NC HB2, the Imposition of Gender, Malaprop’s, and the Collateral Damage of Reflexive Politics
In 2016, the passage of the State of North Carolina House Bill (HB) 2, which requires people to use bathrooms according to the sex assigned them at birth, appeared to be a mere dogwhistle political maneuver, one to stir up right-leaning voters. At the time, it seemed that Democrat candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton would win the United States Presidency in opposition to likely candidate Republican candidate Donald John Trump, whose campaign promise to “make America great again” appealed to voters wary of extending rights they feared would limit their own. Whatever the motivation of the North Carolina General Assembly in its passing the “House Bill 2: Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act,” its immediate effect of endangering and further isolating the transgender and intersex citizens of the state was compounded by the unintended effect of bringing dire economic effects throughout the state. This damage included unintended problems caused by well-intended progressives who boycotted allies in North Carolina; Malaprop’s of Asheville suffered as a consequence.
While the most important impact of the passage of HB2 lies with its effect on the lives of the transgender and intersex community, other outcomes have affected North Carolina in ways we must recognize as a result of the blending of the social, financial, and legal aspects of the bill. Seeing HB2’s impact on one specific business suggests how the best-intentioned allies can suffer when overt political moves occur. Malaprop’s Bookstore in Asheville has garnered a well-deserved reputation for being allied with progressive causes, and it lost a considerable amount of business in the wake of Hb2’s passage. Described as “North Carolina’s idyllic hipster haven” in The Washington Post, Malaprop’s and its owner has support freedom of all expression, but most importantly, speech. This irony, that an ally who has witnessed many forms of oppression and who takes risks by welcoming so many different voices, should fall victim to HB2 directs one to consider the nature of broad economic protests.