When NC’s House Bill 2 passed last March, Charlotte-based singer-songwriter Lara Americo became one of the faces of the fight against it, sharing a transgender perspective on NPR and the BBC, in the ACLU’s anti-HB2 campaign, and testifying in Raleigh.
She wasn’t squeamish about stepping to the forefront of the movement. “I feel like my life is resistance. I’m a transgender woman of color. That means statistically I should be homeless or doing sex work. I feel like everything I do is a protest of that narrative,” she says.
Now she’s fighting through her lo-fi indie rock songs.
She released the EP “She/They” in November and kicks off her Southeastern tour Wednesday at Evening Muse. During the day she’ll volunteer with local LGBTQ organizations in each city. The activism is clearly as important as the art.
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Americo grew up in a military family. Her dad was a marine and she joined the Air Force after high school. She was stationed in eastern North Carolina when she took up music and left the service for Charlotte.
“I needed some sort of outlet and music was a good way to do it,” says Americo, who taught herself to play bass and drums. “I decided to get serious about my technique and performance about two years ago.”
She played open mics, backing up a friend and, once comfortable, performing solo. It wasn’t until she appeared on the cover of “Q Notes,” NC’s LGBTQ bi-weekly publication, that audiences realized that she’s transgender. Americo took the mix of hurtful and supportive response in stride, as she has the current political climate.
“I’m used to living in spite of everything,” she says. “Now everybody else has to deal with it too.”
On “She/They” she writes of her own death and navigating the world as a ghost: “When I transitioned I felt like I was killing myself – the person I was pretending to be. After I transitioned, I felt like a ghost ... (Yet) it was this liberating thing where I became willing to take risks and say yes.”
She said yes to speaking engagements, news outlets and a TedX talk. She started her own web series interviewing regional musicians, recorded “She/They” in her closet, and published a series of photographs of transgender people in the community. She also watches over uptown from 9th Street, where an enlarged image of her face peers out from the window of UNC Charlotte’s City Center building as part of Sharon Dowell’s mural “A City on Its Side,” the artist’s response to HB2.
“HB2 made it clear that there are many people who don’t like that we exist. Optimistically I hope this new spotlight will lead to more understanding of what we go through,” says Americo, who still describes her experience here as largely positive.
“Sometimes when people ask where I was born, I say Charlotte,” she says. “That’s the first place I could be Lara.”
WHEN: 8 p.m. Wednesday (Feb15)
WHERE: Evening Muse 3227 N. Davidson St.