Of Music and Men: Economic Repercussions of Discrimination.

Bruce Springsteen cancelled a concert in North Carolina, citing solidarity with trans people, and calling out the NC government for discrimination under the color of law. Good for him, it was absolutely the right thing to do, and while ultimately, this doesn’t hit NC any more than him canceling a show due to illness would, its ruffled feathers of the privileged, who think, just because they lose money on the hotel or travel plans, they are the ones aggrieved. HB2 isn’t just about bathrooms.

HB2 removes the legal right to sue for changing the law, effectively removing a path to the Supreme Court for those affected. It’s a reaction to both gay people getting the right to marry, and to the way they did it. In this sense, its not exactly more than a political temper tantrum, like Government Shutdowns, because they can’t work with a black president clearly chosen by the people to be Chief Executive. There has to be repercussions to this type of action, on a social and economic level. It worked somewhat with apartheid in South Africa, and people are using economic power to fight it in states where political recourse is difficult.

I want to preface this by saying, I am not a liberal, while this represents a socially liberal point of view, I am sure that both sides will disagree vehemently in several ways. The beginnings of this trans-apartheid is largely because of government intervention on the parts of both sides, but largely the liberals who felt they should address something like gay marriage any way but “The government should stay out of marriage”. Gay Marriage activists consistently threw trans people under the bus since the 80’s, but thats a discussion for another time. Nobody holds no blame here, except the trans people affected.

In the case of North Carolina, reactionary GOP politicians have decided, much in the way of the Drug War to criminalize a certain class of people, who weren’t doing anything criminal, however they are doing it in a way that is much more blatant. When you shove something down someone’s throats without any type of real strategy, this is what happens. That’s why they are called “Reactionaries”  – they react to social change in extreme ways. Going further, it removes the right to sue for things like gender discrimination (which also affects women too, so women should be quite upset that a patriarchal government wants to shut them up too).

When people complain about a loss of livelihood or money, because Bruce Springsteen cancelled one date, they are effectively saying that their loss of a couple hundred dollars is more important than the livelihood threatened of hard working, and or the most part, “normal” trans people, who just want to be able to have the same opportunities as others.

As a trans person, I depart very far from the usual rhetoric of authoritarian progressive liberalism, I think when government is given too much power over people’s private lives, and their own decisions for themselves, that it almost always is either corrupted, or had a corrupted vision to begin with. The fact that trans people have had to fight for 40 years for recognition in this country in something as simple as economic protection, is a result of us having to fight to be included in a list of “protected classes”, while gay people seem to have weathered this, they did so by turning their backs on trans people, promising they’ll come around back later on and clean it up.

I usually use the Drug War as an example. Paternalism allowed the government to outlaw and make decisions about antiwar activists practicing free speech and black people, and it was intentionally so, obscured by the rhetoric that the government is looking out for its constituency. The “Bathroom Bill” is not just about bathrooms, but literally removes the legal right to challenge such a bill, removing the path to recourse that is guaranteed by our Constitution.
I personally believe that the government is not needed to make decisions for people, it’s there to provide services best provided by a central authority (such as a standing military and infrastructure), but it’s reach should be limited. Both on the federal and state level. The removal of the ability for local municipalities and the people locally to make decisions, flies in the face of the underlying principal of the GOP. When it suits an agenda, they are perfectly willing to throw out the principles of their party, in order to react to what they see as an affront to their own beliefs.

Because of this belief, and how effective it was over time in terms of “Apartheid” in South Africa I completely think Bruce Springsteen is both within his rights to cancel a concert in a venue in which some fans may not be able to enjoy his concert comfortably (due to the “Bathroom Law” – have you ever had to go to the bathroom at a concert, its uncomfortable for any number of reasons, but now add on fear mongering, and potential danger to a trans fan, and that is more than a reason to cancel), and chose an effective measure of protest.

In a free society, people’s best recourse is essential Boycott – if I don’t agree with something, I refuse to participate. If enough people agree, it will hit the area affected, and hopefully get them to elect representatives in state legislature that won’t put the livelihood of citizens who are largely not agreeable to it (and some who are) in jeopardy.

The fact that North Carolina is home to one of the biggest companies that have supported trans rights over the last 32 years (I used to work there, IBM, in Research Triangle Park, they formulated a LGBT policy that has protected their employees in 1984 – and yes this has been an issue that long, even longer), that employs many trans people who are in tech fields, has been a draw for those talented people, and this affects all of them, may at some point lead to a lot of economic loss for North Carolinians.

These actions SHOULD have a real effect on the economy of places that limit Constitutional protection for discrimination purposes. With no real legal recourse/challenge available under that law, not allowing private companies and citizens to choose for themselves and their establishments, you have created an authoritarian (and largely theocratic) police state in NC that is actually policing people’s genitals and identity. Furthermore, it establishes one that removes the rights of women of all types to sue for harassment or discrimination. When there are little repercussions, and they have blocked any action of legal ones, the only ones left are economic and social. Which is the way it should be.

In this sense, Bruce Springsteen not only stood in solidarity with trans people, but he “put his money where his mouth is” and “let money talk”, and nearly overnight, it had the desired effect of shocking people into realizing, that this is a real economic problem for NC.

Kudos, Mr. Springsteen, I have never been so proud to have grown up in NJ (and a town mentioned in your music). Thanks for the support, in the best way possible.

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