Ladies, move to the front of the line! You don’t always get the recognition you deserve, but, without you, our LGBT community wouldn’t be the same. You’ve been there from the earliest days of the movement and the 1980s AIDS Crisis all the way to the political advances of the last two decades and today’s latest efforts to organize and mobilize. You’re longtime leaders, movers and shakers. You’re newcomers with bright ideas and tons of new talent to offer. And, collectively, you’ve been making your indelible marks on a community ever-grateful for your community service.
With Mother’s Day coming up in just two weeks, qnotes is tipping its hat to some of the Leading Ladies who have helped shape and mold our community and continue to keep us all strong, vibrant and growing.
Paige Dula recently came onto the political and social scene here in the Queen City. But in the few short years she’s been involved, she’s made remarkable waves of progress in helping to transform the conversation on transgender equality, visibility and inclusion. Dula, founder of local transgender support and social group Genderlines, was one of the most outspoken and leading figures in the recent push to add LGBT-inclusive protections to several of Charlotte’s non-discrimination ordinances. The effort wasn’t successful, but that’s not stopping Dula. She’s jumped headfirst into continuing education, awareness and advocacy as Genderlines, MeckPAC and other groups look to bring back the ordinance proposals in the future. She and Genderlines are also working to coordinate a new initiative, Trans Pride, in conjunction with Charlotte Pride, to bring awareness and education to trans issues and provide social networking and leadership development.
Don’t ever mess with a PFLAG mom. Now, repeat that three times for Ginger Feimster and don’t forget it. Feimster is one of the most fearless, outspoken proponents of LGBT equality around, a much-needed voice for change in Gaston County. Feimster, president of PFLAG Gaston, will defend not only her openly lesbian daughter, but every single LGBT child and person in Gaston County and beyond. Just last summer, Feimster boldly faced down a local restaurant she claimed discriminated against the group. The restaurant often partners with local non-profits and schools on planned Spirit Night events, allowing patrons to donate 15 percent of their bill to a non-profit of their choice. The restaurant owner had refused to work with PFLAG Gaston. Feimster swung into action, raising awareness and using the resulting media coverage to speak about the experiences of LGBT people like her daughter.
Jenni Gaisbauer has solidly and consistently leant her voice and talents in supporting the betterment of the local community in Charlotte, for both LGBT and mainstream organizations. Gaisbauer was recently the chair of the Charlotte Lesbian & Gay Fund, which has given more than $700,000 to local LGBT or LGBT-inclusive organizations. The Fund is now the largest source of continued funding for LGBT organizations in the state. At her day job, Gaisbauer has helped to lead the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Library Foundation to new heights, providing essential, ongoing funding for the important work of the city’s and county’s public library system.
Barbara Green has stepped out as one of the most visible and active allies in Charlotte. She’s done so in support of her child, but also because she has a deep sense of justice and the need for equality — especially in business. Green is a small business owner and she’s put her talents to use in helping shape and mold the Charlotte Business Guild as it continues to grow and adapt to better provide for the needs of the professional LGBT and ally community in Charlotte. Recently, Green took her advocacy into the political sphere, appearing on NBC Charlotte’s Sunday morning public affairs talk show to advocate for LGBT-inclusive ordinances in Charlotte. And she sure didn’t let those opposed to equality shout her down or condescend. “Don’t point your finger at me,” Green said politely and firmly when a male guest began to lecture. Talk about bold!
Out and about everywhere. And every time with the brightest smile you’ve seen all day. That’s Gwen Pearson, publisher of the recently relaunched VisitGayCharlotte.com, the Queen City’s LGBT tourism and events website. The reinvigorated vision for VGC offered by Pearson is destined to make it a go-to resource for visitors coming into Charlotte, as well as in-towners looking for activities and events. But, above and beyond VGC, Pearson has offered her wit, charm and dedication in other areas, too. She currently works for Time Out Youth Center and is the secretary of Charlotte Pride’s board. Previously, she’s assisted, supported and volunteered with a number of organizations, including Charlotte Black Gay Pride and the Charlotte Business Guild.
Gelissa Stitt is the partner of Charlotte’s first openly LGBT elected official, Councilmember LaWana Mayfield. But Stitt is no usual politician’s spouse. Side-by-side with Mayfield and on her own, Stitt has offered her powerful voice to help shape the advancement and inclusion of the city’s LGBT community, especially those who are African-American. She’s been a dedicated volunteer and leader with Charlotte Black Gay Pride, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year. Stitt also spreads the love, actively supporting a variety of organizations like the Human Rights Campaign and Charlotte Business Guild.
The Rev. Robin Tanner came into Charlotte with a splash when she took the helm of Piedmont Unitarian Universalist Church’s pulpit. She took the position at age 26 and, though young, immediately proved herself as an able faith leader not only for her own congregation but for Charlotte’s greater LGBT, affirming and progressive faith community. Tanner has been an outspoken proponent of marriage equality and worked hand-in-hand with other faith, LGBT and mainstream leaders in the local and statewide Moral Monday movement, addressing issues like voters’ rights, education reform, healthcare access and more.
Nearly 25 years ago, the Rev. Debbie Warren began what has become one of the area’s largest, most widely recognized AIDS service and support organizations, the Regional AIDS Interfaith Network (RAIN). At a time when many in the world were still ignoring those affected by the continuing AIDS Crisis, it was Warren who stood up to offer kind, affirming services that provided respect and dignity for those affected by HIV. More than two decades later, Warren has overseen RAIN’s growth and provided opportunities for faith institutions, community groups and community members to make a difference in the lives of those in need.