Zack Jenio

This pride season, news of two wins involving the transgender community have swept over both North Carolina and the nation. Specifically, these events include a new Gillette commercial featuring a transgender man's first shave with his father and the transfer of transgender prison inmate Kanautica Zayre-Brown to women’s facility.

Both of these events, incredibly powerful on their own, act as two wins for the trans community that extend transgender representation in media during the LGBTQ Pride Month on the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising. Not only do these events allow for trans visibility throughout the nation, but they also act as a reminder of the challenges and issues that still exist for the community.

In the pattern of Gillette producing commercials that challenge stereotypes and unite all men, they have released a new commercial featuring Samson Bonkeabantu Brown, a transgender man, shaving with his father for the first time. Although criticism for the video isn't hard to find online, the video represents visibility of trans men in the larger category of the male gender. On a broader scope, the video provides support and representation of the entire transgender community in a humanistic way.

When Kanautica Zayre-Brown was convicted in 2017, she was held in a men’s facility and had to fight for access to hormone treatments, forced to shower with male inmates and made to wear men’s clothing. This violation of constitutional rights so close to home for North Carolina citizens brings forth media coverage and conversation about the transgender community’s rights that have been deprived from them in the past.

In March, the ACLU sent a letter to officials demanding the transfer of Zayre-Brown, and in a letter to her attorney, the N.C. Department of Public Safety stated that they would move her to a women’s facility by this summer. Understanding that the state originally did not recognize her in the prison system as a female but now have acknowledged her gender identity is an incredible win for the community in a state that has been notorious for marginalizing transgender citizens.

More than anything, both of these events act as celebrations of the progress both North Carolina and this nation have made in the development of transgender rights and tolerance for the transgender community. However, they also act as reminders of the journey that our society has ahead to provide equal rights and a safe environment for transgender citizens.

As both cisgender, or non-transgender, allies and N.C. residents, the best thing to do after acknowledging these two wins for trans rights is to continue researching how your N.C. representatives treat and view members of the LGBTQ+ community, specifically the transgender community.

Finally, this column isn’t intended to be an argument to accept transgender individuals, but rather acknowledge the hardships their community faces on a daily basis and celebrate victories that allow for more progressive, tolerant actions to be taken in our nation. You don’t need to be “okay” with gender identity in order to be tolerant and recognize that transgender people have the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness as much as you do. This pride season, try to remember that even as allies, we’re proud to celebrate these two wins for the transgender community.