Stand for #CLTEquality

10995921_10153116327474761_3007939241033963013_n.jpgMy name is Sam Spencer, and I prefer the pronouns he, him, and his.

You may not have heard that coming from a cisgender person (someone whose gender matches the sex they were assigned at birth), but thousands of trans Americans have to state their pronouns every day.

Trans folks also fight for their lives every day. That’s not hyperbole. We’re less than three months into 2015 and at least eight trans women across America have lost their lives due to hate crimes. Two of them have lost their lives since the council put these protections on the agenda. Most of them were trans women of color. This happens so often that there is a Wikipedia page devoted to cataloging the killings year by year.

Because of the daily abuse and harassment they face, at least seven trans people have taken their life this year, including one young person in Greater Charlotte.

In no small part because of stories like this, members of the Charlotte City Council have put an updated non-discrimination ordinance on the docket that protects, among other things, sexual orientation, gender expression, and gender identity. QNotes has a good summary of what's happening with the vote if this is the first you're reading about it.

Dignity and respect have not come quickly enough for the thousands of people who have suffered violence because of their gender identity and gender expression, but these basic protections send the message that anyone who visits our community is afforded dignity and respect.

Though there is a 9-2 Democratic majority on the Charlotte City Council, enough Democrats are planning on breaking ranks to put the outcome of the vote in question. If you're following the Charlotte mayoral race, Mayor Dan Clodfelter and former Mecklenburg County Commission Chair Jennifer Roberts support the ordinance, but neither has a vote (Clodfelter can vote to break a tie if someone abstains, however). Mayor Pro Tem Michael Barnes has been a firm no, and At-Large Councilman David Howard is unsure but has suggested a cisnormative compromise.

These protections should be a no-brainer - Dan Clodfelter & Harvey Gantt supported a similar non-discrimination changes in Charlotte over two decades ago - and it's surprising that the vote is going to be close when Raleigh's city council voted unanimously, Republicans included, for trans protections.

While opposition from hardline fundamentalists is to be expected, I think the opposition from Democrats on the City Council comes down to a misunderstanding of gender. While the idea of gender as a spectrum and non-binary is actually quite ancient at this point, it's new to many people - including many Charlotte City Council members. However, the scientific and social consensus is that biological sex may be between your legs, but gender is between your ears.

I don't want to get too distracted by talking about this in political terms, because this isn't an esoteric exercise. Trans folks suffer every day because of our society's legal and political framework.

Nevertheless, the Charlotte City Council has the power to change that framework tonight; if they don't, voters like us have the power to change the Charlotte City Council in September and November.

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