Two Asheville-based groups, Tranzmission and Different Strokes Performing Arts Collective, will soon release a video showcasing recent interviews with local transgender residents, organizers say. “Our goal is twofold,” says Lacey Winter, a Tranzmission volunteer who is working on the project. “We want to help raise awareness about [North Carolina] House Bill 2 and similar legislation in the U.S., and … we want to share the real-life stories and experiences of transgender people living in Western North Carolina.”
HB2, passed earlier this year by the Republican-led legislature and signed into law by Gov. Pat McCrory, restricts trans people to using public bathrooms that correspond to the genders listed on their birth certificates, among other mandates. It was sparked, say legislators, by a Charlotte nondiscrimination ordinance that offered protections for LGBT people.
Different Strokes organizers approached Tranzmission with the video idea after the Charlotte ordinance passed, Winter says. The new state law put North Carolina and trans people “in the spotlight” and further highlighted the need for their stories project, says Winter, an Asheville-area resident. “It’s a good way for us to educate the community,” she says.
Founded in 2001, the all-volunteer Tranzmission group has long worked “to improve the lives of transgender and nonbinary people through education, outreach, advocacy and healthy community building,” its mission statement explains. Different Strokes similarly seeks to “present works which confront issues of social diversity in a provocative way [and provides] opportunities for audiences to explore visions of our diverse world,” according to its website.
Organizers of both groups recognized that some North Carolina residents might not understand what being transgender means or what HB2’s impact is, Winter adds. “We geared the questions to help people understand there’s nothing to be afraid of,” she says. “We’re normal people, just like anyone else, [but] our bodies don’t mesh well with our internal gender identification.”
In April, volunteers interviewed and filmed four transgender residents, Winter says. The video is in production and should be finished in mid-June. The final product will be available on the Tranzmission website and likely shared with other organizations. Though the focus is local and regional and deals with HB2, a higher goal — “one dream, really — is that this could go national,” she says.
The project “is a way for us to humanize [our] community and help people understand that we’re normal people … active in our churches, social groups and workplaces.”
HB2 and similar bills adopted or being considered around the U.S., says Winter, “have a significant impact on basic human rights and basic equality for a community of people who are just trying to live their lives and be happy.”
The video will first be released at Tranzmission’s website: tranzmission.org.