Charlotte transgender activist tells national magazine HB2 bargain made things worse

Lara Americo, transgender activist and artist, at LoveWinsCLT rally to support immigrants, Muslims, LGBT people.
Lara Americo, transgender activist and artist, at LoveWinsCLT rally to support immigrants, Muslims, LGBT people. dlaird@charlotteobserver.com

Charlotte transgender activist Lara Americo says in the April 9 issue of the progressive magazine Mother Jones that life in North Carolina has never been “more frightening’ than in the wake of a compromise crafted to take House Bill 2 off the books.

That compromise re-set bathroom access for transgender people back to pre-HB2 standards, and also included a moratorium preventing local governments from passing their own non-discrimination ordinances through at least 2020.

Maxine Eichner, who teaches family law at UNC School of Law, said the new law makes it unclear on which bathrooms transgender people should use.

“I think transgender people are in even more danger now,” Americo told Mother Jones. “When you don’t allow cities to give people protections, you put people in danger. Our state government made it clear that they put profit and sports ahead of our safety, and that mentality trickles down. We still don’t have the protections we need. All we have is a spotlight on us, so that people who don’t like us can target us. I feel less safe now than I did a few weeks ago, and so do a lot of people.”

Americo says she works with Trans Lifeline, a suicide hotline, and she tells Mother Jones that there has been a spike in callers since the compromise was passed last month. The LGBT community opposed the compromise, which was engineered in part to keep sports tournaments and other large scale events from continuing to boycott the state over HB2’s anti-LGBT guidelines.

Among the fears of LGBT people is a possibility that a Republican led N.C. General Assembly will pass more laws “criminalizing” transgender people in other ways. An example of this, Americo says, is House Bill 562, introduced April 4 to strengthen the penalties for trespassing in such places as a “multi-occupancy bathroom, shower, or changing facility.” It’s a law that could be used to target transgender people, she told Mother Jones.

“I have to wrestle with the thought of being forced out of my home, because I love North Carolina and I don’t want to leave,” Americo told Mother Jones.

“I would hate it if I gave in to fear tactics and discrimination. There are many people here who don’t care that I’m transgender and they don’t care who uses the bathroom with them. It’s those people who make me want to stay here and be a part of this and fight for the transgender kids who live here and are going to public schools and worry about all these things, and make sure they don’t have to deal with this when they’re 30.”