This issue, through the generous support of the Hearts Beat as One Foundation, The Bar at 316 and Charlotte Business Guild, qnotes publishes its annual LGBT newcomer and community resource guide, “InFocus: Charlotte.” It’s a project we began several years ago. Similar to The Charlotte Observer’s annual “Living Here,” the guide serves as an overall introduction to LGBT Charlotte to newcomers just moving to the Queen City. For residents, it serves as an annual resource guide, highlighting LGBT and LGBT-friendly community groups, restaurants, bars, coffee shops and neighborhoods.
This year’s guide is the largest we’ve done, again, thanks to our sponsors. But, the guide’s growth is indicative of the overall transformation of Charlotte over the past several years. I moved to Charlotte in 2007. As a native of Winston-Salem, I had a keen outsider’s perspective on the “Great State of Mecklenburg.” I saw both pros — Charlotte’s large and active LGBT community — and cons — what I perceived as an overall conservative and cautious culture. The Charlotte of seven years ago, though, has shifted and changed dramatically.
As this issue hits the streets, Charlotte Pride will be in full force, taking over the streets of Uptown for its largest street festival yet and the second year of the Bank of America Charlotte Pride Parade. I joined as a volunteer committee member for Charlotte Pride in 2008 and I’ve been active almost every year since in some for or fashion — sometimes as a voting board member and others, including this year, as a volunteer. Like the rest of the city and its LGBT community, Charlotte Pride, too, has grown and changed.
All of our community’s growth and achievements over these past few years put the Charlotte to which I was introduced seven years ago to shame. Our community, its leadership and the full diversity of the individuals that comprise it are more outspoken, more committed to change, more committed to making a difference. And, we’re broadening our horizons as our community begins to understand that our full movement cannot be whole unless we address even non-LGBT issues that affect a variety of our community members — issues like poverty and homelessness, access to affordable and quality healthcare, workplace discrimination, housing discrimination, access to fair and equitable legal services and representation and more.
Groups like the Mecklenburg LGBT Political Action Committee, Time Out Youth, the Freedom Center for Social Justice and the LGBTQ Law Center have been at the forefront of these changes. New groups, like the Hearts Beat as One Foundation are taking outreach to new levels — fully including and drawing upon the strengths of straight allies. The Charlotte Lesbian & Gay Fund and the growth in its annual grant awards are funding the critically important work in our community. The Charlotte Business Guild — through its own growth and transitions in leadership — is forging ahead with new partnerships with some of Charlotte’s most mainstream of establishment organizations, the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce included.
Seven years ago I looked out on a community I perceived as cautious and silent. My finger tips furiously typed out fiery editorials calling on community leaders to take more public stands. Looking back, it’s clear that even as I called for quick change and transformation, a slow evolution over decades of dedicated community leadership was finally coming to its full fruition — and, as it came of age, it did so more quickly than anyone, myself included, could have ever imagined. From zero openly gay representation to two openly gay members on Charlotte City Council. From a mayor who ignored our very existence to mayors — Anthony Foxx and Patsy Kinsey — who took on the arduous work of fixing past mistakes and recognizing our equality. From a Pride festival tucked away in the corners of Uptown to one of the city’s largest civic events and largest LGBT Pride events between Washington, D.C., and Atlanta. From small social services in groups like Time Out Youth to a plethora of services offered by a variety of non-profit groups dedicated to serving needs ignored elsewhere.
Charlotte has a lot to be proud of — and we’re continuing to grow like never before. It’s because of you, and your friends and co-workers and family members and people all across this region, some you’ve met and know and many you don’t. Together, we’re building a stronger, more healthy, more equal Queen City for all. That should make each of us smile with Pride. : :