Activist and QNotes’ 2011 Person of the Year Roberta Dunn at the annual White House holiday reception in December.
For a relatively new Charlotte-area resident, Roberta Dunn has become an amazingly well-connected advocate for LGBT equality. She serves on the LGBT Community Center of Charlotte Board of Directors and on the steering committee for the Mecklenburg LGBT Political Action Committee (MeckPAC). This year, she also served on an advisory committee for Mayor Anthony Foxx’s re-election campaign.
Previously a resident of Northern Virginia, Dunn moved to Charlotte six years ago. She’d always been passionate about community and worked with children, sports activities and in other areas. Not until her retirement and introduction to the Queen City, however, did she get her first inkling toward activism.
“I was going to Charlotte Gender Alliance meetings and one of the people there asked what we were doing for outreach,” Dunn says. “We were coming to meetings and learning about being trans and those issues but what were we doing to educate the community and work with the community?”
The question prompted Dunn to ask more. She contacted the police department to inquire about laws and the legal treatment of transgender people. She started attending classroom meetings and panel discussions at local universities. When she noticed other cities across the country moving forward on gay and transgender equality initiatives she reached out with a desire for Charlotte to do the same.
“I was introduced to MeckPAC and [former chair] Phil Hargett,” Dunn says. “He asked me to join MeckPAC and that’s when I started to get to know elected officials here.”
That moment, Dunn says, became the catalyst for her current involvement.
Since then, Dunn has taken the lead on several issues. After the murder of transgender Charlottean Toni Alston in April 2010, Dunn reconnected with the police department and engaged officials there in conversation on their relationship to the broader LGBT community. Her initial chats grew and resulted in a town hall meeting at the LGBT Community Center with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Rodney Monroe, efforts that won her recognition as Equality North Carolina’s 2010 Equality Champion for the Charlotte region.
This year, Dunn has worked closely with a large group of community members in efforts to increase Charlotte’s official LGBT protections.
“The issue really was to move forward to get the city, which has been dragging its feet, to pass employment non-discrimination based on gender identity and to get the city to vote on their policy on sexual orientation,” Dunn says.
With the Democratic National Convention coming to town next September, Dunn says progressive movement on the part of the city is more important than ever.
Her goal, she says, is to let the nation and world know that Charlotte is an LGBT-welcoming city.
In a world where transgender people are often the target of some of the most daunting challenges and outright prejudice (both within and outside of the LGBT community), Dunn has overcome and risen to the top to become one of the city’s most outspoken and well-trusted politicos.
Anyone who knows Dunn is likely to give a one-word answer: Cookies. She’s famous for them. Peanut butter cookies. Sugar cookies. Chocolate chip cookies. So good they might be considered bribery.
But, underneath Dunn’s smile and her natural, old-fashioned humility, grace and friendliness is a more apt explanation of her rise to “insider” status: Dunn is passionate and committed beyond measure, willing to take chances and has the kind of knack and tenacity that’s required in the often rough-and-tumble world of politics.
For her persistent commitment, intelligence, zeal and passion for this city’s LGBT community, its equality and the welfare of the city at large, qnotes is proud to name LGBT activist and civic leader Roberta Dunn our 2011 Person of the Year. : :