How Artists Are Protesting North Carolina's Anti-Gay Laws

"I’m going to create an event around [our] show as a form of protest to say that despite whatever stupid laws they enact, trans people are not going to be scared." -Laura Jane Grace

By Eric Shorey

It's hard to see the silver lining of North Carolina's horrific new anti-gay laws, which essentially legalize discrimination against LGBT individuals and force transgender individuals to use restrooms that correlate to their biological sex. Luckily, artists and performers are teaming up to fight the unabashed bigotry of NC's politicians. But now a new discussion is starting: what, exactly, is the best way to protest?

For example, it was certainly unexpected when Bruce Springsteen announced the cancellation of a much anticipated performance, citing his objection to HB2 as a reason for his refusal to perform in the embattled state. 

"Right now, there are many groups, businesses, and individuals in North Carolina working to oppose and overcome these negative developments," said the music legend on his website. "Taking all of this into account, I feel that this is a time for me and the band to show solidarity for those freedom fighters. As a result, and with deepest apologies to our dedicated fans in Greensboro, we have canceled our show scheduled for Sunday, April 10th. Some things are more important than a rock show and this fight against prejudice and bigotry — which is happening as I write — is one of them. It is the strongest means I have for raising my voice in opposition to those who continue to push us backwards instead of forwards."

Interestingly, Cirque du Soleil and Ringo Starr took a similar approach, saying they would be canceling performances throughout the state.

While many were happy to see widely popular artists and acts speaking out on such an important issue, others wondered if this was the best strategy for making a statement. Almost a week later, Cyndi Lauper offered an alternative to Springsteen's model of resistance.

"[T]he best way I know how to make a difference is what I have strived to do my whole life and that is show up for my family, friends, and fans in the LGBT community," Lauper said in a statement. "So, for that reason I think the best way I can do my part is to turn my show in Raleigh on June 4th into an entire day to build public support to repeal HB2." Lauper went on to promise to donate all of the profits from her show to Equality North Carolina and their legal struggle to have said laws repealed.

Notably, punk band Against Me!, fronted by transgender icon Laura Jane Grace, seems to be in agreement with Lauper on this strategy. “I’m going to create an event around [our] show as a form of protest to say that despite whatever stupid laws they enact, trans people are not going to be scared," said Grace. "They are not going to go away.”

Ultimately, it's hard to decide which version of protest is actually more impactful. This schism in support is a good problem to have, for sure, but it's almost impossible to figure out which will result in faster and more effective change. On this very subject, Grace stated the following, emphasizing the importance for actual transgender people to continue existing despite the state: “I think the real danger with HB2 is that it creates a target on transgender people specifically. When you feel targeted as a trans person, the natural inclination is to go into hiding. But visibility is more important than ever; to go there and have the platform of a stage to stand on and speak your mind and represent yourself.”

Commending the bravery of straight allies is easy, listening to the voices of actual transgender people is harder. In these moments, it's important to hear what they have to say on the issues. With that in mind, all of these artists should be praised for their bravery in simply speaking out.


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