I am a 52-year-old gay, married man living in Durham, North Carolina.
My husband and I are raising two boys, one four and the other six.
We moved to North Carolina in the Summer of 2013, and although the political climate for LGBTQ-led families was difficult, we remained hopeful that with time, advocacy and grit, things would get better.
We were wrong.
Now I have to admit that I have never, personally, faced any sort of discrimination because of my sexual identity, ever.
Not in high school, not in the work place, not with family, friends or neighbors.
I don’t know if I am lucky or perhaps a bit blind but I really and truly have never “felt” slighted or in danger because of who and how I love.
Raising boys of color alerted me to a new set of thoughts and actions in order to keep our sons safe in a world that seems to be struggling with race.
We have joined many a Black Lives Matter march in order to teach our boys how to raise their voices and how to join others in protest, how to be seen and heard.
Yet, these struggles still did not affect me as a gay man; they affected me as a father.
When Marriage Equality passed, I felt so strong and whole here in North Carolina. I almost felt invincible.
I remember when we went and had our last names legally changed here I felt confident and fearless. We had won that battle; you had given us your best shot and guess what? You lost.
That same confidence carried over into all of our family’s experiences, whether in schooling for the children, home buying for the family or simply dining out and “being” visible in public. I still felt the safety that comes with being legally equal and protected under the law.
Again, as I mentioned earlier, I had never felt fear or discrimination as a gay man. That was until Governor Pat McCrory signed House Bill 2.
I was going to have our taxes done and had gone to a new accountant’s firm based on a good friend’s recommendation. Their office was somewhat out of the way in a more rural area of the city then I had been familiar with.
It was in a small house nestled in a row of other small business and I began to wonder, for the first time in my life, If I would be welcomed there. Now so far this fear was imagined, I know that, but the feeling was new to me and could only be attributed to the fact that I no longer felt safe and protected in my community.
I know all too well that a business could turn me away based on their religious beliefs and quite frankly I knew that those religious beliefs were most probably alive and well in my current surroundings.
Now, truthfully, they were lovely. I was welcomed and served and will more than likely use them again and again, but there was still that moment when I said “my husband and I” when I paused and waited for the words that would wound, I contemplated how I would respond and what would happen after that.
I could easily take my business elsewhere but that’s not the world I want to live in.
My experience is NOTHING compared to what my transgender brother and sisters are living with.
My fear was imagined and short lived.
My fear was not for my personal safety or for my life.
My fear did not send me to the lawyers or to the hospital.
My fear did not result in my losing my job, my livelihood.
But my fear was real and the worst case scenario could have been real for me and mine that day.
HB2 perpetuates discrimination, hate and fear.
It allows for the very worst in people to bubble to the surface and it treats the LGBTQ community like something other than what we are, people, citizens, Americans, families, neighbors and humans.
All of us born with the God-given rights to live freely, equally and without that horrible new feeling I endured… fear.
Shame on Governor McCrory.
Shame on the North Carolina General Assembly.
And shame on all my fellow North Carolinians that support this, most vile kind of bigotry.