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NAACP to Host Workshops at Queering Racial Justice Institute in Philadelphia this September

August 18, 2016

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) has always been on the front lines of Civil Rights since its inception, and this time is no different. The Queering Racial Justice Institute is the perfect space to learn and engage around the pressing issues of our time. Set to take place on Saturday, September 10, 2016, at the Philadelphia African-American Museum, the daylong training will focus on analyzing the intersection of identities and the ways these intersections should inform our work.

Register here to take part in the Queering Racial Justice Institute. 

NAACP LOGO

This institute will allow also for people from all walks of life to create safe space to move our country forward. The NAACP Pennsylvania (PA) Youth and College Division will be present to utilize our platform, and resources to empower attendees, and also to learn ways we can be even more strategic and inclusive with our partners in this work.

During the Queering Racial Justice Institute, the NAACP PA Youth and College Division will host two workshops that we hope will spark thought-provoking conversations around the epidemic of urban gun violence, and the impacts of social media on contemporary organizing. All across the America, we cannot escape the rising numbers of deaths in local communities nationwide due to gun violence. The PA Youth and College will provide the data to paint a picture for our attendees, discuss tangible solutions and strategies on creating inclusive advocacy efforts focused on common sense gun legislation.

The desire is for this space to underscore the importance on why gun violence prevention advocacy groups should adopt an all-encompassing platform to effectively address all forms of gun violence. As we continue resolve to moving the needle, in addition to discussing the ongoing mass shootings, we must also strategize to end the alarming homicide rates targeting young people of color. Moreover, we’ll also explore how the cycle of poverty and lack of vital resources contribute to gun violence. We believe these issues are critical components to the work of Queering Racial Justice as it reinforces how we all have to keep advocating for those who are often marginalized and left out of the major public discourse.

Our second workshop will focus on examining the ways social media content, images and language, have influenced public consciousness. The NAACP PA Youth and College Division wants to highlight how social media has transformed the way people consume information, how they mobilize around an issue, and even how they find community in the use of hashtag and creating a collective narrative. We will take time to discuss the #BlackLivesMatter movement and the impact it has had on how individuals utilize social media to reaffirm identity. The presentation will also acknowledge the ways social media has heightened the awareness of the injustices experienced by marginalized communities and how it has served as a catalyst for social change. Furthermore, we want to analyze the ways these platforms simultaneously disseminate negative imagery of marginalized communities and what impact that has on the public psyche. Overall, the NAACP PA Youth and College Division wants to equip attendees with the ability to use social media when organizing and encourage understanding of the nuances that exist with the consumption of new media.

The NAACP PA Youth and College Division is most excited to learn more about the advocacy of our allies and using this institute as a way to form even more meaningful partnerships.

You can register to attend the Queering Racial Justice Institute in Philadelphia online.

by Lauren Footman, guest blogger

FullSizeRender (1) (2)Lauren Footman is from Yeadon, Pennsylvania. She graduated from Bryn Mawr College in May of 2014 with a Bachelor’s Degree in English and double minors in Political Science and Africana Studies. While at Bryn Mawr College, she charted a college chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and currently serves as the President of the NAACP PA State Conference Youth and College Division. Additionally, Lauren serves as a gun violence prevention Organizer for Generation Progress, the millennial arm of the Center for American Progress. Currently, Lauren is employed by a financial services firm in Philadelphia and remains committed to advocating for marginalized communities.

LGBTQ People of Color Disproportionately Targeted and Harmed by Broken Criminal Justice System

August 16, 2016

In the wake of near-constant stories surfacing of police killings, mostly of Black and Latinx people, it is imperative to take an intersectional approach to addressing both the root causes of injustice in all parts of the criminal legal system as well as potential policy responses to systemic racism. Campaigns like #BlackTransLivesMatter, the Black women-led #SayHerName, and disabled people of color-led #DisabilitySolidarity all urge attention to the complex ways that misogyny and ableism – among other types of structural oppression – interact with racism in both the killings themselves and in the aftermath.

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Photo by TeleSUR

Due to pervasive stigma and interlocking prejudices, LGBTQ people of color – including Black, Latinx, Asian, and Indigenous people – suffer from sharp disparities in policing, criminalization, and incarceration due to disproportionate contact with the criminal legal system. While only limited data currently exists, we now know that 85% of all LGBTQ youth in juvenile detention facilities are also youth of color, and that LGBTQ adults comprise 8% of all prisoners but only 3.8% of the total population.

These statistics point to more sinister realities – that queer and transgender people of color experience higher likelihood of criminalization, police violence, and incarceration throughout the lifespan. We understand these issues as deeply interconnected – those who engage in sex work to survive, live with HIV/AIDS, experience homelessness, use drugs, have a mental health crisis, or simply walk in public while openly transgender are subject to profiling, arrest, and police brutality. LGBTQ people of color – particularly Black, Latinx, and Indigenous people – are more likely to be targeted by racist profiling, the school to prison pipeline, and discrimination in the courts; live in heavily policed low-income neighborhoods predominantly populated by communities of color; and suffer police violence stemming from some combination of anti-LGBTQ prejudice and racism. Those impacted by additional intersections, such as immigrants, disabled people, and religious minorities will face compounded oppression.

Learn more in the new Movement Advancement Project & Center for American Progress report, “Unjust: How the Broken Criminal Justice System Fails LGBT People of Color.”

Statistics show that all LGBTQ people are disproportionately impacted by poverty, including as a result of pervasive employment discrimination. For LGBTQ people of color, the disparities are worse. While only 12% of children of different-sex couples live in poverty, almost 20% of children of women in same-gender couples and 25% of children of men in same-gender couples do – but for children of Black men in same-gender couples, the number is over 50%. Likewise, while the overall unemployment rate for all transgender people is twice that of the general population, Black transgender people face unemployment at four times the rate of the general population, with similarly higher rates for other transgender people of color.

As a result, more LGBTQ people of color may turn to criminalized work for survival, including sex work, than either white LGBTQ people or non-LGBTQ people of color. The colliding realities of homelessness, poverty, and criminalization of survival result in much higher likelihood of contact with police, which can have deadly consequences.

Yet queer and transgender people of color face risk of profiling, arrest, and police violence even – or perhaps especially – when victimized by crime. Just ask Ky Peterson, a Black transgender man who was sentenced to twenty years in prison for killing his rapist in self-defense; or Robert Suttle, a Black gay man living with HIV who served prison time, lost his job, and is required to register as a sex offender for the next eight years for the crime of having a vindictive ex-partner who took advantage of HIV criminalization statutes to have him prosecuted for consensual sex.

Even as children, LGBTQ people of color (particularly those who are also disabled or who have a mental illness) are disproportionately impacted by the school-to-prison pipeline through suspensions, school pushout, and referrals to the juvenile justice system. In adulthood, transgender women of color are much more likely to be profiled as sex workers (whether they are engaged in sex work or not) and subject to heightened risk of police violence and prosecution on pretextual grounds.

Once impacted by the legal system, collateral consequences of a criminal record can include severely diminished housing or employment prospects, loss of civil rights, decreased access to adequate health care, and ineligibility for public assistance that might have otherwise provided small amounts of support in the face of homelessness or unemployment. The combined weight of these realities further contribute to a cycle of criminalization and incarceration of queer and transgender people of color, which demands recognition of how impossible it can be to separate racism from anti-transgender and anti-queer prejudice.

All people deserve to live free of fear of violence – whether from police, behind prison walls, or in their own communities. Accountability for police, prosecutors, and others in the criminal legal system, along with advocacy against discriminatory practices in courts and social services, must be priorities in any movement committed to achieving justice and freedom for those most marginalized in society. Part of that work means ending the criminalization of HIV status and sex work, implementation of Fair Chance hiring policies, elimination of mandatory minimum sentencing, and an end to the routine use of detention for those in immigration proceedings. It also means actively combating discrimination and abuse targeting queer and transgender people of color inside prisons and re-entry programs.

Lydia 6Ultimately, achieving full freedom, justice, and equality for LGBTQ people of color means developing new ways of addressing violence, doing justice, and creating safer communities that honor our bodies and lives.

The National LGBTQ Task Force has partnered on a new report authored by Movement Advancement Project & Center for American Progress, titled “Unjust: How the Broken Criminal Justice System Fails LGBT People of Color.”

by Lydia X. Z. Brown, 2016 Holley Law Fellow at the National LGBTQ Task Force

What a Year at the Task Force Has Taught me

July 1, 2016

 

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Daniel Chevez

As my fellowship comes to a close, I cannot help but reflect on my time at the National LGBTQ Task Force. For the past year, I have had the amazing opportunity to work as the media and public relations fellow at the Task Force. I could not be more thankful to have worked for such an incredible and inspiring organization that advocates for the rights and full freedom of LGBTQ people. The Task Force provided me with a lot of opportunities to learn more about myself and how to use my skill set to help others. I also had the opportunity to work directly with incredible LGBTQ Activists who have inspired me to continue to grow as a person and as an advocate.
At the Task Force, I have worked on a number of projects including reproductive rights, immigration reform, ending anti-transgender violence, restoring the Voting Rights Act (VRA) and more. One of the most incredible experiences I had while at the Task Force was in January when I traveled to Chicago with our communications team for the nation’s largest LGBTQ conference, Creating Change. At the conference, I was in charge of drafting and publishing the conference newsletter for the more than 4,000 attendees. Publishing the newsletter was a highly visible project with a very tight schedule; but I thrive in a fast-paced, demanding work environment and I am proud to say that the newsletter was delivered on time and received great reviews.

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Creating Change Conference 2016

The Task Force also taught me that even though there have been many advances in the LGBTQ movement, such as winning the right for same-sex couples to marry, there is still a lot more work to be done. For example, approximately 40% of youth experiencing homelessness identify as LGBTQ, yet LGBTQ youth make up less than 10% of the general youth population. Also, how the unjust criminal justice system fails LGBTQ people, especially LGBTQ people of color and LGBTQ people of low income. Additionally, the use of outdated HIV criminalization laws that punish the behaviors of people living with HIV, even if those behaviors carry no transmission. Data from the William Institute found that individuals charged with HIV-related cases were convicted in 99% of the cases, and 91% of those convicted were sentenced to jail time in prisons. In some states, individuals convicted under these laws are forced to register as sex offenders.

At the Task Force I learned a lot about the countless barriers LGBTQ people face in the United States. I have learned that every issue is an LGBTQ issue and as a Latino myself, I can relate with many of the issues the Task Force advocates for. I am thankful to have spent the past year elevating the voices of LGBTQ people. So as I get ready to leave the Task Force I will continue advocating for social justice and for LGBTQ people. I will always treasure all the knowledge I learned at the National LGBTQ Task Force and I am looking forward to a future when we can finally achieve full freedom, justice, and equality for all LGBTQ people.

by Daniel Chevez, National LGBTQ Task Force Media Relations Fellow

The Welcoming Movement and the United Methodist Church

June 24, 2016
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Photo: David Jerde

The past decade has seen historic victories for LGBTQ inclusion in a number of Christian denominations. However, the United Methodist Church (UMC) is one of the few remaining mainline protestant denominations that still officially condemns homosexuality and bans the ordination of LGBTQ people. LGBTQ clergy continue to be put on church trial, along with allied clergy who perform same-gender marriages.

 

The past few decades have seen the wider UMC swing to the ideological right, due in no small part to the efforts of the ironically-named “Institute on Religion and Democracy” [http://www.publiceye.org/magazine/v20n1/clarkson_battle.html]. The struggle over the issue of sexuality in particular has pitted more progressive churches here in the United States against more conservative churches elsewhere in the world. Playing a huge role in this has been the exportation to Africa of, in the words of Bishop Yvette Flunder of the Fellowship of Affirming Ministries [http://www.radicallyinclusive.com/], homo-hatred, by conservative American Evangelicals. The situation is rife with complicated racial and post-colonial-era dynamics.

As a whole, the worldwide denomination has been in an ideological log-jam for years, with both sides deeply entrenched and firmly believing in the justness of their cause. Hope springs every four years that perhaps this would be the General Conference—UMC’s major gathering—at which things would change. Until this year, those advocating for the full inclusion of LGBTQ folks have gone home disappointed.

It was in this context that voting delegates from around the world, along with advocates for full inclusion, gathered in Portland, Oregon for the UMC’s General Conference.

The Shower of Stoles Project

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Photo: Julia Frisbie

We at the National LGBTQ Task Force are blessed to act as caretakers of the Shower of Stoles Project, a remarkable collection of over 1,200 liturgical stoles and sacred objects, representing the lives and ministries of LGBTQ people of faith. These stoles represent those who have been forced out of ministry, those who have had no choice but to serve in the closet, those who didn’t pursue the call to ministry that they so keenly felt because they saw no path forward due to unjust church policy, and those who are able to serve out in the open.

There are 170 United Methodist stoles in the collection, and each and every one was there in Portland, where they beautifully adorned the front of the sanctuary for the reconciling worship celebration, which included a rousing sermon by Rev. Dr. Pamela Lightsey.

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Photo: David Jerde

At the close of the service, as she prepared to oversee the sending forth, Rev. Sue Laurie found and donned the stole that she had donated fifteen years prior.

This year, after being denied ordination by the UMC for twenty years, Rev. Sue decided to no longer wait for the blessing of the denomination. She was ordained in a joyous “grassroots” service, surrounded by hundreds of supporters – clergy and laity – who offered blessing on her ministry.

Courageous Queer Clergy
In the weeks leading up to General Conference, more than 120 LGBTQ clergy collectively came out, bravely putting their ministries and livelihoods in jeopardy. I met with a group of them while there; their collective courage was deeply moving. Their stories of being faithful to God’s call to ministry while trying to exist within an unjust system are exactly the kinds of stories that the Shower of Stoles Project tells.

The Road to Rome
The days of General Conference were filled with powerful, symbolic actions. Each day advocates for full inclusion would circle the convention center and, like Joshua, blow a horn for the walls of exclusion to come tumbling down.

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Photo: Erica West

Everything led up to May 18, when the General Conference was expected to vote on church policy that would directly impact the lives and ministries of LGBTQ people.

In the early hours of that morning, more than 200 people gathered for one mass symbolic action.

In 71 BCE, a slave named Spartacus led a huge slave uprising that was brutally put down by the Roman Empire. As a warning to all of what happens if you challenge authority, the Roman Empire crucified 6,000 slaves and lined up the the road leading into Rome with the crosses.

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Photo David Jerde

That morning in Portland, 170 people stood lining the way to the convention center, each holding a wooden cross from which hung one of the 170 UMC stoles. That great cloud of witnesses stood in silence for ninety minutes as the voting delegates arrived for the morning’s legislative session, standing for those whose ministries and livelihoods have been sacrificed to the authority of the church. Together, they were silently saying, “Behold all the harm that the church has done.”

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Photo: David Jerde

After walking past the long lines of crosses, the delegates now had to pass by those whose ministries would be in jeopardy by the votes taking place later that very day. Dozens of that brave cadre of newly-out queer clergy were robed and standing in silent prayer. “See me. Before you vote today, look at the faces of those whose futures you control. You can choose to stop the harm.”

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Photo: David Jerde

The Log Jam Breaks
At the end of a roller coaster day, the General Conference approved a surprising proposal from the Council of Bishops, which laid out a radical departure from the status quo. All votes on legislation regarding human sexuality will be deferred. The Bishops will establish a commission that will look at a new global structure for the church and a rewritten Book of Discipline, with the possible revision of every paragraph regarding sexuality. A special General Conference may be called in two years, instead of the usual four, which would focus on these potentially seismic changes.

But despite these signs of hope, LGBTQ clergy and our allies are still not safe. Some conferences are declaring a moratorium on trials, but the whole church has not. To help stop the harm, sign the Reconciling Ministries Network [http://www.rmnetwork.org/newrmn/] petition [https://www.change.org/p/council-of-bishops-of-the-united-methodist-church-halt-all-punishments-related-to-lgbtq-people-in-the-united-methodist-church] to stop the trials.

So the work to transform the church to transform the world to transform the church continues. We pray for those courageous LGBTQ clergy who have come out and risked it all. And we pray for the soul of the United Methodist Church, and that they go back to the business of spreading the good news of God’s radical, inclusive love.

by David Lohman, Faith organizer, National LGBTQ Task Force 

Gendervague: At the Intersection of Autistic and Trans Experiences

June 22, 2016

I’m an autistic activist deeply invested in queer politics, and I’ve managed to fumble my way around without ever developing a conventional understanding of gender. Growing up, everyone around me assumed I was a girl based on the genitals I was born with, but I always felt deeply uncomfortable with being labeled a “girl” or “woman.” I don’t feel like a woman, but I know I’m not a man either. I now identify as genderqueer or non-binary. It wasn’t until partway through college, though, before I began to question what gender might mean to me, my explorations largely kindled by developing important relationships with many openly trans autistic people through my activism.

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Lydia X. Z. Brown delivering keynote speech at the PEAK Parent Center’s Conference on Inclusive Education about “Achieving Disability Justice: Beyond Ableism and the Imagined Normal”  in Denver, CO, in February 2015. 

In fact, such a huge proportion of the autistic community identifies as trans, genderqueer, non-binary, or genderless that we’ve developed numerous in-jokes and in-group terminology to describe our particular intersection. More recently, I’ve started referring to myself as gendervague, a term coined within the autistic community to refer to a specifically neurodivergent experience of trans/gender identity. For many of us, gender mostly impacts our lives when projected onto us through other people’s assumptions, but holds little intrinsic meaning.

Click to learn more in the National LGBTQ Task Force’s joint statement on the rights of autistic transgender and gender non-conforming people!

Someone who is gendervague cannot separate their gender identity from their neurodivergence – being autistic doesn’t cause my gender identity, but it is inextricably related to how I understand and experience gender. Autistic people’s brains are fundamentally different from those of anyone who is assumed to be “normal” or “healthy.” For many (but certainly not all) autistic people, we can’t make heads or tails of either the widespread assumption that everyone fits neatly into categories of men and women or the nonsensical characteristics expected or assumed of womanhood and manhood. Recent research has shown that autistic people are more likely to identify as transgender or genderqueer than non-autistic people. That’s not surprising to me, because I’ve met far more trans or genderqueer people in autistic spaces than I have anywhere else.

Many of us are used to being outcasts for our atypical communication, sensory experiences, emotional expressions, and behavior. For some of us autistic people, that constant outsider status makes it easier to figure out that we fall somewhere along the transgender or genderqueer spectrum since we’re already used to not fitting in, or at least, it’s harder for us to hide outward gender non-conformity. The advent of social media has also been a welcome boon for those of us uncomfortable with or incapable of consistent face-to-face interaction, allowing us to safely explore new concepts and meet people with similar experiences.

Similar to how mainstream society often pathologizes transgender identity, the dominant narrative around autism and other mental disabilities is also that we are broken and there is something wrong with us that requires psychiatric intervention. Despite the common intersection of autistic and trans identity, however, much of the trans movement rejects neurodiversity and by extension, many disabled trans people. In the rush to affirm the validity of trans identities and experiences, trans movements frequently practice disavowal of neurodivergent and other disabled people. The common refrain, “Being transgender isn’t a mental illness, so there’s nothing wrong with us!” results in real harm to all people with mental disabilities, but especially those of us at this intersection. While being transgender is of course distinct from having a psych disability, the implicit assumption is that those who are really mentally ill should be subject to coercive treatment, paternalistic care models, and social stigma as broken or unstable.

That pattern of disavowal directly contributes to erasure of autistic and other neurodivergent trans people. In classrooms, group homes, and our parents’ houses, we are told that our gender identities are fake because we’re autistic. If placed under guardianship – common for many adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities – we can be legally prevented from even going to LGBTQ meet-ups by an anti-trans caregiver. Autistic trans people of color face high risk of criminalization, police violence, and incarceration. Trans autistic children are especially vulnerable to behavior plans that include cisgender normalization alongside forced suppression of autistic traits, while gender-affirming expressions or explorations risk harsh compliance-based punishment in schools.

With a trans movement that often rejects neurodivergent people in its fight for acceptance and validation, autistic trans people are left in the lurch. In the fight to legitimize our existence as worthy and valuable, we need to reject the refrain that there’s nothing wrong with us while there is something wrong with them. We deserve movements that recognize and affirm experiences that cannot be easily separated into trans or autistic issues only, especially given the commonalities of the oppression we face. It’s okay to be autistic and trans, and it’s okay for those things to be related and overlap. I’m excited to be working for the National LGBTQ Task Force this summer, where I have been encouraged and supported in working on all issues from an intersectional framework, without having to silo aspects of my identities. Effective activism for trans rights, let alone trans liberation, requires not only a recognition of the parallels and connections in our issues and experiences, but active commitment to intersectionality with neurodiverse communities.

Click to learn more in the Task Force’s joint statement on the rights of transgender and gender non-conforming autistic people!

by National LGBTQ Task Force Holly Law Fellow Lydia XZ Brown

Bi Writers Host Fourth Annual Bisexual Book Awards

June 3, 2016
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Performers for Fourth Annual Bisexual Book Awards

The Bi Writers Association (BWA) are celebrating their Fourth Annual Bisexual Book Awards ceremony today, June 3rd in New York City at the Westbeth Community Room, a popular arts space in the West Village. The celebration will include the ninth annual Bi Lines, a multi-arts reading, as the entertainment program for the awards ceremony. Hosted by BWA director Sheela Lambert, the ceremony will include live music by Zen Anton and readings by many authors including Elizabeth Beier, who will give a special presentation of her comic book ”Bisexual Trials & Errors.” Other authors who will give readings are:

  • Kate Evans / Call It Wonder: An Odyssey of Love, Sex, Spirit, and Travel
  • Emily Bingham / Irrepressible: The Jazz Age Life of Henrietta Bingham
  • B.R. Sanders / Ariah
  • Francis Gideon / A Winter in Rome
  • Michelle Moore & Reesa Herberth / Peripheral People
  • Heidi Belleau & Sam Schooler / Dead Ringer
  • Megan Mulry / Bound with Honor
  • Erica Yang / Bad Idea
  • Redfern Jon Barrett / Giddy Death of the Gays & Strange Demise of Straights
  • Sheela Lambert / Bisexuality in Education edited by Maria Pallotta-Chiarolli

According to BWA director Sheela Lambert, the Bisexual Book Awards is the one place where authors who write bisexual characters, storylines or themes can be honored in such a variety of categories. BWA encourages authors to write bi-themed books, with fresh characters, settings, and topics. Over the 10 years that BWA has been active, there has been significant progress: from 10 bisexual books published in 2006 to over 100 in 2015.

This year, 73 books were submitted to their nine categories: Non-fiction, Memoir/Biography, Fiction, Romance, Erotic Fiction, Speculative Fiction [Sci-fi/Fantasy/Horror], Teen/Young Adult Fiction, Mystery, Poetry, and two special categories: Publisher of the Year and Bi Writer of the Year. The number of finalists in each category varies, based on the number of books in that category. Each of the nine book categories had a team of judges who spent months reading, assessing and discussing the books.

To learn more about the Bi Writers Association, visit them online at: http://www.biwriters.org/. 

by Daniel Chevez, National LGBTQ Task Force Media Relations Fellow

Organizing While Trans in North Carolina

May 10, 2016

I didn’t fully know what to expect when I first arrived to North Carolina with the National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund to organize people on the ground against HB2 a few weeks ago. I had a basic understanding of what was going on in North Carolina for LGBTQ people because of HB2. However, the law’s harmful effects are broader than just denying access to restrooms to transgender people. The law also makes it possible for all types of minorities to be discriminated against with no repercussions. Also, it took away the ability for municipalities to make their own decisions to raise the minimum wage to a living wage. As a result of this discriminatory law, major corporations like PayPal, Deutsche Bank, Target and the NBA decided to take a stand against the state and in several cases, take their business elsewhere. Musicians and arts performers including Bruce Springsteen, Nick Jonas and Demi Lovato also canceled their North Carolina shows to boycott the law. Additionally, many states and local governments have issued statements telling their residents not to travel to North Carolina because of the discrimination they could face since the HB2 bill was signed into law.

Camden Hargrove

Camden Hargrove

As a trans man of color, I didn’t know how I would feel personally coming into the state, facing the same issues that trans folks in North Carolina are facing every day. At this point in my life, my gender identity and expression are not something I think about all the time, but from the minute I stepped into the men’s bathroom in the Charlotte airport I felt different. I was immediately very conscious of the people around me as well as their reactions. I wondered to myself if I was fitting in and similar thoughts I hadn’t had since much earlier in my transition. I realized that I was actually afraid of what might happen if someone found out I was trans. If I got assaulted in the bathroom, I would have been the only person in trouble with the police because I was born female and I was in the men’s bathroom. Normally I really enjoy coming out and telling my story and telling people I’m trans because of how much it surprises and moves them, but here in North Carolina, for the first time in a long time I had to think very carefully about coming out because I feared for my safety.

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National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund Staff

It was at the airport when I realized how organizing in North Carolina would affect me differently than any other activism work I have done. But experiencing this law in similar ways as North Carolinians just increased my passion for the work I have been doing in the state. My experience is still nowhere near what the people of North Carolina are facing though because I have the option and privilege of leaving whereas residents do not. Not only do they not have a say over where they can use the bathroom and if they can be discriminated against, but they also have no say over the damage that the law is doing to the state of North Carolina.

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Before I came to North Carolina and before I actually spoke to residents, I thought that all of the businesses and major corporations boycotting and pulling out of North Carolina was a great way to show the governor that people all across the U.S. don’t agree with HB2, and that the financial loss would push him to repeal the bill. What I found out when I got to North Carolina and started working and talking with folks at the Freedom Center for Social Justice was that the he governor doesn’t seem to care about how it’s really hurting North Carolina residents. North Carolinians don’t want businesses to go, they need them to stay and stand up for them instead of leaving. The small business owners are fearing having to close their doors because tourism has plummeted, conventions have canceled and they are not getting enough business to stay afloat. After seeing that and speaking to community members and people that own their own businesses, I see that we need to find a way to pull small businesses together and to work with and continue uplifting local grassroots organizations like the Freedom Center for Social Justice.

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My time and work in North Carolina is surely not over, and I look forward to supporting efforts on the ground to secure full protections against discrimination for LGBTQ people.

by Camden Hargrove, Field Organizer, National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund

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