any capacity,” citing “tremendous medical costs and disruption.” (AP Photo)
Steven McCarty, right, and others, attends an event in support of transgender members of the military, Wednesday, July 26, 2017, on Capitol Hill in Washington, after President Donald Trump said he wants transgender people barred from serving in the U.S. military “in any capacity,” citing “tremendous medical costs and disruption.” (AP Photo)

Lately, I’ve been pondering what it means to be a North Carolinian. As in Tar Heel born (in a doctor’s office, no less), Tar Heel bred (never lived more than 37 miles from home, just like Jesus) and, yes, like the song says, when I die, I’ll be Tar Heel dead.

Speaking of which, in North Carolina, if you’re even remotely a big shot, you’ll be awarded the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, but you pretty much have to be at death’s door so it’s one of those honors you aren’t sure you want.

Governor’s office: Look here! You’ve been named to the Order of the Long Leaf Pine!

Most people: How long do I have, doc?

North Carolinians can recall an astonishing amount of state trivia thanks to seventh grade history class. State bird: cardinal; state dog: plott hound; state mayo: Duke’s (OK, I made that up, but it should be); state motto: Esse Quam Videri (“to be rather than to seem.”)

How lofty this Latin phrase that celebrates being your authentic self, give or take an oppressive, commerce-crushing, dehumanizing transgender-targeted bathroom bill or two.

Historians say Esse Quam Videri was adopted because of its power to call attention to how not nearly so many people want actually to BE possessed of virtue as to APPEAR to be possessed of it.

I adore that shade was being thrown at phonies here in North Carolina as far back as when the motto was first included in the state’s Great Seal in 1893.

So, what happened to that laudable sentiment and does this mean we should rethink the whole plott hound thing, too? Esse Quam Videri seems worlds away in meaning and intent from the current mindset of the North Carolina General Assembly.

Usually, I don’t get wrought up about state politics, preferring to save my energy for the national stuff because, well, a girl can only have so many hissy fits in a single day, but the two have merged in a most distasteful way this week as we learn of Trump’s latest takedown of the transgender community.

Trump recently showed his enduring respect for the many transgender troops who have served in the military by taking steps to undo an Obama reg that made it illegal for health care workers and insurers to discriminate against transgender patients.

Trump & Co. explained you can’t make somebody do anything to violate their private religious or moral beliefs. Soooo, if you cut your foot in an oyster bed and your preferred pronoun is “they” you don’t get a tetanus shot, just a double dose of fire-baptized judgment.

But, wait! That’s not all. Trump also proposed a rule last week allowing homeless shelters that receive any federal money to deny services to transgender people.

What’s Latin for “petty and cruel”?

North Carolina started this mess. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could clean it up? Let’s be, rather than seem to be human beings.

Celia Rivenbark is a NYT-bestselling author and columnist. Visit www.celiarivenbark.com.

Correction: An earlier version of this column gave the wrong year for when “Esse Quam Videri” was added to North Carolina’s Great Seal. It was added in 1893.

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