I’ve noticed you’re pretty pissed at North Carolina as of late. Me too. But I need y’all to listen for a minute. Please.
I’m a bi(pan-ish? I hate labels)/poly cisfemale North Carolinian living just outside the capital city. Aside from a semester in Australia in ’05, I’ve lived in the Carolinas my whole life – the majority of that in NC. I’ve visited almost every state in the U.S, and most of my best friends live on opposite sides of the country, but I’m not afraid to confess: I love it here. It’s breathtakingly gorgeous, our summer produce is made of magic, and if you can’t stand your neighbors, the cost of living is good enough that you can afford not to have to live too close to anyone. Conversely, within the metropolitan areas surrounding our major universities, there is an impressive range of culture with a thriving liberal arts scene. Sit in any of our largest cities on any given weekend and you’ll see a our population is a blend of ethnicities, religious groups, and relationship styles that boldly protest the stereotype that Southerners are all a bunch of uneducated, white, fundamentalist Christian bigots.
We’re not. I promise you we’re not. And the millions of us who cannot understand the ignorance and hatred we are seeing from our leaders are not only terrified for what this means, but we’re heartbroken to see America lumping us all in together with the same people who are hurting us.
Ask any person who didn’t fit into the “White Heterosexual Conservative Christian” category in the South to tell you about the torment he/she/zie endured by both peers and leaders and you’ll get at least one story that’ll turn your stomach. This is the hatred that the LGBTQA community is used to here, a place where prejudice and violence to minority groups has been a thriving part of our history for centuries now – primarily in the name of Protestant Christianity, as though Jesus at any point preached exclusion or malice.
ICYMI, recently the focus of the NC religious Right (wealthy and poor alike) has suddenly become a pearl-clutching terror of the transgender community, which would be hilarious if it wasn’t so destructive. Despite a rash of suicides in North Carolina’s transgender teens – most notably, Blake Brockington, a Charlotte-based activist who had been voted his school’s Homecoming King just months before – our legislation suddenly decided that, although it has never once been a problem before now, transgender people don’t deserve the right to use the bathroom where they’re most comfortable. I’m sure you’ve read enough thinkpieces about why this whole HB2 thing is multifaceted bullshit (Fun Fact: It actually takes away everybody’s rights, regardless of genitalia), but what it effectively does, more than anything, is reinstate the long-standing paradigm that this is a world in which LGBTQA people are not welcome.
That this is not a new message doesn’t make it any easier for us to stomach.
The worst, however, is reading that these people who were elected by our majority of ill-educated rural conservatives are inciting more violence and suicide, and then, hoping to commiserate with the like-minded outside NC, receiving vitriol toward all of us en masse.
The last thing that the NC LGBTQA community needs right now is to be dismissed as being somehow part of the problem. If you truly believe all Southerners are, in fact, redneck idiot inbred bigots, who, then, is the government hurting with discrimination?!
Similarly, I understand why businesses pulling their money from the state makes a powerful statement; get ‘em where it hurts. But I don’t understand why artists are boycotting the state as if it’s comparable. When Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam, or Cirque du Soleil cancel their shows, they aren’t hurting the legislators who made these oppressive laws or the wealthy conservatives who keep them in office at all; they’re hurting the venue employees and sending a message to fans that we’re not worth showing up for.
That’s the message we’re already getting from the rest of America: Fuck all of ’em! They deserve it for being so backward!
We’re still here. Some places we’re everywhere (See: Asheville), and some places we are as sparse as those tiny, windowless gay bars that continue to exist in the middle of nowhere between farming communities. But we’re still here.
Last weekend, I attended Out! Raleigh, a kid-friendly festival that was started to give LGBTQ families a safe street fair experience. It was a beautiful, cloudless day, with families of every gender combination hanging out, enjoying the music and the sunshine together. We were one block from the Capitol building, but there were no protesters all day. There were church and synagogue groups with booths giving out hugs, water bottles, and invitations to come worship. There was love and acceptance and a sense of casual freedom.
This is also North Carolina. This is why I’m proud to stay here. This is what I want you to know about us.
North Carolina isn’t in the news for things I’m proud of right now, but I’m not alone. There are many of us here – representing all genders, races, and sexualities -who are making noise and fighting back. What we need from you, America, is your love and patience while we get right.
Just like literally everywhere else.
P.S. You’re welcome for Krispy Kreme.