Dr. Ella May. Photo Courtesy
I first heard Rev. Dr. Wendy Ella May on National Public Radio’s The Takeaway. She talked about LGBT and transgender rights, and especially North Carolina’s HB2 ordinance (better known as the Bathroom Bill). The “Hate Bill,” as Rev. May calls it, was passed on March 23, 2016. I contacted her to ask her a few questions on this matter and on the fact that she is the first LGBT candidate to run for elected office in Johnston County. She is running for Board of Commissioner from District Two in Johnston County, North Carolina. She is a progressive Democrat and has the full endorsement of the party including the support of the party at the state and county level, plus the chairperson of North Carolina is a friend of hers.
What follows is the story of Rev. Dr. Wendy Ella May. She thinks that the term transgender attempts to cover an entire population from transgenders, homosexuals, gender queers, bisexuals, trans-sexuals, etc. She feels it’s a misunderstood terminology, like mix matching what one’s gender is and what society assigns you. She was a vanishing twin. Her mother was a vanishing twin and her daughter was stillborn. Not many know that this is not a miscarriage, since miscarriages cause loss of tissue and bleeding. In the case of a vanishing twin, like the name implies, a disappearing embryo is absorbed into the mother’s womb. The vanishing twin syndrome runs in her family, so it’s genetic.
May came out in her late 40s. The reason she waited so long was because she didn’t have a role model and was afraid. Originally from New Jersey, she changed her name and sex legally and now lives as a woman. She has had hormone replacement therapy, but has not had sexual alignment surgery because she can’t afford it. Growing up she didn’t feel like everyone else. She felt she had the soul of a boy and a girl, and parts of both. She was bullied. But since moving to North Carolina, she has always lived as a female. Rev. May has a Doctorate in theology and psychology, and is getting a masters in political science.
May’s herstory continues now that she is running as Board Commissioner. This is history in the making since she is the first LGBT Democratic candidate to run in Johnston County. This brings us to the reasons as to why she is running for office. She explained that it’s to try and fix current injustices and to represent veterans, seniors, farmers, and also the poor and middle classes. She feels it’s her responsibility. She seeks to be their voice and to present a view other than the one held by present commissioners. As she says, “I am committed to fighting for all residents of Johnston County, no matter who they are and I pledge to be a commissioner for all!"
And she has a pretty impressive record of doing this. For the past three decades she’s been a “grassroots community organizer and an activist on the local and national level.” She has also advocated for social justice, civil liberties, universal and affordable healthcare, and equality, among other important issues. To view her many accomplishments one needs only to visit her website.
Now onto the “Hate Bill.” She says it has multiple parts and they all are discriminatory. The ordinance targets people of color, the handicapped, people of a different religion, ethnicity and gender. So anyone not considered normal is affected by this law. What is cunning about this bill is the fact that it overturns laws that previously protected these minorities, violating their constitutional rights.
Transgender children in public schools are directly affected because it restricts their freedom (in clear violation of their civil rights). This alarming ordinance was passed on the false pretense that it would create safety. Charlotte was not the first to create it, but they passed it. According to May it feels like it violates her constitutional rights. The law also allows an employer to be able to fire a homosexual or transgender worker. And it prevents her county government from increasing and requiring minimum wage when local towns hire a contractor. The minimum wage that used to be required was $15.00 per hour. And now HB2 restricts the town from putting a minimum wage.
The law limits how people pursue claims of discrimination because of race, religion, color, national origin, biological sex or handicap in state courts. The law also means a city or county cannot set a minimum wage standard for private employers. This is an obvious and blatant retaliation for the push for a higher minimum wage.
Finally, on May’s website she has a caption that reads, “I strongly believe that if you are not sitting at the table you will be on the menu.” I asked her to explain what she means. And her answer was that “if I’m not participating at making the laws, laws like HB2 can be created that will put me on the menu.”
No Democrat in 24 years has run in District Two in Johnston County. And it is the first time for a transgender person. If she wins it will make history, or should I say herstory.
Leticia Cortez is a teacher, writer, activist and loves film. She was born in Mexico, grew up in Chicago. She travels the art world, both in her imagination and in her book, art and film reviews. She also writes political essays, short stories and poetry. Presently she teaches Latin American Literature in English and Spanish at St. Augustine College.