Tiz Giordano walked through hell to get to Carrboro. From the age of 13, Giordano battled hunger, housing insecurity and substance abuse. At 21, they found Carrboro, a progressive town west of Chapel Hill. Every time they moved away, they came back.
At 26, they were ready to put down roots. They got married and found a job that paid a living wage. But the past six years in Carrboro have felt like living in a fragile bubble for Giordano, a gender non-conforming worker at a grocery co-op.
“If I were to leave my job that is super queer-affirming, I don’t really know of any other businesses in the area that I would feel this affirmed,” they said. “That would scare me. I feel like I would have to go back into the closet in order to make money and pay my rent.”
Giordano feels that is about to change. On Tuesday, the Carrboro Town Council unanimously passed LGBTQ+ anti-discrimination protections. The move comes with the sunset last December of North Carolina’s House Bill 142, which barred towns and cities from passing anti-discrimination ordinances. HB 142, a relic of 2016’s anti-trans bathroom bill, was a compromise bill: Facing an economic loss of $3.76 billion, North Carolina repealed its 2016 law that banned transgender people from using bathrooms that corresponded with their genders. Instead, it implemented HB 142.
Carrboro is among three towns in Orange County to pass LGBTQ+ protections this month. Hillsborough, a town of 7,000 people, passed a similar measure last Monday. Chapel Hill also passed its own bill last Wednesday. Communities across the state are expected to follow as town and city councils reconvene for the first time since the holidays, according to LGBTQ+ advocacy organization Campaign for Southern Equality. Those include Orange and Durham counties.
“LGBTQ North Carolinians — especially transgender people like me — have lived under the trauma and erasure of anti-LGBTQ laws in our state for too long,” said Allison Scott, director of policy and programs at Campaign for Southern Equality. “But today, many of us feel valued.”
The passage of House Bill 2, the bathroom bill, in 2016 spurred massive boycotts against the state and cost North Carolina deals with major companies and sports leagues. Its economic impacts were so catastrophic that it has since been held as the blueprint for what cities and states should avoid. Massachusetts, South Dakota and Anchorage, Alaska, all wrestled with the backlash of HB 2 when weighing and ultimately deciding against their own bills limiting transgender equality.
North Carolina remains among 27 states that lack statewide laws protecting LGBTQ+ people from discrimination.
Giordano wants more than just the safety of Carrboro. They worry about friends who are queer and of color who face a much harsher reality while the state passes piecemeal protections.
“I think being able to leave this community and travel throughout North Carolina, and the people that I love that live in other parts of the state, I think that will definitely change life,” Giordano said. “For me and for others.”
And change seems to be coming. Kendra R. Johnson, executive director of Equality North Carolina, noted in a statement that North Carolinians were pushing ahead with LGBTQ+ protections even as the nation reeled in the wake of riots at the Capitol.
“For too long, North Carolina has lagged behind the rest of the nation when it comes to protecting LGBTQ folks and creating a culture where our most vulnerable can thrive,” Johnson said. “The tides are changing, and we hope other cities and towns across our state will be encouraged by these victories and do the right thing for their own citizens in the weeks ahead.”