Young Citizens Pack the May 20th Letcher Co. Fiscal Court Meeting to Oppose Discriminatory Bathroom Ordinance
Last Friday, May 20th, a special meeting was held to discuss the county's budget.The recently proposed discriminatory "bathroom ordinance" was not specifically on the meeting's agenda, but close to 20 Letcher County Citizens showed up to the Fiscal Court meeting to voice their concerns as the ordinance related to the county budget.
After observing the Court discuss severe underfunding as well as budget cuts that have already impacted senior citizen centers and the county's recycling program, citizens insisted on the opportunity to comment. Letcher County constituents of the court, mostly youth, expressed frustration that any percentage of the budget or the court's time was being utilized to propose ordinances that are rooted in blatant discrimination and fear mongering.
Bobby Howard was the Magistrate who introduced this issue to the court, and has been the main source of fear mongering in the Letcher County Fiscal Court. A disturbing quote from Howard in a WYMT interview immediately following Friday's meeting suggests a "separate but equal" option for transgender citizens.
"I just wish they was separated here, and everybody's equal under God's eyes," Howard said. "Everybody's equal, but I think just a line ought to be drew between the bathrooms is what I think" He said would be in favor of separate bathrooms for transgender people if it were not for the expense.
The youth of this county are disappointed and disturbed with the representation they have received from their magistrates, and hope that their voices will now be heard around this issue. There has been a lot of warm support from community members and those outside our community that have read the powerful letter and words from Letcher County youth around this issue.
Letcher County citizens: please continue to reach out to Judge Executive Jim Ward and state your opposition to this irresponsible use of funds and power by the Fiscal Court, and ask them to formally drop this ordinance at email@example.com or at (606) 633 -2129.
Look up your magistrate and their contact information here on the Fiscal Court's webpage here.
A notice posted at the Letcher County Courthouse states that the special meeting invited public attendance and participation. After no formal process was offered, and Judge Executive Jim Ward blatantly ignored a request for comments, citizens put on the pressure before the meeting was adjourned to have their voices heard. Over 8 Letcher Countians spoke in opposition to any portion of the budget or time of the court being spent on discriminatory ordinances. Photo by Kendall Bilbrey
STAY Steering Committee Member Kyra Higgins speaks out about discriminatory bathroom ordinance proposed in Letcher County
Art above by Kyra Higgins, 17, Redfox, Kentucky
Redfox, Kentucky-- The Letcher County Fiscal Court announced this week that there will be a proposed bathroom ordinance that would prevent the county with complying with federal law allowing transgender people to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity.
Kyra was one of the young people who helped draft a powerful letter to the Letcher County Fiscal Court, which was presented this morning to Judge Executive Jim Ward and the rest of the court. Kyra Higgins was in school today during the Fiscal Court's meeting, but wanted to share her thoughts on the matter.
"I've been trying to figure what made me so mad about that ordinance, other than it obviously being useless. I'm tired of living with the stigma that hate and discrimination are okay in the community. Stuff like this happens and makes me think of all the wrong that has been done to me, friends, and family. It's like a sad reminder that the community we want and need is not the reality, and I shouldn't have to grow up thinking that's just another part of life to accept! And I don't want anyone else to either."
Kyra is a 17 year old student at Knott County High School, but she spent her entire summer alongside other youth making films with the Appalachian Media Institute in Letcher County last year (view Kyra's work and other films from AMI here).She also serves on The STAY Project's steering committee, which helps guide and support the main work of the organization along with the staff throughout the year.
I'm tired of living with the stigma that hate and discrimination are okay in the community. Stuff like this happens and makes me think of all the wrong that has been done to me, friends, and family.......the community we want and need is not the reality, and I shouldn't have to grow up thinking that's just another part of life to accept!
Among so many other incredible accomplishments and talents, Kyra is bound for Georgetown College in Northern Kentucky in the fall to study theater. We could not be more proud to have Kyra on our team, and hope you will help us share her thoughts with the Letcher County Fiscal Court.
Contact Judge Executive Jim Ward at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (606) 633-2129
Contact the Magistrate who introduced the ordinance, Bobby Howard, at (606) 634-4558 or
Find contact information for your Letcher County magistrate here and ask them to remove this embarrassing ordinance and ask for it's removal. Also, take the time to share with them what you would rather them spend their time on!
Whitesburg, KY--Young leaders from Letcher County, Kentucky responded quickly to an announcement Wednesday that the Letcher County Fiscal Court will be proposing an ordinance stating that Letcher County will not comply with any law that opens public restrooms to transgendered people.
According to the Whitesburg Mountain Eagle, District One Magistrate Bobby Howard told the court Monday night that many of his constituents are outraged by the federal government’s lawsuit against North Carolina as well as a directive by President Barack Obama’s administration that public schools must allow students to use facilities consistent with their gender identity.
Howard insisted the fiscal court initiate an ordinance stating that Letcher County will not comply with any law that opens public restrooms to transgendered people.
Read below and share a letter drafted by youth from Letcher County , and contact the Letcher County Fiscal Court and let them know you sand against this act of violence against the transgender community in Eastern Kentucky. Two of the authors will hand deliver this letter during the fiscal court meeting tomorrow in Whitesburg.
May 19th, 2016
Dear Letcher County Fiscal Court,
We are a collection of young leaders, most of us in high school, who have lived and grown up in this county. We are writing to address the bathroom ordinance that you are proposing to pass in our county. It is our expectation that you will seriously consider our address as community members and leaders of this county and region.
This policy does not reflect the community we have lived and grown up in. People in a community are supposed to help their fellow community members and this ordinance does the opposite, going a long way just to suppress a particular group of its citizens.We are a community built on love, trust and mutual support, yet none of those values are present in this ordinance.
Beginning with North Carolina’s HB2, the topic of transgender individuals has recently been pushed into a very public light — a light shining mainly in other places. Upon hearing news of a very hastily made decision to impose such an ordinance, many of us in the area were alarmed and appalled. Never before has this been an issue and it's likely to never become one. Why are key members of our local government suddenly frightened? The transgender community here is small to begin with, and those folks have been sharing restrooms for years. In fact, most of our restaurants and businesses offer only a single stall for each gendered restroom. Just because a topic is an attention-grabbing headline on a national scale, doesn’t mean we should jump on the bandwagon. The last thing the county needs is irrationally based, bigoted viewpoints on our public bathrooms.
To those who say that citizens would use a flexible restroom policy to prey on children, there has not been one documented case of a transgendered person doing so. However, a woman in Connecticut was attacked just this week because people mistook her for being transgendered. This is a law that encourages hate and fear toward transgender citizens.
How would our county enforce this discriminatory law? Would everyone in Letcher County need to carry their birth certificate and feel the threat of personal inspections just for the right to use a restroom? Would funds from the Fiscal Court be allocated to an appointed bathroom-checking official? This brings us to a major question: why are we spending local government time and resources on this ordinance in the first place? There is no precedent for an ordinance, as there is no immediate conflict or history of which in our county that this would solve. We are an economically distressed county with Promise Zone designation that can’t even afford to keep our community centers and recycling center open. We are in an area that is on the brink of suffering a potential HIV epidemic from intravenous substance abuse. We are also in the midst of an economic transition that would not only benefit our county, but our entire region if we focus on making wise decisions now. We have real, urgent concerns facing our community right now, and a cheap political tactic based in fear and not in evidence should not be prioritized over those concerns.
We as youth leaders of Letcher County strongly recommend that the Fiscal Court reconsiders its stance on a highly controversial, highly discriminatory and highly unnecessary act of systemic violence towards transgender members of our community. We strongly recommend that the Fiscal Court instead shifts its priorities towards a plan for our county — all of our county — to flourish socially, economically, responsibly and fairly. We want a local governing body that will work for us all, because we believe in a #WhitesburgForAll, a #LetcherCountyForAll and an #AppalachiaForAll.
The Young Leaders of Letcher County
STAY in the news
News from the STAY Project!