There’s been gnashing of teeth. Fingers pointed. Accusations made. Debate on what should or should not have happened when Charlotte City Council voted on LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination ordinances has been a hot topic for the past few weeks, ever since the proposals’ rejection on March 2.
For the most part, this debate has been civil. But in many ways it feels to me as though the community has never been so divided. The ordinance package is just one issue among several that have divided community members in recent weeks, months and years.
While it’s true Charlotte’s LGBT community is bruised, I also think it’s moving forward in new, exciting ways. We don’t often get the chance to report as much “good news” as we’d often like at the paper. So, in the face of so much not-so-great news recently, let me recap on some of the bright and positive things I’ve seen happening in the community:
On the ordinances debate and similar topics of community priorities and direction, I’ve had the opportunity to sit in on intriguing, constructive and intentional dialogue on issues of inclusion on matters of race and gender, for transgender people and for other portions of our community.
These conversations have been numerous. Leaders and supporters of MeckPAC and other members of the Charlotte Non-Discrimination Ordinance Coalition, like Genderlines, the LGBT Democrats of Mecklenburg County, the Charlotte Business Guild and others, have taken a proactive approach to community conversation. They’re exploring new ways forward and working to collect invaluable data on the experiences of LGBT people in Charlotte and Mecklenburg County.
Discussion on trans inclusion is also extending into other groups, too. I’ve been proud to volunteer in support of Genderlines’ and Charlotte Pride’s new educational, leadership development and networking initiative, Trans Pride. Dozens of folks recently showed up for an evening of socializing and networking in what organizers say will be a year-long community-led initiative to increase education about, awareness of and involvement for transgender members of the local community.
Groups like the Human Rights Campaign — and especially the community engagement committee of its local Charlotte steering committee, under the tutelage of business leader Dianna Ward — are working to reach out and engage with community members like never before. Ward has taken on listening and feedback sessions and just recently invited me and other community members into her home, where we spent an evening learning about HRC’s new priorities and desires for community advancement “after marriage.”
Recently, Guilford Green Foundation held one of its most successful annual fundraisers in Greensboro. Organizers billed it as the “wedding reception we’ve all been waiting for.” In Charlotte, Charlotte Pride recently invited more than a dozen fellow LGBT Pride organizations and nearly 60 representatives from across the South for the annual Prides of the Southeast Conference.
Later this summer, in July, Charlotte will once again stretch out its hospitable open arms when the Equality Federation — a national group representing state-based LGBT advocacy groups in the U.S. – comes to the Queen City. Here the group and representatives from across the country will put their minds together in order to strengthen the kind of grassroots work it takes to win and maintain LGBT equality in our hometowns and states.
Also in July, Charlotte Black Gay Pride will mark a special anniversary, celebrating a decade of organizing in the Queen City. Another group, One Voice Chorus, also recently celebrated their own iconic milestone — feting 25 years of community service and song.
In every movement, in every community, in every city or institution, there are setbacks. Sometimes there are failures. But there are always just as many successes and triumphs. Though it’s easy — especially for me, writing and reporting day in and day out — to focus on hot-button stories of division, disagreement or dispute. But it’s also good every now and then to simply take a step back and take stock of where we’re at and all the great things happening around us.
Charlotte and North Carolina, you’ve got a lot of great things going for you. I’m looking forward to a summer packed with uplifting, positive news as we keep moving ever forward for a better city and state. : :