transgender rights hb2
Che Busiek, left, and Lara Americo, right, speaking to a Channel 4 reporter. Image via YouTube video.

YouTube video

The British television station Channel 4 recently broadcast a news segment on North Carolina’s anti-LGBT legislation HB2, as well as the Obama administration’s directive to allow trans students to use the bathrooms consistent with their gender identity and the states suing the federal government as a result.

Charlotte transgender activists Lara Americo and Che Busiek spoke with a reporter who traveled to the city to cover life here in the post-HB2 world.

“Transgender people have been around since humans have been around, we’ve just been hiding,” Americo says. “And people still hide today, because it’s scary to be open like this when there’s so many people against you.”

She continues, “I don’t think it’s a culture war, I think it’s an emergence of people being free and being more open and authentic.”

Busiek reflects upon the pros and cons of transgender rights becoming more visible and widely debated as an issue in this country.

“Our government recognizing us was a big step,” he says, “to have the top dog look down and say, ‘Hey, I see you and I got your back.’ But in another way, that made a lot of people dislike us more.”

This leads Americo to speak on “passing,” and the role of gender norms and expectations.

“It makes me feel like I need to appear more biologically feminine so I can blend in better,” she says. “But even though I’m a transgender woman, I’m okay that there are masculine things about me. So every time I wear a flannel shirt, or I walk into a women’s bathroom, I see it as a protest against norms I don’t agree with.”

Related: Local trans individuals share hopes for the future

Also featured in the segment are the Benham brothers, David and Jason, sons of anti-LGBT preacher Flip Benham. One of their father’s most recent antics include getting thrown out of a Charlotte City Council meeting by police for refusing to step down from the podium during an HB2/LGBT non-discrimination ordinance rant.

The brothers Benham did not fall far from the tree.

They have been active in the fight against the LGBT non-discrimination ordinance passed by the Charlotte City Council and, like their father, have a long anti-gay and anti-trans past. You may remember them from their failed HGTV show, which was cancelled after their history of anti-gay rhetoric began gaining public attention.

The twins have routinely fear-mongered around transgender bathroom protections, repeating a narrative that it allows men to enter women’s restrooms to commit assault, in spite of the fact that there is no evidence to support their claim.

They say that retail chain Target’s recent move to allow transgender people to use the bathrooms consistent with their identity has caused non-transgender men to start entering the women’s facilities. Perhaps they are referring to the conservative activists going into the women’s bathrooms in Target to “test” the policy, creating a problem where there appears not to have been one before.

Target told Channel 4 that there have not been any safety issues in their stores since the policy change.

Related: Charlotte Transgender Day of Visibility Rally (Video)

Busiek points out that it is transgender people who are the ones at risk in public restrooms, especially in wake of the fear incited after HB2 was signed into law, and defended by scaring people about “the other” – an age old political tactic that shows no concern for the vulnerable individuals being discriminated against and smeared in the process.

“We’re the ones that are ending up in the hospital,” he says.

Displaying his ignorance of what it means to be trans, Jason Benham defends his comparison of transgender people to his three year old daughter thinking she is a horse. He characterizes a parent’s acceptance of their trans child as abuse.

He also adds that he won’t accept transgender identity and the comparisons between the struggle for trans rights and the Civil Rights Movement until he sees, “a black man who’s turned white…and a white man who’s turned black.”

This characterization of transgender identity as a fact free delusion does not appear to be backed up by science, although it should be said that research in this field is still new and that more is needed.

Just because markers for gender identity in the brain are not visible to the naked eye, like race, does not make them invalid. That level of reasoning appears to elude Mr. Benham.

The Channel 4 segment also features the brothers bragging about doing CrossFit every day, taken from one of their promotional videos. You know, just in case you needed yet another reason to dislike them.


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...