CHARLOTTE, N.C.—Since the advent of House Bill 2 (HB2), there has been an undeniable air of adversity in North Carolina, especially for transgender citizens of the state. As the public debate rages across the nation, one transgender North Carolinian has taken action. Janice Covington Allison, 69, decided to compile a list of Charlotte-area venues that allow transgender patrons to use the bathroom of their gender identity.
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Many arguments surface on both sides of the issue. Supporters of HB2 claim that its purpose is to make bathrooms safe for women and children, implying or outright arguing that transgender citizens are less than wholesome. The beginnings of Allison’s project were motivated by this discriminatory rhetoric surrounding HB2.
“I am not a sex offender, a pedophile or sexual predator, but my governor and my state says that I am,” Allison wrote on the project’s website, justaskandtell.com. “You are being bamboozled and under the control of fear.”
The first venture to question a venue’s bathroom policy began as a whimsical visit to one of Allison’s regular haunts. Shortly after HB2 became law, she wondered how it would impact her life and the lives of fellow transgender North Carolinians. So, she decided on a social experiment of sorts.
“I went down to Plaza Midwood and walked into Whiskey Warehouse,” Allison reports. “I said if I’m eating here as a customer, can I use the ladies’ restroom? And they said yes.”
As it turns out, this first response was reaffirmed by over 100 businesses around the Charlotte area. These businesses do include known LGBT-friendly venues like Petra’s and Sidelines, but also many businesses that aren’t particularly associated with the LGBT scene, like the Charlotte Motor Speedway, NoDa Brewing Company and the Last Word bookstore.
Allison isn’t surprised, but is very pleased with the supportive responses from these venues. She says it makes perfect sense: “If you’re a business owner, you’d be an idiot to turn me away.”
Although this project was undertaken by a single individual, Allison has compiled quite comprehensive information on her website. Once the list gained some momentum and publicity, she didn’t even have to leave home to add new venues to her collection.
“A lot of businesses contacted me and wanted on the list,” she explained. “I’ve only found two businesses in the Charlotte area that were questionable.”
So what does this list mean to Allison and to the local LGBT community? According to its creator, the list was never meant to designate these spots as “safe spaces” for LGBT folk.
“One of the things that I’m against is, you know, we talk about safe places,” Allison argues. “We talk about transgender people being able to go here and there and be themselves and not be scared. We’re human beings and we should be able to go anywhere. We shouldn’t need to create that safe place. Everywhere we go should be safe. To me, a safe place is just segregating ourselves.”
Segregation or not, many would argue that establishing LGBT-friendly venues is a move in the right direction. The places found on Allison’s list are not exclusively LGBT, but are affirming or allied businesses. The goal is not to separate, but to unite people and educate the ignorant.
“If you want a safe place, find a support group,” Allison told qnotes. “If you want to change the world, go out there and educate people on who you are. That way you won’t need to worry about a safe place.”