Voices of North Carolina: Tina White

Emily Simeral Roberts

The first night after North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory signed H.B. 2 into law, Tina White, a transgender woman, immediately began to wonder about her recent move to the Tar Heel State.

“It took me back to a world I thought I’d left behind,” White said in an exclusive interview with HRC.

The legislation, which North Carolina lawmakers passed in a hurried, single-day session that cost taxpayers more than $40,000, and which Governor McCrory signed into law in the dead of night, is a dangerous and harmful  law that targets the LGBTQ community.

White spent the first 50 years of her life navigating the world as a male – her assigned sex birth.

“It was a lifelong struggle. I felt utterly alone and unloved,” she said. “People loved the man they saw, but not the real me. I had walled my soul off from humanity.”

White’s feelings of loneliness were eventually joined by thoughts of self-destruction. That is when she finally decided that she had to transition. Her first duty to her family, she explained, was to survive. Since her transition in 2013, White considers herself lucky - she has enjoyed the unwavering support of her wife, family, friends and colleagues.

“I had been living a lifetime in solitary confinement,” she explained. “That will destroy anyone. Today, I am happy – for the first time in my life. I now know what it feels like when I am loved. I now have a self that I can give to the rest of the world.”

And she is now giving all she can. White has since stepped away from work to engage in social activism. As she explained it, she wants to pay it forward to the LGBTQ community that so welcomed her and her family. She feels that it is her calling to live openly and to speak up about transgender rights.

Initially excited about the move down south, White felt open and free to be herself. She noted that everyone she has met so far has been loving and accepting.

“Most people express shame over our state’s discriminatory legislation. The few who support it, misunderstand the bill and misunderstand our community,” White said. “We need to reach out to them. Bills like this bring down the moral climate in the state.  They send the message that people like me are a threat to family values – that we should live outside the system and in fear. In fact, we are part of the American family. My wife, five children and five grandchildren are the cornerstone of my life. I would never support a bill that puts them in harm’s way.”

White does believe that something positive and empowering has emerged from this situation. She highlighted the unprecedented number of corporations, individuals, and universities that have spoken out and urged the governor to repeal the radical provisions to the law.

“There is something wonderful that has come out of this bill. It has taught me the power of the people,” she said. “I’ve learned that we have to keep the pressure on to make sure that this bill is sent where it belongs. It doesn’t belong in a country as great as America.”

HRC reported this year that more than one-third of Americans now say they personally know or work with someone who is transgender and that this historic level of visibility is accompanied by increasing acceptance of transgender people.

H.B. 2 has eliminated existing municipal non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ 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, potentially 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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