As a 27-year-old Latino transgender man, I am honored to be able to stand up for the trans and LGB community in North Carolina to fight the new law, House Bill 2, which prevents cities and counties from passing anti-discrimination laws. This harmful and dehumanizing law serves to encourage and enable discrimination.
The work I am involved in as HIV Project Coordinator at UNC-Chapel Hill specifically serves transgender women. Those women—colleagues, clients and friends who already face high levels of violence and discrimination—can not raise their voices as I am doing now, because being in the public eye could mean risking their lives. It is scary for me to speak out, but much less so because I am an out trans man with the full support of my family, friends and co-workers. I know that hateful legislation like HB 2 makes the struggle we face that much harder, and I speak out with these brave women in mind.
I am a transgender man, yes, but I am a man. My family, my friends, my coworkers and many more in this state affirm my male identity. Who I am is not something that can be stripped away by this bill. What has been attacked is a basic right—a right to feel protected and safe.
I use the men’s room exclusively as I should, yet this bill could deny me that fundamental right. This bill opens the door for me to get fired from my job or kicked out of my home simply because of who I am. The same goes for my lesbian, gay and bisexual community members. It could affect the health and well-being of me and many others multiple times a day in our workplaces and in our daily lives.
As members of the transgender community, we are no different than anyone else. We exist. You’ve probably passed us on the street whether you’ve known it or not. You may have shared a restroom with us. We use it, just like you, to pee. In peace. In privacy. Without fear. Instead of with this anxiety that has gripped my chest since this legislation was passed. A basic right such as this should not be the internal conflict it has become.
We will continue to exist despite bills like this that try to diminish our existence in both public and private places. What we want you to understand is that we are only looking for our safe spaces in this world, and our home in North Carolina should be one of them.
We—the members of the LGBTQ community—hurt right now. Our family and friends, our cisgender (or non-transgender) allies who support us, who validate our true identities, they hurt alongside us. Anyone who believes in being kind to your neighbor is hurting right now. Because this bill that was just signed into law takes us back in history and threatens everyday people who could be your mother, your grandparent, your teacher, your doctor, your friend.
This week last year, Blake Brockington, a young black trans man from Charlotte, N.C., took his own life. Weeks earlier, the Charlotte nondiscrimination proposal first failed. There is no telling what kind of a connection, if any, the two have. But when 41% of the transgender community—myself included—report attempting suicide, and when such hateful and dehumanizing ideas about us are being voiced as they have been surrounding this issue, the emotional violence takes a toll.
I don’t want to have to speak out about this. We don’t want this fight to be necessary. But legislation such as this, an injustice such as this, demands that we take action. We must stand up and respond. This is about so much more than the restroom. It’s about dignity. It’s about respect. It’s about valuing us as members of the broader North Carolina community. North Carolina is better than this.