The Day We Took Over the Streets

I watched as they recorded, took pictures, and held not one care in the world about what happened to us in this moment, or after. One reporter even said that we should not assume that she’s trying to cause any harm because she’s been there for 12 hours and gets paid the same amount of money every day.

I say this, not to glamorize the night we took over the streets, but to document the fact that even the media, who we have been trained to believe is going to be unbiased and fair, usually have such a level of entitlement that reduces us to simple bodies.

This is why I document everything, no matter how mundane it may seem. It’s my truth, and it’s raw and real.

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Micky Bee, from Atlanta, GA, stands with fists raised while chained group of queer and trans folx are being arrested by the police

The passing of HB2 was not surprising, however it was a blow. Having relocated to North Carolina for college, I have been working extremely hard to put my energy toward making this state and country a place where we can live without feeling the threat of being attacked, where we can live with the feeling of freedom, the freedom they claim is given to everyone in America.

That day we took over the street, we were more than angry and sad and radical, but mainstream media never tells you that. We were light, we were love, we were pain, we were magic. We took risk, we risked lives, we dances, we laughed, we cried, we hugged, we stopped, we yelled, we sat, we stood, we walked, we ran. We pushed our way onto the street, knowing that we would be met by the aggressive force of the Raleigh police that claimed to be protect us. We knew that at any moment, we could become another body, taken by police moment. And in those moments, it wasn’t that we didn’t care about any of that. Rather, we cared so much, we knew that this is what we needed to do.

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A person with a troubled expression on their face, holding a sign that reads “Not Gay as in ‘Happy’ But Queer as in Fuck You” in all caps.

I never woke up and decide that I was going to be what they called radical. Nor have I ever woken up and decided to actively take time out of my day and be “liberal.” Contrary to what media tells you, that’s not how this works. My college career has definitely affected me, guiding me toward what I know I need to do. This work will not kill me, at least not by my will.

My friends risked their lives that night, by performance a great act of civil disobedience. My heart shattered into a million pieces as they got loaded into a van that said “Prisoner Transport” in big, bold letters, and being scared that they wouldn’t make it out of the van, or that they would never step out of the jail. Thankfully that didn’t happen, but it’s terrible when you know there was never a guarantee.

My mother says I do the most, and I have to disagree. Exactly how does one do the most in this situation, especially when they find themselves actively being disregarded by the government that we all expect to be there for us? How much screaming do I have to do to “do the most”? How many times do I have to be rejected from using the bathroom, as my friends and I were that night? How much pain do I have to harbor to “have the most, do the most”?

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Trans activist Holden Cession reading the statement created in response to House Bill 2, surround by others at the event.

I cannot ask everyone to do what I do, as I know that it takes a lot to go and take over the street outside the state governor’s mansion. I know that my capability to show up in that capacity is a privilege. But I also recognize that no matter how much I do, it can never truly be “the most”. My work will never be finished.

This house bill was not just about the ability to pee in the public bathroom. It was about the ability to walk around this state without being turned away because of my gender identity and sexuality. It was about all those students still in grade school who must now be terrified, because their school offers them no protection for having a different sexuality or gender identity than the ones traditionally given to people. It was about knowing that no matter how hard we try, that even if we did try to be “good, docile citizens”, it wouldn’t matter anyway, because we would never be able to be seen as human.

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The chained group of queer and trans folx in the middle of the circle created by those at the takeover

I wasn’t able to go the actual convening that preceded the passing, but some of my friends did, and knowing that they were silenced by our state government is a frustration that remains constantly on my mind. We cannot have a just government when our government refuses to listen to us.

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A banner that reads “No Pride for Some of Us Without Liberation for all of us- We Can’t Breathe; Black Lives Matter” In all caps.

I write all of this, not to make anyone feel guilty or to act as if I’m perfect. That’s not what this is about. I write this to tell everyone that this is what we are facing, what we are fighting against. And while we certainly have created beauty and joy out of this pain and outrage, we shouldn’t have to.

North Carolina has rolled back decades with this passing, and until we see change, we will not go home, we will continue to take back what you owe us, and we will not be quiet. We’re done with warnings and waiting around. We recognize our power now, and know that you are scared. We may not be moved, but you will.

-JW

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