Since the North Carolina legislature passed its anti-trans "bathroom bill" back in March, a number of artists and powerful corporations have expressed dismay by boycotting the state. Bruce Springsteen cancelled an April show in Greensboro, and the NBA's commissioner threatened to move the All-Star Game, scheduled to be played in Charlotte next year, to a more welcoming state.
Even cities have gotten involved—San Francisco and Seattle banned their employees from visiting the state over the law.
But the punk rock band Against Me!, fronted by founder and lead singer Laura Jane Grace, a trans woman, didn't cancel its May 15 show. Instead, the band dedicated the show to protesting HB2 in the most punk way possible—Grace, with a smile on her face, set her birth certificate on fire. "Goodbye, gender!" she said as the crowd roared.
“The way you affect change is by empowering the grassroots movement,” she added from the stage.
Against Me! decided weeks ago that their show must go on. In March, Grace wrote "Hell no!" on Twitter when discussing the possibility of canceling the Durham show. She added, "I'm even more eager to play North Carolina 'cause of the bill!"
In an April interview with BuzzFeed News, Grace said “I’m going to create an event around the show as a form of protest." That protest, she explained, would "say that despite whatever stupid laws they enact, trans people are not going to be scared. They are not going to go away.”
Grace continued: "When you feel targeted as a trans person, the natural inclination is to go into hiding. But visibility is more important than ever; to go there and have the platform of a stage to stand on and speak your mind and represent yourself.”
The singer also recognized that an Against Me! boycott would not have the same impact as a Springsteen one. "No one would care if we canceled," she told BuzzFeed, adding that she thinks of Springsteen and others who have boycotted the state as "allies."
Grace has long been outspoken about trans rights. She came out as trans four years ago, and Against Me! has since released an album titled "Transgender Dysphoria Blues,” so it's not surprising that the band took HB2 head on. And for Grace, it's not just about access to the bathroom. She told The Washington Post, "[HB2] takes away a transgender person’s right to sue for discrimination on the state level and that is huge."
North Carolina is facing a lawsuit from the Department of Justice over the law. Until pressure from business and the federal government takes it course, we'll enjoy seeing Grace literally burn the system.
Danielle Wiener-Bronner is a news reporter.