Wednesday, March 23, 2016: a day I will always remember as being filled with fear, uncertainty, and devastation. On that fateful day, the North Carolina General Assembly passed House Bill 2, infamously known as the “bathroom bill.” My own state government made the decision to wage a war on its transgender residents, stating that we do not deserve the basic decency of being able to use the restroom that we belong in. What stung even more was that I had been rejoicing just the previous day over the non-discrimination ordinance that my city passed. I had just recently come out as non-binary, and this bill was not the coming out welcoming that I had hoped for. I feared for myself, but more so I feared for my trans siblings in far more vulnerable situations than I was in. However, through the horrible circumstances, a wonderful, vibrant, and devoted community grew even stronger. In a time of fear, we had to stick together, take care of each other, and keep ourselves safe.
With the recent court ruling that HB142 (the eventual replacement of HB2) is unconstitutional, I have had time to reflect on how the past two and a half years have changed me as a person. As for personal growth and understanding, HB2 made me develop a thick skin and helped build up my self-confidence. With the government, peers, and strangers on the Internet constantly trying to tear me down and invalidate me, I had to find the strength within myself to recognize that they are wrong and I am worthy of basic respect. HB2 proved to me that I can overcome anything, and to never take anything for granted- especially my rights as a human being. While of course HB2 wasn’t the first time I realized people could be mean, or even cruel, it was a rude awakening of the ignorance that runs so deep in our society. I didn’t think that people could be so cruel, especially to a group of people I felt so safe with and welcomed by.
The horrifying actions of my state government ultimately inspired me to take a stand. I started putting everything I had into running the Gender Sexuality Alliance at my school to change the attitudes surrounding LGBTQ students. As a club, we staged anti-bullying protests, registered voters, and executed several awareness campaigns to do what we could to help educate and make a difference. I started attending conferences and seminars about modern LGBTQ issues to stay aware of the world around me and better my activism. The work I put in as a freshman and sophomore led to amazing opportunities throughout my junior and senior years, such as paid speaking engagements, recording on a podcast, publishing articles in blogs and local papers, and the resources to plan a school-wide walk out amidst the March for Our Lives movement.
The hardships of HB2 also helped me find my calling in life: social work. After witnessing the pain that others went through, as a result of HB2 and other institutional factors, I knew it was my mission to do as much as I can to help. Not only do I want a career as a social worker, but I want to be a foster parent, specifically to LGBTQ youth displaced due to their gender identity or orientation. Since the LGBTQ community at large has done so much for me in terms of self-acceptance and being a support system, I want to give back in every way that I can. All in all, events such as HB2, though discriminatory and devastating, ultimately make me fight harder, be a stronger activist, and a more empathetic person.
This essay was written in October of 2018 for the personal statement portion of the Common Application in order to apply to colleges and universities.