Earlier this week, Bruce Springsteen announced that he was canceling an upcoming North Carolina concert because of his opposition to HB2. The law, also known as North Carolina’s “Bathroom bill,” removes state protections against discrimination, and demands that people use single-sex restrooms in public facilities such as schools and government offices in accordance with the sex listed on their birth certificates, not the gender with which they identify.
Springsteen’s voice is one of the most powerful in the music world, and the statement he made by boycotting North Carolina is a strong one. He’s letting fans and the state of North Carolina know in no uncertain terms that he does not support discrimination, and that’s a message that might have a positive effect on fans who were in agreement with the law.
Springsteen isn’t the only person to have cancelled appearances in North Carolina because of HB2, and it’s a trend that’s likely to continue for a while. And while I appreciate these celebrities joining our fight for equality, I’m seeing things from a different perspective, too.
Yesterday, the manager of Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe published a letter about how the boycott can hurt small businesses. Author Sherman Alexie was the first to cancel his appearance at Malaprop’s, not only costing the store business but also taking away an important cultural experience from the people who wanted to hear him speak. Again, I understand and appreciate the gesture; I don’t really want to be in this state either. But Malaprop’s has a decades-long history of supporting LGBT causes, and by boycotting the state, Alexie is [no doubt inadvertently] hurting the good guys.
North Carolina is a state in crisis, and we have been for a while. Our teachers are pitifully underpaid, we have too many children living in poverty, and our state lawmakers voted against the Medicaid expansion so that many families are still uninsured. Right now, I’m saving money to get an important test to determine whether or not a mass in my uterus is cancer, because I fall into that lower-middle class gap. And now there’s HB2, which was called the worst anti-LGBT piece of legislation in history when it was passed. I get it: We suck, many of our state legislators are a bunch of heartless power-mongers, and the only way to hit them where it hurts is to go straight for the wallet.
Problem is, the rest of us have wallets too, and they’re already painfully thin. My husband works in the music industry as a performer, studio owner, and sound engineer. The venues where he runs sound aren’t owned by mega-corporations, they’re owned by regular human beings, people who live in our communities with their families and are just trying to make a living, like the rest of us. My husband runs sound for bands from all over the country, and he loves his work. I work as a teacher and make a little money writing, but his music jobs are what keep our family afloat.
When you cancel a show in Asheville, or anywhere in North Carolina, you’re making a fantastic statement, but you’re also hurting local families who are just as much opposed to that bill as you are. If my husband misses one gig due to a boycott or any other reason, there goes our weekly grocery money. A night of work is a car payment, school clothes for the kids, car insurance, part of the rent… it’s a huge chunk of our life. It’s a huge chunk out of the life of anyone who depends on others’ performances to make a living, from the bartenders to the sound engineers to the business owners trying to figure out how they’re going to make payroll this week.
To those considering boycotting North Carolina in opposition to HB2, I say thank you. Thank you for standing behind our transgender friends and family. Thank you for having the balls to speak out against an absolutely deplorable piece of legislaion that hurts not only the LGBT community, but everyone. But please, consider keeping that date. Come read your stories to us; play some music and let us dance for you. Speak up while you’re here. Use your time in North Carolina to let local fans know that you stand with them, that you agree that Pat McCrory is a spineless, bigoted jerk and needs to be stopped. Use your time on our stages to speak out against HB2, while showing that you support the people our governor is trying to destroy.
Musician and sound engineer Anthony Dorion works in his Asheville, NC studio