Charlie Comero
Charlie Comero

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Charlie Comero has been a vocal and dedicated activist for the LGBTQ community, as well as a strong ally in the fight for racial equality, and for those efforts has been honored by Charlotte Magazine as one of their 2016 Charlotteans of the Year.

Comero is the co-founder of 41 Percent, along with Ashley Williams, which matches up members of the community with one another to form a mutual support system.

The issue is one of life and death, the name of the organization taken from a statistic derived from a 2014 study conducted by the Williams Institute that showed 41 percent of trans people had attempted suicide at least once in their lives, compared to around 20 percent for lesbian, gay and bisexual people and 4.6 percent of the overall U.S. population.

“We’re trying to make sure that people don’t want to kill themselves, very frankly,” Williams told qnotes in August.

He has also spoken at countless events and rallies on behalf of the community, as well as protested for black and trans lives.

After HB2 passed, Comero printed out cards that read:

My name is Charlie.
I’m following the law that was passed on
March 23rd. I am a transgender man who would
rather be using the men’s room right now.
This is likely uncomfortable for both of us.
Please contact your legislature
and tell them you oppose HB2.

The message went viral, bringing national attention. It was one of many actions taken by individuals in the state to draw attention to the dangerous situation trans people were facing under a law that required them to use the bathrooms that match the gender on their birth certificates, regardless of their identity, in public owned buildings.

He granted interviews to national publications and wrote about his feelings and experiences in an HB2 affected North Carolina for Mother Jones.

After the police shooting death of Keith Lamont Scott Comero was present throughout the Charlotte Uprising protests, providing some of the best Facebook live feeds documenting what was happening on the streets.

He arrived at the photo shoot for the Charlotte Magazine feature holding a sign reading, “Only when black lives matter will all lives matter.”

“A huge part of my work is around black lives,” he said. “My heart’s calling me toward that work. White people should start showing up, come join us, and see for themselves that the reason we do this is, it’s all about love.”

He also wants to center the voices of people of color.

“There’s a lot of trans people of color doing amazing things,” he said.

Read the full profile on Comero here.

CMS superintendent Ann Clark also named a 2016 Charlottean of the Year

Ann Clark
Ann Clark, superintendent of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, photo by Davie Hinshaw

Another Charlottean honored on Charlotte Magazine’s list of honorees has stood up for trans lives, superintendent of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Ann Clark, who fought for students’ rights this year.

Clark announced in June that students in the public school system would be able to choose their name and pronoun when they returned to school. Further, the gender identities were to be honored in restrooms, locker rooms, yearbooks and graduation ceremonies, and teachers were not to segregate students based on gender when there would be no benefit to doing so, such as lining students up by boys and girls.

The bathroom and locker room portion of the new provisions were put on hold after an August Supreme Court ruling that blocked a ruling by a lower court granting rights to a trans student in Virginia allowing the school board time to prepare an appeal to the decision. The other reforms remained in place.

Concerning locker rooms and restrooms, “we will continue to protect the privacy rights of all students,” Clark said in a news conference. “We will continue to work with each transgender student and his or her parents to make sure there is a plan that protects the privacy of that student and makes that student feel welcomed.”

Clark was also personally moved by the Scott shooting, having worked as the first principal at the school Scott’s son would have attended, Vance High School.

“I think not just the Keith Scott incident, but incidents across our nation, show us we do still have to deal with racial prejudice. We do still have to deal with individuals who feel a lack of hope that has sustained them through multiple generations through their family,” she told the magazine. “I do see public education nationally, and certainly CMS locally, as contributors to changing that narrative.”

To that end, Clark held community sessions, workshops and “superintendent coffees” to better understand the needs of under served communities, in a Charlotte that continues to be largely segregated along racial lines.

“On October 11, Clark and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board unveiled a student assignment review plan,” Charlotte Magazine reports. “Clark believes the plan can propel Charlotte from the bottom rung of the economic mobility ladder by giving low-income students more choice. In Phase 1 of the plan, which as of press time had not been formally approved by the school board, students from state-designated low-performing schools get a priority ranking in a lottery to attend magnet schools. It also gives special priority to students who attend schools that the state has deemed low-performing for three consecutive years.

“Currently, six schools match that description. If the board approved Phase 1 in November, after we sent this story to press, Clark and the system were scheduled to start moving toward Phase 2, which will focus on the high school feeder pattern and school boundaries.”

Clark will not remain as superintendent at CMS, but the positive impact of the work she has done will live on.

Read the full profile on Clark here.

Jeff Taylor / Social Media Editor

Jeff Taylor is a journalist and artist. In addition to QNotes, his work has appeared in publications such The Charlotte Observer, Creative Loafing Charlotte, Inside Lacrosse, and McSweeney’s Internet...