The backlash over HB 2 from sympathizing powerhouses outside of North Carolina has been fierce. We’ve seen multibillion-dollar corporations such as Bank of America and Apple speak out against the law. Recently Fox and A&E spoke out against the bill, stating they will not consider North Carolina sites for future filming. New York City, Boston, San Francisco, and Connecticut have all restricted government-funded travel here.
Boycotts work because they put social and economic pressure on elected officials to reconsider legislation. They are designed to attack the Achilles’ heel of those in power, to weaken them to the point of giving in.
The boycott also includes touring musicians such as Bruce Springsteen and Ringo Starr, both of whom canceled shows and cost cities a lot of money, hopefully motivating officials to put pressure on state government to consider repealing—or at least amending—this fear-based law. These decisions also impact a fair amount of people who otherwise would not have otherwise felt the bathroom facet of HB 2. So, good on those artists who have enough self-awareness to recognize that their actions broaden the reach of HB 2’s effects. But if you are someone with a platform that can be used to rally and support LGBTQ people, especially on a grassroots level, please come to North Carolina. We need you.
Boycotts are not just about abstaining; they’re about organizing. What better proven way to fuel political discontent than to rally a mass of people together in outrage than through music? While musicians
like Bruce and Ringo can, in a sense, show up by boycotting North Carolina and disappointing thousands of fans across the gender spectrum, Ani Difranco’s recent Festival for the Eno cancelation does more harm to the LGBTQ community than good, at least in my mind. As the Charlotte Observer put it, “Careful whom you hurt with HB 2 boycotts.”
The question I would pose to Ani and other artists considering boycotting North Carolina is, “What community is your action most impacting?” The Festival for the Eno has now lost the headliner of its most crucial fundraiser. I’d argue that the Eno River Association feels the economic impact of Ani’s cancelation much more than the State of North Carolina. Now that The Boss has backed out, she’s not bringing more awareness to the issue than she would by standing on a stage and asking the hundreds of people at the Festival for the Eno to rally, to fight, to show up in the quest for change.
Had Difranco played, she could have used her mic and her time in front of a captive audience to call for action, just as Against Me’s Laura Jane Grace plans to do soon in Durham. Or, even better, she could give part of her time to local organizations fighting HB 2 to speak in front of hundreds of people that they might not otherwise reach. Instead, she’s not coming, and who is suffering? I doubt very many NC reps have rocked “Blood in the Boardroom,” so I’m guessing it’s us, queer allies and accomplices that are trying to help the ERA find a new headliner so they can raise the necessary funds. These queer allies and accomplices could have used an afternoon on the lawn to get an earful of support from an out-of-state icon.
I’m not trying to blame Ani; I simply want to help open up the conversation around how people outside of this state can best use platforms, resources, and power to support the LGBTQ community in this state. Really, let’s talk.
The success of this moment and this movement against HB 2 demands queer visibility. It asks that queer folks and allies use the platforms that we have fought for to make a scene and demand to be heard. Yes, we should support each other in taking action against HB 2, but we do need to be critical of each other, too. So, Ani, thank you for speaking out, but what community needs you to stand in solidarity with them the most right now? Is it with CEO activists, out-of-state governments, or Columbia and Universal recording artists? Or is it the North Carolina’s LGBTQ community, doing grassroots work to overturn this transphobic bill?
Durham native, organizer, and musician Kym Register owns The Pinhook and plays in Loamlands.