Charlie Comero, a transgender man in Charlotte, North Carolina, is taking bold -- and brilliant -- steps to educate the public about the realities of life for transgender people in public spaces in wake of the state's recent anti-LGBT legislation.
On March 23, North Carolina's General Assembly passed House Bill 2, which was signed into law by Governor Pat McCrory on the same day and is being called the most anti-LGBT bill to pass in America. Included among the many horrific parts of this law is a clause that restricts transgender people from using public restrooms that correspond with their gender identity.
Comero, like most queer and trans people in North Carolina and across the country, was outraged by this legislation and wanted to find a way to highlight the way this law will dramatically affect his daily life and may be potentially dangerous. He decided that when complying with House Bill 2 by using women's public restrooms, he would hand out cards he created to anyone who questioned his presence in the space.
"The truth is that when folks in the general public are called upon by fellow citizens who happen to be transgender to be curious and compassionate about what it's like to be a transgender individual, it sticks more," Comero told The Huffington Post. "It's a new thing for many -- and there are many of us (myself included) who are willing to educate and speak with them from a place of love and compassion. That is the purpose of my cards: to show an amount of absurdity about the law and to educate folks [about] what being transgender means."
Comero also told The Huffington Post that he has handed out the cards in public restrooms since the bill was signed. The most notable interaction happened when he entered the women's facilities at the government center in Charlotte, North Carolina.
After a government employee using the restroom informed Comero that he was in the women's restroom, he attempted to give her a card, which she respectfully declined to take, and then verbally explained why he was there. When he ran into the woman again later in the day, it suddenly dawned on him, "Shit... she possibly doesn't know what it means to be a transgender man."
This led Comero to rethink the language on his cards to give a more nuanced understanding of what it means to be transgender.
"My whole card idea is a great, compassionate approach to such a disservice to a community, but it is not enough," Comero continued. "I firmly believe that she has no idea who she ran into in the bathroom and how I see my gender and my history. I have since modified my cards to read that a transgender male is someone who's birth certificate (at the time of birth) says female and that is not how I live my everyday life.
The irony in all this is that I learned as much as she did. We truly all do better when we all do better."
Despite an intense national backlash, Governor McCory claims, "This national political campaign directed toward North Carolina, I think, is well-coordinated and more political theater than reality." He added, "We are not taking away any rights whatsoever of individuals… this political correctness has gone amok.” On Monday, The ACLU filed a federal lawsuit challenging the law.