Queer women have plenty of reasons to celebrate this year. A recent report published by the United Nations found that across the globe, there are more girls enrolling in school, more women holding jobs and more women getting elected and assuming leadership positions than ever before in recorded history.
All said, there’s still work to be done — Women on average still make $0.76 to every $1 made by men, and another recent report by the University of Southern California (USC) found women make up only a third of all speaking characters in film and television.
In this issue of qnotes, we’re taking the time to recognize queer and queer-friendly women who are making a difference locally. So take a seat, men — this one’s for the ladies.
Jennifer Roberts became the first democratic woman to be elected mayor of Charlotte, N.C., last year when she beat Republican Edwin Peacock III. She’s not gay or transgender herself, but Roberts has proved a strong ally to Charlotte’s LGBT community. She campaigned with a promise to revive Charlotte’s failed LGBT non-discrimination ordinance bill, and this month, did just that, pushing city council to approve the ordinance in a historic 7-4 vote, despite threats from Gov. Pat McCrory that doing so would invoke backlash from the state. Roberts also makes regular appearances at LGBT fundraisers and events throughout the city. This year she attended the annual White Party, which raises funds for the Time Out Youth Center, and the Human Rights Campaign North Carolina Gala, where she delivered the welcome address. Speaking to the Charlotte Observer’s editorial board last month, Roberts said, “we want to do what’s right for the community; we want to do what helps make people feel safe and included and accepted.” Roberts has received countless honors for her work in public service, among them the Maya Angelou Women Who Lead award.
Melissa Morris had been serving as vice president of external affairs for Charlotte’s LGBT Chamber of Commerce until two weeks ago, when the group’s president, Chad Seaverace-Turner, resigned amid attacks from the NC Values Coalition. Morris assumed the position and now stands to lead one of Charlotte’s most notable LGBT business advocacy groups. Last month, the Chamber was honored by the Human Rights Campaign as North Carolina’s organization of the year. Morris is now tasked with maintaining the Chamber’s image after the last president’s exit. It’s a position she’s well-trained for — Morris has a strong background in advocacy and community work. Last August, she co-moderated an LGBT-focused candidate forum with LGBT blogger and former qnotes editor Matt Comer, grilling mayoral and city council candidates on a host of issues ranging from the non-discrimination ordinance to community outreach to LGBT homelessness and more. Before moving to Charlotte, she was the campaign manager for the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania and oversaw a statewide campaign advocating for marriage equality there. She’s the first African-American woman to lead the Charlotte LGBT Chamber of Commerce.
Janice Covington Allison
Janice Covington Allison may be the most visible transgender person in the Charlotte region. She has a long history of speaking out for LGBT rights in the Carolinas, including becoming the first openly transgender person to serve as a Democratic delegate from North Carolina at the Democratic National Convention held in Charlotte in 2012. She is also the first transgender person to serve on the board of the Democratic Women of Mecklenburg County, having been sworn in this past January. She’s spoken at countless universities and Pride events in support of LGBT rights, and last year, she ran for the North Carolina Democratic party chair, but ultimately lost to rival Patsy Keever. She may be best known, however, for an incident that took place in 2015 when the city first took up the issue of extending the non-discrimination ordinance. During that city council meeting, Allison had to get a police escort from a women’s restroom while another trans teen was simultaneously stopped and confronted by anti-LGBT protesters after leaving another women’s restroom. The incidents incited strong reactions from both sides of the debate. This year, Allison was back at city council, delivering a passionate speech at the Feb. 22 meeting in support of expanding protections to LGBT people.
No stranger to LGBT advocacy work in the Carolinas, Crystal Richardson has proven herself time and again as one of the region’s best LGBT advocates and organizers. Still in her early 30s, Richardson has a resume about as long as the signature tightly-wound braids that fall around her shoulders. She is currently the director of advocacy and outreach for Equality NC, and previously, she worked as an organizer for Equality NC in partnership with the NAACP. Most recently, she wrapped up her year as a co-chair on the 2016 Human Rights Campaign North Carolina Gala, and before that, she worked with the Freedom Center for Social Justice Law Center. She also remains an active member of the ACLU-Charlotte LGBT team and serves on the board of MeckPAC as its secretary. In an interview she gave with qnotes in 2014, Richardson said her interest in advocacy work started when she attended a Charlotte School of Law Symposium about Amendment One, and a friend there introduced her to MeckPAC and the HRC. We’re sure glad she did, and can’t wait to see what she does next.
Rev. Nancy Allison, Rev. Nancy Kraft, Rev. Robin Tanner
This holy trinity of female clergy members will be remembered for issuing the first faith-based legal argument in favor of same-sex marriage back in 2014. Rev. Nancy Allison of Holy Covenant United Church of Christ, Rev. Nancy Kraft of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church and Rev. Robin Tanner of Piedmont Unitarian Universalist Church, all filed suit against North Carolina arguing that state prohibitions, including the controversial Amendment One, infringed on their freedom of religion. Speaking to the Charlotte Observer in 2014, Allison said, “North Carolina judges some of its citizens as unfit for the blessings of God. We reject that notion.” The pastors furthered their argument in the lawsuit, writing, “By denying same-sex couples the right to marry and prohibiting religious denominations even from performing marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples, the State of North Carolina stigmatizes same-sex couples, as well as the religious institutions and clergy that believe in equal rights.” The pastors never did get a chance to make their case in front of a live judge, though, because just a few months later, a U.S. district court judge effectively struck down Amendment One, making gay marriage legal in North Carolina.
qnotes has selected Ashley Williams as one of the many youth activists who are poised to lead the next generation for our Leading Ladies coverage. Her grit has earned her this early nod in her advocacy life.
This Charlotte-based young activist made national headlines last month when she interrupted a private fundraiser for Hillary Clinton in Charleston, S.C., and held up a sign with a quote from Clinton that read, “We have to bring them to heel.” The quote referenced a speech Clinton made in the 1990s in which she repeated the theory of “super-predators,” a term used by researchers trying to explain the rise in violent crimes committed by youth, and often used in reference to young, urban African-Americans. The term has since been criticized for its coded racial language comparing minorities to animals. Williams drew jeers and hisses from the Clinton crowd, and they were quickly escorted out of the event. They later gave an interview with The Washington Post. “As a black queer person, I understand how I don’t always get to be in control of how I’m perceived in spaces,” Williams said, “So I’m not surprised I was told that I was being rude.” Whether you agree with their politics or not, Williams, 23, is one young activist we’ll want to keep watching.
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