Zazie Kanwar-Torge, Finalist, Local Letters for Global Change

Friendly encounters with a shopkeeper. Image by Siyona Ravi. India, 2017.

Friendly encounters with a shopkeeper. Image by Siyona Ravi. India, 2017.

This article features reporting from "Transgender Communities in West Bengal: Navigating Public and Private Spaces" by Siyona Ravi

Dear Senator Tilis, 

My name is Zazie Kanwar-Torge. I live in Asheville and I am a student at Francine Delany New School for Children. I am 13 years old and I am writing to you concerning my opinions on the HB142 bill passed recently by the senate. HB142 is the bill that replaced HB2, which was the controversial bathroom bill that made transgender individuals use the bathroom corresponding to their birth certificates.

I read about similar issues that are happening around the world in a Pulitzer Center article written by Siyona Ravi. This article is called “Transgender Communities in West Bengal: Navigating Public and Private Spaces.” It is about a trans woman named Sintu who lives in India and uses public transportation regularly.  According to this article, the trans community in India may be accepted by individuals, yet they don’t have any legal protections afforded by the government.

The article describes how the buses and trains in India have separate sides for men and women. This presents a problem for transgender people. Where do they sit? As a trans woman, Sintu chooses to sits down on the side of the train labeled “Gentlemen.” It seems she made that choice out of fear. Although she says, “The staring doesn’t bother me anymore. I stopped caring what people think a long time ago,” she knows that the society in India is geared towards cisgender people.

Later that day, she was walking around town and she was enthusiastically greeted by several people selling goods on the street. She explains later that it was not always like this. She used to be beaten up by her mother for her gender expression, but after her mother died her family and neighbors began to accept her. 

The circumstances in India are similar to the current status of transgender issues in the United States. Many are friendly and accepting of trans people until it is time to make a bill that directly affects them. HB142 is not a solution, but a blanket to cover up HB2 and all the economic growth North Carolina could have gained if they did not vote for a bill that denied people their basic human rights. According to NPR’s All Things Considered, “North Carolina lost job expansion from PayPal and Deutsche Bank, and the NCAA and the NBA sent events and major championship events elsewhere, so there's been political and economic blowback.”

If you want your state to recover from this damaging legislation, I would advise you not to cover up the issue, but instead approach it. Although this issue has a lens of complexity, I believe the simplest solution would be for the government under law to give protection to transgender individuals to use the bathroom of their choice.

This issue impacts me and my community directly. I idenify as non-binary and when I walk in a restroom my heart begins to race double in speed. I feel a sense of danger because I do not feel like even my government supports me. I’ve met dozens of people in my community who have had similar experiences in restrooms. Nobody deserves to feel that way. 

I hope you are able to use your political power to contribute to something greater by helping a marginalized group. If not for the transgender community, do it for yourself. Do you want to be on the right side of history in 100 years from now when this time period is displayed in history books? 

Sincerely, 

Zazie Kanwar-Torge

Zazie Kanwar-Torge is 13 years old and lives in Asheville, North Carolina. Since a very young age they have been intrigued by the mysteries of art and philosophy. They have recently been absorbed in the work of John Cage and other 20th century avant-garde composers. Zazie does not limit themselves to any artistic medium. Their main aspiration in life is to create something that makes people think and does not have an expiration date.