Voices of North Carolina: Trans Advocate Candis Cox on the Dangers of H.B. 2

Emily Simeral Roberts

A North Carolina resident and transgender advocate, Candis Cox has vehemently denounced her home state’s shameful H.B. 2, the anti-LGBT legislation that lawmakers passed in a hurried, single-day session that Governor Pat McCrory signed into law recently.

Despite being passed less than two weeks ago, the citizens of North Carolina, as well as those across the country, are already seeing the effects of the law. Cox noted that students in public schools and people in government agencies must use the facilities inconsistent with their gender identity.

“This is setting us back. We are literally allowing discrimination to take place, and we are sanctioning it with a law,” Cox said in an exclusive interview with HRC. “We are forcing people back into the closet and we are putting people’s lives in jeopardy.”

Cox said the bill makes her feel villainized and like a second-class citizen, and she was impelled to speak up about its detrimental effects and to explain to those who may not understand the day-to-day impacts that people face.

“I am very fortunate and blessed that I have a wonderful support system,” said Cox. “But for a lot of trans people, being open about their status, especially in the public eye, is not something they can do for their own personal reasons. Someone had to stand up and say what this bill actually does. I didn’t think anyone would listen to me, but apparently they have.”

Last week Cox joined HRC President Chad Griffin and Equality NC Executive Director Chris Sgro, as well as other LGBT equality advocates, at the North Carolina State Capitol to hand deliver a letter from more than 100 major CEOs and business leaders urging Governor McCrory to repeal the radical provisions of the incredibly discriminatory bill. Upon delivering the letter, Cox, Griffin and Sgro attended a private half-hour meeting with the governor.

On the way to the governor’s office, Cox felt a weight on her shoulders as she recognized the power of her presence.

“I became very aware that a lot of LGBT people and organizations had asked to meet with the Governor and he had not granted any meetings. Then all of the sudden, he did for Chad, Chris and me, ” Cox said. “I realized that that may be the only time someone from our community had the opportunity to meet with him, and given his conservative reputation and his personal stance that he has made about LGBT people, I was probably going to be one of the few transgender people to ever sit with him.”

As she spoke with the governor, Cox was upfront about her gender identity and was able to share her lived experiences and challenges she has faced throughout her life as a trans woman of color. What she really wanted to hit home with the governor, however, was for him to see Cox for who she truly is – a woman from North Carolina who is involved in politics and her community, and someone who is advocating for the people affected by this harmful bill not because she is trans, but because she is a concerned citizen of the state.

“We are people who are fighting together for a common cause because we want to see social change, whoever that affects,” Cox said. “Ultimately, that is what is important to me.”

Cox believes reinforcement not just from within the LGBT community but from society as a whole will be instrumental in allowing transgender people to live openly and authentically. Visibility is often accompanied by acceptance, and HRC reported that more than one-third of Americans say they personally know or work with someone who is transgender.

“We need more education,” said Cox. “We need more trans people to feel that they are supported so that they will come forward and I’m less of a novelty in North Carolina. There are so many others out there, they just need to feel encouragement.”

H.B. 2 has eliminated existing municipal non-discrimination protections for LGBT people and prevents such protections from being passed by cities in the future. The legislation also forces transgender students in public schools to use restrooms and other facilities inconsistent with their gender identity, putting 4.5 billion dollars in federal funding under Title IX at risk. It also compels the same type of discrimination against transgender people to take place in government buildings, including in public universities.

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