When HB2 passed, Sean Wilson, owner of Fullsteam Brewery in Durham, faced an uncomfortable truth.
For years, he had worked closely with the state to promote North Carolina craft beer. Fullsteam was featured on the North Carolina Commerce website and Sean had represented the North Carolina craft beer movement across the country. “Our brand was leveraged by the state to say North Carolina is a great place,” says Sean. But he no longer believed that the state government was doing great things.
Sean realized that he was in a unique position, one that gave him more leverage than most businesses. “It’s one thing to say ‘we’re against this,’ but I [could] take it a step further to intentionally disassociate ourselves and make a statement as to why.” Sean wrote a letter to Governor McCrory and many of his personal contacts in the state government, revoking all of Fullsteam’s associations with the state. Then he put an excerpt of the letter on his personal Facebook page.
The post went viral, with almost 2,000 shares and coverage in local media outlets. But Sean shied away from anything that felt self-promotional. When the news crews rolled up with their cameras, he stepped back. “I didn’t want to do it in the way of like, ‘look at what we did, you should come visit us.’”
Now, months after the furor, Sean feels like HB2 has receded from the public conversation. “We love conflict of the day in America, and it was conflict of the day, then it became other things.” The problem, says Sean, is that the fight for transgender rights “isn’t just the social issue of the day. It’s an ongoing, lifelong struggle. That’s why it can’t just fade into the background.”
Sean has shifted his focus to supporting local progressive campaigns, and hopes that HB2 will motivate people to get out and vote, especially in contested local elections. “I’m very interested in making sure that this stays at the forefront and that we give [Governor] McCrory hell” come election time.
Sean hopes that the backlash against HB2 will result in some good for his state. “You know that phrase, North Carolina is a valley of humility between two mountains of conceit?” asks Sean. “I want us to return to that land not just of humility but of empathy, of kindness, of respect…That means we have to keep conversations like this going.”
Want to learn more about HB2? Here’s a comprehensive Q&A about it.