At around 7 p.m. a crowd of around 40 people left the N.C. Senate gallery with tear-filled eyes and disappointment on their faces. The funeral procession of sorts marched out of the General Assembly building after the legislature voted on Monday to override Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto on three different bills (House Bill 808, House Bill 574 and Senate Bill 49), which have been criticized and categorized as legislative attacks on LGBTQ+ North Carolinians.

Eliazar Posada, the first openly LGBTQ+ Latino man elected in North Carolina history and Organizing Director of Equality NC, addressed the crowd of parents, teens and allies of the LGBTQ+ community congregating outside the building.

“They may have won this battle, but we are going to win the f*cking war,” he said to the crowd. “This isn’t over.”

HB 808 makes it “unlawful for a medical professional to perform a surgical gender transition procedure on a minor or to prescribe, provide or dispense puberty blocking drugs or cross-sex hormones to a minor,” according to the current language of the bill. HB 574 would bar trans girls from participating on sports teams that correlate with the gender they identify at both the K-12 and collegiate level. SB 49, also known as the “Parents Bill of Rights,” will prohibit instruction related to gender identity and sexuality in grades K through 4th and will notify parents when students want to change their names or pronouns.

Callum Bradford is a trans high school student from Chapel Hill. He came to the General Assembly dressed in a matching suit and tie, ready to stand against what he believes is an attack on many North Carolinians.

“No matter how much people think that these bills are helping people, they are hurting people,” he tells QNotes. “They hurt people like me, people not like me. These bills are hurting everyone, and it’s not okay.”

Bradford always felt he was different from his peers, but it wasn’t until middle school he fully realized that he “wasn’t a girl.” While he said he did lose some friends after he came out as “Callum,” Bradford said being able to truly be himself has been the most gratifying feeling.

“Friends come and go, and some of my friends decided to go when I came out, so that was really hard,” he said. “Before I came out, I was very reserved, very shy. Now that I’m out … it’s just such a different feeling. My mental health is better, my social life is better, and just my overall personality is more ‘me.’”

Bradford started receiving gender-affirming healthcare shortly after he came out as trans. He said access to treatments “saved his life,” helping him to truly be Callum. 

“Before gender affirming care, I wasn’t me … my mind was me, but my physical appearance and my body was not me,” he explains. “Gender affirming care is crucial to your child’s transition, and if they don’t go through that medical transition early enough, it makes it a much harder road for them.

“I think this is up to the parents and the child, not up to the government.”

Equality NC and other similar organizations held a press conference prior to the vote being taken Wednesday evening.

Liz Barber, the Director of Policy and Advocacy for the North Carolina chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), also spoke at the press event. She said instead of the legislature focusing on important matters, such as the unapproved state budget or expanding medicaid, they came back into session to “target trans youth across North Carolina.”

“The legislature has come back after about six weeks of inactivity … to pass bills that hurt trans youth across the state,” Barber offers. “They tried to make being trans shameful, but they won’t stop youth from being trans. They will only make it harder for kids to grow up at all and make it harder to access the support education and community that these young people deserve.”

Rebby Kern, who is nonbinary and serves as the Director of Education Policy of EqualityNC, said these bills are added to the apparent national effort to belittle and dehumanize queer Americans. They said it’s important for LGBTQ+ people and allies to come together to revolt against these “legislative attacks.”

“We knew that this day would come where we would be standing together filled with anger, rage, determination, all with an unbreakable spirit,” Kern explained. “We will not be silenced — our Pride celebrations are bigger than ever, you will continue to see drag shows and drag story hours all over the state, our students will continue to read banned books … trans youth will continue to assert their identity in safe and supportive ways in schools … We will not be erased. Together, we rise up, and we fight back.”

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