Former North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory announced last week that he was having difficulty acquiring a new job.
The once-popular governor indicated that the controversy surrounding passage of HB2, requiring transgender persons to use the bathroom corresponding to the biological sex indicated on their birth certificate when at schools and government buildings, had created obstacles for him on the job market as a result of his backing the bill.
Despite an unexpectedly strong ballot sweep by Republicans in the November election, including a surprisingly sizable rejection of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, McCrory became the Tar Heel State’s first top officeholder to lose a re-election bid since 1850. His defeat was attributed to the unpopular “bathroom law” he vehemently supported.
McCrory lamented in an interview last Friday that the issue “has impacted me to this day, even after I left office. People are reluctant to hire me, because, ‘oh my gosh, he’s a bigot’.”
The significance of McCrory’s described dilemma is not that he will remain unable to find satisfactory employment, or that he should be denied the opportunity to earn a living to the benefit of himself and his family, despite continuing to double-down on his advocacy for the law. His acknowledgment, however, does serve as a signifier of the broad-based affirmation of LGBT equality nationwide.
North Carolina businesses, joined by regional and national companies alongside other private sector enterprise and organizations, have led the still-continuing effort to overturn the law, which has reportedly cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue and the loss of thousands of jobs. The NCAA, as it had previously threatened in other jurisdictions, announced the cancelation of all championship events scheduled for the state through 2022 at an estimated quarter-billion-dollar economic detriment, unless the law is repealed.
Strong polled majorities and super-majorities of Americans now support wide-ranging LGBT civil protections along with marriage equality. Even bathroom selection self-determined by gender identity enjoys nationwide majority endorsement, as the country takes a closer look at, and grows more comfortable with, the issue. At least 19 states and more than 100 cities extend a complement of legal protections to transgender persons.
Those achievements in the arena of LGBT equality and acceptance have been won less by government mandate and more by public persuasion. Although comprising only a modest four-percent of the U.S. population for all LGBT community components combined, with a limited corresponding degree of political clout, the pace toward full equality most everywhere continues to accelerate.
This relatively rapid communal success poses a fundamentally unfamiliar conundrum for many, especially older gays and lesbians with memories of a time in history and an experience of hardship largely foreign to those younger today.
The challenge for some is not only to fully embrace the substantially broad attainment of equal treatment and civic acceptance, but to also transition from old patterns of estrangement to accepting cultural assimilation. Identity politics will undoubtedly lessen and divergent attitudes will certainly increase, requiring a communal adjustment in perspective regarding what it means to be gay.
If not, we’ll merely mimic McCrory’s whining with our own vocalized victimization.
Are there items on the “gay agenda” that still need attention? Sure. But the victories that have been won surpass any illusory conveyance via conventional edict or collective instruction by society at large. Government is never the provider of genuine equality, only the lagging indicator that the citizenry has authentically evolved before the bureaucracy.
Diversification – whether regarding lifestyle preferences, geographic residency, or political positions – will increasingly become self-evident along the way. That will require a shift in thinking, an allowance for differences, and a seeming break-up of longstanding cultural identity. We won’t think the same any more than we look alike.
It should become something we celebrate, not something we begin to fear.
Pat McCrory may have been unprepared for the new culture in which he finds himself, but there’s no reason we should.