Transgender, gender non-conforming community take civil rights center stage

2016 Year in Review — Retrospective: The fight for rights continues

The transgender and gender nonconforming community has gained visibility in recent years and that trend continued into 2016. The passage of House Bill 2 in North Carolina prompted the U.S. Justice Department to sue the state, claiming the law was unconstitutional.

While announcing the lawsuit, Attorney General Loretta Lynch told the transgender community, “We see you.”

That visibility, brave and powerful transgender men and women, as well as the gender nonconforming, having the strength to come out and be known, is what is necessary for further advancements. Just like the gay rights movement gained momentum in large part due to gay, lesbian and bisexual individuals coming out, the same is helping to push trans rights into the mainstream.

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While the failure of the North Carolina General Assembly (NCGA) to repeal HB2, even after the Charlotte City Council agreed to rescind its expanded non-discrimination ordinance as asked, which allowed transgender people to use the facilities matching their gender identity, is disheartening, those efforts have been key in such protections even being considered.

The fight of the local trans community against HB2 gained national attention, such as when activist Janice Covington Allison, who is running for North Carolina Democratic State Party Chair, took a picture of herself in the men’s bathroom of the Charlotte Government Center as required by the law, and posted it to Facebook.

Or when Charlie Comero printed out cards explaining what he was doing in the women’s bathroom, which also encouraged people to call their legislatures to complain if they were unhappy with the situation, which was covered by Mother Jones and CNN.

Or when Lara Americo and Che Busiek, who is a co-founder of the non-profit Transcend Charlotte, were interviewed by the BBC as part of a report on the law and the effect it was having on trans people in the state.

Transgender people turned out for protests and demonstrations in spite of the risk of being visible. They gave interviews to the press, they appeared at press conferences, they spoke in front of city council and at the NCGA. They demanded their voices be heard, even as those in positions of power and authority were trying to silence them.

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2016 was the deadliest year on record for the transgender community, another grim reminder of how desperate the situation is to build acceptance, awareness and support networks for the trans community, and for laws that truly protect them to be passed and fought for to the end.

Meanwhile, the transgender community has built their own places to find community and safety, with groups such as the aforementioned Transcend Charlotte, as well as Genderlines, founded by Paige Dula.

Trey Greene, co-founder of Transcend Charlotte spoke of “the inherent trauma experienced by gender diverse adults in being exposed to the hate and fear of politicians far removed from the reality of living as a transgender person as well as the trauma of the violence, harassment, and discrimination that comes with this rhetoric.”

The fight to end HB2 goes on, and the only way it will be successful is if we center transgender voices.

For all the work they have done in 2016, and all the work they will undoubtedly do in the coming year, qnotes honors and thanks its transgender siblings.

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Posted by Jeff Taylor / Social Media Editor

Jeff Taylor is a journalist and artist. In addition to QNotes, his work has appeared in publications such The Charlotte Observer, Creative Loafing Charlotte, Inside Lacrosse, and McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. He graduated from the State University of New York at Brockport and has lived in Charlotte since 2006.@jefftaylorhuman.