The Queen City’s local tourism officials tout the city’s motto on billboards, in magazines, in commercials. “Charlotte’s got a lot,” they say. And they’re right. Charlotte is a great place to live, to work, to raise a family, to make lasting friendships, to cut loose on the weekends, get involved in civic affairs and more. In this issue, we publish our annual newcomer, visitor and residents guide. It’s chock full of local resource listings, nightlife listings, articles on life in the city and more. It’s just a glimpse of what it means, particularly for LGBT people, when the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority says, “Charlotte’s got a lot.”
But though there’s a lot to offer and take in here in the Queen City, we could have a lot more. No, this isn’t some pessimistic, cynical take on life in this great city. Rather, it’s a simple reminder — as good as life is, it can be better. And “Charlotte’s got a lot” — of work to do to make our city more inclusive and affirming for all LGBT people and others.
First up, we’ve got to protect all our residents and citizens. In March, City Council rejected a suite of non-discrimination ordinances that would have added sexual orientation and gender identity among characteristics protected from unjust discrimination. Efforts have been undertaken to build community awareness, educate elected officials and lobby candidates for city elections coming up in this fall. I’m confident we’ll be able to make a big dent in the obstacles that stood in the way of a successful ordinance passage.
There are other crucial items Charlotte needs, chief among them economic development and opportunities for our increasingly impoverished communities and neighborhoods. Poverty is highly clustered in small close-in neighborhoods by Uptown. This kind of clustering is what has made Charlotte rank at the very bottom — 50 out of 50 top metro areas — in residents’ economic mobility. Fewer and fewer people born and raised in Charlotte are finding the means and access to rise out of poverty. It’s a problem that affects each and every one of us, including LGBT people — folks who face increased rates of unemployment due to anti-LGBT bias. The same holds true for people of color, undocumented immigrants and others.
Homelessness has also increasingly become a concern, an issue that equally affects LGBT people but in extraordinarily disproportionate ways. City and county leaders have begun to address these issues, planning toward longterm, assistive and sustainable housing models for the chronically homeless. But the city also needs to take into account how it is serving the LGBT homeless. According to some statistics, up to 40 percent of all homeless youth identify as LGBT. Time Out Youth is working diligently to raise awareness of the issues, in partnership with national and regional partners. But city officials working in homelessness need to begin asking themselves why none of their services are targeting LGBT people, why so little focus is placed on assisting high-risk communities like LGBT — and, in particular transgender — youth and why, at least at this point, there seems to be little if any awareness or sensitivity to LGBT people or their challenges among existing homelessness services. All of these issues — targeting at-risk populations, little programatic focus and a lack of sensitivity — also plagues our public systems addressing drug and alcohol abuse, mental health and physical or sexual health.
Finally, together with city and county officials, individual community members — particularly gay, cisgender men and women — with power, influence, financial resources and other privileges need to come together as allies in a fight against racism, anti-immigrant sentiments and transphobia. People of color, undocumented immigrants and our trans residents are facing life-, career-, education-, health-and spirit-crushing circumstances every day of their lives. The causes and circumstances are myriad, as are possible solutions. We need to listen and champion these communities’ needs as best as allies can.
As you flip through these pages and read about all the wonderful things this city has to offer, I encourage you to think about ways you can get involved — whether in LGBT community groups or in other civic spaces — to make Charlotte an even better, brighter place for all our people. Charlotte’s can-do spirit is unmatched. Let’s put our minds, hearts, hands, sweat-equity and commitment toward turning “Charlotte’s got a lot” into “Charlotte’s got it all.” : :