Meanwhile, North Carolina legislators continue attempts to reach a compromise regarding House Bill 2. The Trump administration’s shift away from federal transgender protections raises questions about whether HB2 could exist on a national scale.
Renee Wells, director of N.C. State University’s Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Center, said similar bills are being introduced across the country.
“I don’t think it’s inconceivable, given the current tone of our Congress and federal administration, that similar legislation at the federal level could be introduced,” Wells said.
Legislation like HB2 could potentially exist within a limited context federally, such as legislation requiring bathroom usage consistent with one’s sex at birth in public schools, said Shannon Gilreath, a law professor at Wake Forest University.
“They can do those sorts of things in areas over which they have some ability to regulate, but I don’t see a national policy that says that, in every bathroom everywhere, this sort of consideration would be put into place,” he said.
Ames Simmons, director of transgender policy at Equality NC, said the Trump administration’s change of course on transgender protections doesn’t necessarily guarantee that a law like HB2 could exist nationwide.
“We definitely know that the public sentiment is against HB2 here in North Carolina, and the attempts to have similar bills in other states have met with public concern,” he said.
Simmons stated that it’s important to remember Title IX still exists and still protects students. But signals and policy from the Trump administration could make school districts less certain.
Simmons said local school districts often determine for themselves how to implement policies.
“It makes the waters much muddier for them as far as if they do decide to let trans students use the bathroom in accordance with their gender identity,” he said. “But they aren’t sure that they aren’t gonna be subject to some other liability by parents who are objecting to that.”
Brennan Lewis, a sophomore at UNC who identifies as genderqueer, said HB2 has had the largest impact on high school students.
“Just having trans issues on people’s radars has brought a lot of really intense pushback,” they said. “People are less afraid to say really terrible things to each other.”
Nikolai Mather, a senior at Northwood High School in Pittsboro who identifies as a transgender male, said provisions of HB2 have had dangerous and detrimental effects on his environment.
“There is a lot of hatred; there is a lot of bigotry, and it’s generally not safe at all for a transgender person,” he said.
Mather said the law has affected more than his ability to use the bathroom that reflects his gender identity.
“After HB2, there was a definite increase in the amount of hatred and transgender-related bullying that I experienced and that my friends experienced,” he said.
Lewis said transgender students are vulnerable and that instances of self-harm and suicide could increase as a result of the current political climate.
“The biggest thing that I could wish for people at a community level is to start protecting these students, and a push from the national government would really help to make that happen,” they said.
Wells said people are feeling emboldened to verbally and physically confront people in ways that they didn’t before the law was passed.
“I think it’s a larger message about who is valued, who is welcome, who is included, whose life matters, whose safety matters, whose security matters,” Wells said.
The Obama administration previously issued executive orders requiring any company doing business with the federal government to abide by nondiscrimination measures. Gilreath said Trump has said he has no intention of repealing those orders, despite what the media says.
“Now the question is, will, at some point in the future, he decide he’s changed his mind and those kinds of orders should be repealed,” Gilreath said.