Charlie Comero is a transgender man who founded a nonprofit to help other transgender adults through support programs. As a Charlotte resident, he found it especially troubling last week when North Carolina passed a new law that limits transgender people to using the public restrooms intended for the gender listed on their birth certificates.
"How I feel and who I am does not match my birth certificate, but the law is making me go to the women's restroom because I identify as a transgender man," Comero told CNN.
Critics argue that the bill puts transgender people at risk for harassment and physical injury, as those who witness them using a bathroom at odds with their gender identity and presentation might react negatively. A number of local businesses have spoken out and volunteered their bathrooms as safe spaces for members of the community, but Comero is taking his personal advocacy a step further.
Instead of avoiding public restrooms and the awkward encounters that now come with them, as many are, he has created a card that he hands out when confronted in a women's bathroom.
"My name is Charlie," the card reads. "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."
Comero posted the card on Facebook. In the post, he referred to the act of handing out the card as "a micro-moment of possible change."
He also admitted that a new version of the card should mention that it says "female" on his birth certificate.
"Transgender people are diverse," he wrote on Facebook. "Some of us transition physically, some of us don't. Some of us are more feminine or more masculine with no correlation to what gender we are. Some of us identify as non-binary/gender nonconforming, and I realize these might be a new terms for folks. Look it up. Educate. I am a transgender male and non-binary, and yes, that is possible. If we fight with love and compassion, people will listen."
Comero is using his viral Facebook photo to educate the public about the transgender community.
"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."