Lara Americo is a transgender woman from Charlotte, North Carolina, who started a petition asking North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory to repeal HB2, a law that repeals and prevents anti-discrimination laws that protect the LGBT community.
Lara kindly took the time to speak with us about her petition and how HB2 will impact her life.
Kate: What was your first thought when you heard HB2 had been passed into law?
Lara: First of all, I was really shocked that they made a special session, which meant they had to bring senators back in from their time off to pass this bill, which I thought was insane. And the special session cost taxpayers $42,000, which is more than the yearly salary for a North Carolina school teacher.
Once that happened, I was ready for anything because I didn't even think they would stop the Non-Discrimination Ordinance. When the bill was passed into law I wasn't surprised, but I was really disappointed by how quickly the bill passed.
It was an awful feeling of betrayal from the people who are supposed to lead the state and represent our state to the rest of the country. It just made us look like a laughingstock, like we’re from the 1950s or something … it was ... quite awful.
Seeing all the awful things they said about “gender confused people,” as they worded it -- it was like they didn’t even believe that transgender people existed. I mean I’d rather not be transgender -- it’d be much easier for me to get around as a cismale, but it’s not really a choice, and it’s not really something anyone would choose in this society.
Kate: How will this law impact your life?
Lara: For me, I usually can go in and out of any bathroom depending on the situation. A lot of people don’t really have that choice and it makes it dangerous.
I mean with my gender presentation and appearance, if I go into a man’s bathroom it’s awkward and everyone tells me I’m in the wrong bathroom, but legally that’s the bathroom I’ll have to go in North Carolina because my birth certificate says male.
So it’s an awful situation to be in where you either have to break the law or you risk being hurt and or being put in an embarrassing situation. It’s a negative situation no matter how you try to approach it.
Kate: Have you been asked to leave a bathroom?
Lara: Early in my transition, it got to the point where I couldn’t even go in the bathroom because in either bathroom I would go into people would give me funny looks or walk out as soon as they saw me. So … I just wouldn’t go to any bathroom unless it was a single stall.
Kate: How do you think this law will impact the transgender community in North Carolina?
Lara: It’s made us more visible than I think we’ve ever been in North Carolina and it’s created a witch hunt where people are looking for transgender people, especially in the bathroom.
There are ciswomen, who don’t look like typical ciswomen — they don’t dress feminine and they don’t present feminine -- and they’re not transgender, they’re just being themselves. And they go into the bathroom and people are questioning them. The same thing goes for the opposite gender.
Kate: What is the one thing that you want people in North Carolina to know?
Lara: I’d say that … I try to show everyone that transgender people are just human. A transgender woman is just another woman, a transgender man is just another man, and we just had to take different steps than the usual person to be ourselves. We are just as flawed and just as beautiful as anyone else. We want to live normal lives and contribute to society.
Kate: What is your hope for North Carolina?
Lara: My hope for North Carolina is that our visibility educates people who don’t know what a transgender person is, that we’re shown in a positive light instead of a negative one, and that our allies will continue to support us like they have been since this bill was passed. There have been people everywhere that have come out of the woodwork to support us and our community.
Kate: What would you like to tell the supporters of your petition?
Lara: I’d like to say thank you for being vocal and on the right side of history. We need support because the opposition of transgender people is very vocal and very loud and it’s easy for our voices to be overpowered without the support of our allies, so thank you.
Kate: Is there anything else that you would like to add?
Lara: Transgender and queer people of color are the most marginalized group of people and are having a harder time than anyone. Even before this bill, transgender people of color are more likely to be attacked and harassed. It is so sad to see that instead of North Carolina protecting their most marginalized group of people, they have turned their backs on them.
If you would like to support Lara's petition, you can sign it here.