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OPINION: An Open Letter to Tricia Cotham

Lara Americo (right) and another advocate poses in front of a photo of Tricia Cotham
Lara Americo (right) poses with a photo of Tricia Cotham during the fight to repeal HB2. (Photo courtesy of Lara Americo)

Former allies, friends and colleagues of N.C. Rep. Tricia Cotham — who in April announced she would switch from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party — gathered in Raleigh on Tuesday to support newly proposed legislation that would penalize elected officials who switch parties in the middle of their term.

In this open letter, Queen City Nerve contributor and trans woman Lara Americo looks back on the hope that Cotham once inspired in the Democratic Party, especially among the LGBTQ community, and asks that Cotham rethink any support for the multiple bills targeting that community currently in the North Carolina General Assembly.

Dear Rep. Tricia Cotham,

We first crossed paths at an LGBTQ pride parade, where your warmth and embrace reassured me that you were a staunch advocate for the transgender community. This was after watching you defend transgender people on the local news and on the floor of the North Carolina General Assembly (NCGA). I needed to meet the N.C. legislator who had built a reputation as a defender of LGBTQ rights. 

I write this letter knowing that you have no way of going back on your recent decision to switch to the Republican party — the party that has dug its feet into transphobia and consistently doubled and tripled down on actions that aim to eradicate my community. My only hope is that this letter can encourage you to vote against your new party and continue to support transgender rights. You still have the chance to be on the right side of history despite having joined a party that encompasses itself in hate.

As a transgender woman, I have lived through the negative impact of discrimination based on my identity and have watched other transgender people lose their homes, families, and livelihoods because of hatred against transgender people. The Republican Party has acted to embolden hatred toward transgender people and further the marginalization of gender-diverse people. 

Several pieces of anti-transgender legislation are currently moving through the NCGA, each of which perpetuate fear, misunderstanding, and hostility toward transgender individuals — effectively stripping away our rights and dignity. Your association with these bills, particularly in light of your previous commitment to the transgender community, has left me deeply disheartened.

I vividly remember the day we first met, when you were introduced to me by my late mentor, NC Transgender Caucus founder Janice Covington. Janice, a transgender woman and revered figure in the North Carolina Democratic Party, spoke highly of you. She assured me that you were someone we could trust. Before passing away in 2021, Janice believed in your dedication to our cause, and I believe that faith can be renewed. 

Rep. Cotham, I implore you to reflect on the impact of your actions on individuals like myself. As a transgender woman, I no longer feel safe in my home state of North Carolina. The changing political landscape and your shift in allegiance have left me and many others vulnerable to discrimination and prejudice. 

I urge you to reconsider your stance on the anti-transgender bills and to actively advocate for policies that promote inclusivity, equality, and the protection of transgender rights. Your previous support gave us hope, and it is my sincere wish that you will rediscover that passion and commitment.

I ask you to remember the faces and stories behind the policies you support. Each bill has the power to impact real lives, strip away rights, and perpetuate harm. You’ve changed parties but you still have the opportunity to be an example of how compassion can exist on either side of the aisle, as you claimed at your press conference announcing your big move.

I beg you to not only vote against but denounce bills like HB 43, HB 574, HB 673, HB 786, HB 808, as well as other anti-trans legislation floating around the NCGA. 

Learn More: Carolinas CARE Partnership Launches LGBTQ+ Life Center During Turbulent Time

I’m just one of the many people in the state of North Carolina and throughout the country that will be severely impacted by your decisions. 

Consider Monika Diamond, a personal friend of mine from Charlotte who lost her life due to anti-transgender violence in 2020. Monika was killed thanks to the same hateful narrative that many of your Republican colleagues support and amplify in their actions and words. There are other people like Monika whose lives will be severely impacted by your support or lack thereof. 

Remember Janice Covington, who believed in you and encouraged you since your confirmation in 2007 until her own tragic death. She never saw what you became.  

My community depends on you. Be the champion, once again, that we desperately need.


Lara Americo

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