Before I begin on that, I would like to dispel some preconceptions that some may have about the transgender community. We DO NOT all live in New York, San Francisco and Seattle. We do NOT all live in urban areas…I myself live in a very rural area you may actually have heard of…called Lizard Lick, North Carolina. So there is a significant population of trans that live in rural areas…I am one.
In fact, the largest percentage, over 38 percent of Americans who identify as trans…live in the American South! This is according to Census Bureau estimates, as reported in the 2015 US Trans Study (full disclosure, I was one of nearly 28,000 Respondents to that Study…and at the time, was also a resident of the South…and still am.) Additionally, over 4 million American LGBT live in rural areas. I, myself, am one of them. I live in a rural area you may have heard of…Lizard Lick, North Carolina.
This is NOT the perception many people have of the American South. And North Carolina is a very unique state. Unlike many states, OUR urban centers stretch across the state, we are NOT concentrated in 2 or 3 areas of our state…there are seven distinct areas of North Carolina that could be considered to be urban population centers.
So our urban population centers are spread, as I said, across the state…islands of population dotted across our state surrounded by rural areas. And urban mean progressive/liberal…right? Usually, yes, but there is a surprising acceptance in some of our more rural areas one would not expect…including my own town. I had lived here for a year and a half, stealth…nobody knowing I was trans. Then HB-2 happened.
I had moved here in 2014 from blue-state Pennsylvania. I came with the intent and purpose of living out my life in peace and quiet…in a place nobody knew my past – look how well THAT plan worked! Just goes to show life is what happens when you are busy making other plans! So, when I came out of “retirement/stealth” to fight HB-2, and my neighbors learned I was trans…I expected to be run out of town with pitchforks. That isn’t what happened. Almost everyone here told me, “You go girl…give the hell for us!” I could not believe it. And then in 2018, they went and elected me the first openly-transgender Precinct Chair in the history of Wake County. So much for quietly living stealth, huh?
So…when HB-2 happened, the slogans “We Are Not This” and “No H8 In Our State” were born. What I have found is that my fellow North Carolinians…are as awesome as our state government is terrible…though, admittedly a little less terrible after the 2018 elections, when we broke the Supermajorities that had existed in both Chambers of our Legislature. We also got a so-called repeal of HB-2 (known as HB-142.) Most of the rest of the nation believes HB-2 was repealed and everything is cool here again in North Carolina. That is sadly not the case. HB-142 came with a “moratorium” against cities and municipalities passing any rights legislation beyond what the State will – until Dec 1, 2020.
So the situation now in North Carolina…is that we have cities and municipalities like Raleigh, Durham, Charlotte, Chapel Hill, Carrboro, Wilmington, Asheville, Greensboro and Winston-Salem – to name a few – who want to protect us and grant us equality, but cannot…and a state the refuses to. Efforts have been underway to repeal, or sunset, the moratorium that currently exists in HB-142.
HB-2 brought into very sharp focus, the difference between sexual orientation and gender identity. And it was clear to one and all that the transgender community, specifically, was targeted and attacked by HB-2 and HB-142. Many in my community did not feel that the LGB elements of our LGBT community were adequately standing up for – or representing transgender issues. As a community, we have many issues that intersect…but many others that impact ONLY the transgender…and these are issues which are life and death to us…which we felt were being ignored.
We also felt that our agenda was being determined by the LGB, and mostly this was directed at gay men. We sought to separate sexual orientation fro gender identity…to have a seat at the table long denied us…to determine our own agenda and timetable on issues of concern to us…in short, we wanted to take control of our own destiny. There is NOT a major divorce or split in the LGBT community…we do have many areas of common interest.
However, there ARE transgender separatists, and, on a political level, I am one. Because of decades of history in which our issues were ignored or back burnered. Because we were left behind while LGB got their rights…promising to come back for us – but they never did. They made progress and never bothered to look over their shoulders to see if we were following. This lack of concern can be demonstrated in many ways, but for the purposes of this article, I will bring up two.
One, the transgender military ban. When that happened…we got a day or two of politically correct outrage…and then crickets. We did not perceive that the LGB elements of our community cared much…because, after all…it affected ONLY US. We believe that if Trump had taken it into his head to re-instate DADT (Don’t Ask Don’t Tell) that we would NEVER hear the end of it…but for us…crickets!! The second is New York State…which just this year passed full protections against discrimination based on gender identity. Our LGB brothers and sisters enjoyed the same rights we just were granted this year…since 2003! Sixteen years. In fact, many of us pointed out that it was odd that Gov. Cuomo, in New York…would boycott North Carolina over HB-2…yet still refuse to protect his own transgender citizens.
And so, the work was begun, mainly originally by my friend…and the one transgender person in North Carolina I totally look up to: Janice Covington Allison…and also Wendy Ella May…who I love like a sister (and in a way different than I love all my other transgender sisters.) I then jumped in and started working on and helping what they had laid the groundwork for and were building.
All eyes in the transgender community were on North Carolina today. And it is fitting, in the state that passed the cruel and discriminatory HB-2…that what happened today…happened. An that it happened here. Today.
I am pleased to announce that North Carolina has become the first state in our nation to have a major political Party (the Democratic Party) officially recognize a separate Transgender Caucus! It happened first in the South! We even beat California on this one! I am now officially the Interim 1st Vice Chair of the Transgender Political Caucus of the North Carolina Democratic Party (TPC-NCDP.) Janice, of course, is the Chair…which is fitting, as she began this work. My friend Wendy is 2nd Vice Chair, and we have a transman as our 3rd Vice Chair. He is also a POC.
We now have blazed the trail…and there are groups ready to form in South Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee, and Georgia. IT IS HAPPENING IN THE SOUTH!! And when we have enough states, we are working on establishing such a Caucus on the national level at the DNC. We are taking control of our agenda and our future. Now…when issues relevant to the transgender community arise, in North Carolina…they will be spoken to…by a transgender person, and not a gay man. We now officially have our voice!