On Tuesday morning, I was sitting in a House Committee in Nashville, Tennessee witnessing what we thought was the demise of an anti-trans student bill.
The committee members were noticeably moved by the testimony of the young people and their families who would be impacted by the law. One mother urged the lawmakers, “what if this was your daughter? This isn’t black and white.” Her husband, a medical doctor, went on to implore the committee to think about the impact of their actions: “I understand these bills are about protecting people who may be uncomfortable around people like my daughter. Whatever that discomfort is, they will survive, but trans and intersex young people will not.” The bill, he explained, would cause deaths. The deaths of trans and intersex young people by suicide and by violence at the hands of others. He was certain. He was right. The committee was moved and voted to send the bill to a summer study, which effectively killed it.
Or so we thought.
Supporters of the anti-trans measure were so enraged by the committee’s actions that they threatened the father of the young girl who spoke out for his daughter as well as the lawmakers who supported him and his daughter’s humanity. Their hatred and threats brought the bill back and it is now moving through committees in both chambers. We will not stop fighting this horrible legislation.
And as the hate and vitriol of a group of Tennessee anti-trans lobbyists breathed new life into that measure, the North Carolina General Assembly took even more extreme action yesterday.
After the City of Charlotte passed a non-discrimination ordinance that, among other things, prohibited discrimination against LGBT people in places like restaurants, hotels, hospitals, and yes, bathrooms, the North Carolina General Assembly took extreme measures to stop the law from going into effect on April 1st. Calling a special session (instead of waiting to convene on April 25th) and costing taxpayers $42,000/day, both chambers rushed through a sweeping anti-trans and anti-LGBT law that Governor Pat McCrory signed last night.
On Twitter, Governor McCrory perpetuated the lie that animated the entire Charlotte anti-trans campaign, disingenuously writing, “Ordinance defied common sense, allowing men to use women’s bathroom/locker room for instance.”
Nothing about the Charlotte law allowed men into women’s bathrooms. It is a lie and one that is repeated over and over by lawmakers and the media covering these fights. And by telling this lie we are perpetuating an insidious message that transgender women are not women and it is this fear of transgender people and this willingness to create a public narrative that says to the transgender community — “you are so fraudulent and freakish that you deserve to be erased and told that your very identity is a contested debate for public consumption” — is what leads to the death of so many transgender people.
As yesterday’s anti-trans bill moved through the North Carolina General Assembly, a transgender woman of color was shot and killed in Los Angeles. There is a connection between these things: the violence levied upon the bodies of trans people, particularly the Black and brown bodies of transgender women of color and the rhetoric that animates anti-trans legislative fights and campaigns and “feminist” think pieces about whether trans people somehow threaten the existence of cisgender women. The connection is the idea that transgender people are unreal and unlovable. That our bodies are shameful and our existence threatening.
But no matter how many horrible things are said and done, the transgender community keeps surviving and thriving and sharing our beauty. Led by so many vibrant and amazing transgender women of color like Reina Gossett, Stefanie Rivera, Laverne Cox, Janet Mock, Angelica Ross, Precious Davis, Monica Roberts, Miss Major, we put love and beauty into this hateful world.
I watched and listened as North Carolina took these horrible steps to codify this hate and thought of my own connection to the state. My brother was stationed at Fort Bragg in Fayetteville for several years during and after his deployment to Afghanistan. He and I don’t share every political belief but we share a deep and unrelenting love for each other. He loves me as his trans sibling and his best friend. When he was deployed, my child was born and we felt the distance between so deeply. He cares for me and my family with his entire being. He is the type of person the North Carolina General Assembly does care about — a white, cisgender man, a veteran, a fighter for their skewed idea of “freedom.” And yet the General Assembly’s actions yesterday affect him too. Because transgender people are loved by many types of people who hold us and love us for who we are.
Whether through our families by blood or by choice, we have community. We will not be forgotten and the reverberations of your actions, lawmakers, will be felt and responded to with vigorous reminders that you are on the wrong side of history. And perhaps someday you will realize that someone you love was harmed by your ignorance and your inability to see our beautiful and common humanity and maybe then you will regret your vote.
Until then, I care less about you, hateful lawmaker, and more about my beautiful community. You are all loved and I will never stop fighting for you.
The stakes have never been higher (and our need for your support has never been greater).
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