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Each Monday, Tommy Tomlinson delivers thoughtful commentary on an important topic in the news. Through these perspectives, he seeks to find common ground that leads to deeper understanding of complex issues and that helps people relate to what others are feeling, even if they don’t agree.

On My Mind: Two Killings In A Community Already Under Attack

Jaida Peterson (left) and Remy Fennell were shot and killed within the span of 11 days in Charlotte.
Jaida Peterson (left) and Remy Fennell were shot and killed within the span of 11 days in Charlotte.

When it came to crime news around here last week, most of us were mesmerized by the story about a Union County teacher and coach who — if the law-enforcement version is true — was killed trying to rob drug dealers involved with the Mexican cartels.

That’s a crazy story. That’s Omar Little from “The Wire” crossed with Walter White from “Breaking Bad.”

But later in the week, a different story emerged here in Charlotte. It’s not as wild, but it’s just as tragic, and it feels more in tune with our world right now.

Police arrested two men for murder on Friday in the deaths of two transgender women who were killed in separate incidents in the last two weeks. The victims, Jaida Peterson and Remy Fennell, were sex workers. Both were found shot to death in hotel rooms.

This comes at a time when conservative lawmakers throughout the country are busy trying to make transgender Americans’ lives as hard as possible. As usual, we in the South make things the hardest.

In Arkansas, the state legislature has passed a law forbidding doctors from providing care related to transitioning genders.

In Tennessee, there’s a bill that would keep schools from using textbooks that “promote, normalize, support or address” gay, bisexual and trans lifestyles.

Here in North Carolina,there’s a billthat would, among other things, require government employees who see symptoms of gender nonconformity in a child to notify that child’s parents. What does gender nonconformity mean? Far as I can tell, the bill’s sponsors are basically saying “you’ll know it when you see it.”

Most of these bills are framed as a way to protect the children — to keep them from acting on their ideas of gender nonconformity, or from even hearing about those ideas. But to me, it feels like these bills and laws are more about protecting adults — the fearful people who are, in the 21st century, confronted with lifestyles that used to be shoved deep into the shadows.

If you’re not trans, you don’t have to understand people who are — although it would help if you tried. But what you do have to do, whether you’re a lawmaker or a regular citizen, is not make transgender people more of a target in this mean, old world than they already are.

Two of them, in the last two weeks, left for dead in hotel rooms. We use the shorthand as a sorting device: They were sex workers, and trans women. But first, they were human beings — worthy of love and protection from the rest of us.

Tommy Tomlinson’s On My Mind column runs Mondays on WFAE and WFAE.org. It represents his opinion, not the opinion of WFAE. You can respond to this column in the comments section below. You can also email Tommy at ttomlinson@wfae.org.

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Tommy Tomlinson has hosted the podcast SouthBound for WFAE since 2017. He also does a commentary, On My Mind, which airs every Monday.