Ever since the North Carolina General Assembly passed anti-LGBT House Bill 2, the state has been hit with a series of boycotts and cancellations.
Businesses like PayPal and Deutsche Bank have nixed plans to expand here, costing hundreds of jobs, and entertainers and event organizers continue to cancel shows, with acts such as Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam and Cirque du Soleil saying no thanks to the now-tainted Tar Heel State.
The purpose of the boycott is to send a message to North Carolina leaders that discrimination will not be tolerated. The economic impact is putting pressure on lawmakers to do something about HB2, whether that is a modification of the bill or a full repeal, as the LGBT community has been demanding.
While well intentioned, that boycott looks to be doing some harm along with the good.
The Charlotte LGBT college non-profit organization Campus Pride is beginning to feel the pinch of individuals choosing to steer clear of North Carolina. Executive Director Shane Windmeyer reports that they have had numerous cancellations for their upcoming Camp Pride event, an LGBTQ leadership academy for undergraduate students, as well as college faculty members.
“The last two years we’ve had about 95 to 100 students attend, and then we have about 40 advisors or staff who attend as part of the advisor academy. Right now, we’re down by about 40 individuals, and that’s roughly $25,000-$30,000 in revenue,” Windmeyer says.
A number of states and cities have banned non-essential government travel to North Carolina and Windmeyer believes this is playing into the cancellations.
“What we’ve heard is that folks have travel bans, they’ve been told to boycott the state. If they don’t have a statewide travel ban, then cities do,” he says.
When he says that the bans are for government travel, and shouldn’t be directly applicable for them, he reports that they are telling him they have still been told not to go.
“It’s kind of a communication issue. It’s not really just about could they really come to North Carolina. Yeah, maybe, but they’re being told by artists, by entertainers, by other businesses, that, ‘We’re trying to put the squeeze on North Carolina. We’re trying to basically not support the state as a way to boycott and create some sort of action,’” Windmeyer says.
“Some activists, young people, they’re [saying], ‘I’m an activist, and as an activist I am boycotting the state of North Carolina.’ I get that, but the problem is that there are LGBT young people in the state of North Carolina who need visibility, who need support. And Campus Pride, unlike 90 percent of our national organizations, is based in Charlotte, as opposed to New York, or LA, or D.C.,” he continues. “So, at the end of the day, Campus Pride chose to be in a southern city because that’s where the work needs to be done. And I think this is an example of the fact that we’re exactly where we need to be.”
Campus Pride has been located in Charlotte since its founding in 2001.
Since HB2 passed, they have been active in helping to protest it on college campuses, such as the University of North Carolina at Pembroke, North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina at Asheville.
Windmeyer recognizes that some may not feel welcome or safe in North Carolina at this time, which he understands.
“A few people were concerned about their safety. There are some trans folks who are on our teaching team who said, ‘You know what? I can’t go to North Carolina. I just don’t feel welcome or safe and I don’t want to deal with that.’
“I said, ‘Well I don’t want to put you in that situation, so, of course, don’t come if you don’t want to come.’ I totally get that.”
For those who do attend Camp Pride, Windmeyer says they are taking extra safety precautions, such as having their meals catered and brought into their room instead of having students eat at the dining hall at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
They are also encouraging students to go to the bathroom in groups, as part of the I’ll Go With You campaign, since, as he points out, “[UNC Charlotte] is a public institution, so they don’t have the ability to make a restroom gender inclusive.”
Windmeyer wants to see more LGBT organizations in the region, which he says will require funding. He says we need to have more groups that are firmly rooted in the South and don’t “just parachute in when there’s an issue.”
“That’s the way you create real systemic change and ultimately impact people when it comes to their hearts and minds,” he says.
“The sad part is that we have a national movement that says it wants to see equality in southern states and in southern cities, but they don’t live there, they don’t breathe there. And the organizations that are living and breathing there, not all of them are seeing support,” he says.
Not everyone has boycotted the state since the passage of HB2. In fact, there is a growing trend of artists coming to the state and donating all or some of their profits to LGBT organizations, such as Equality North Carolina and the Human Rights Campaign. Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been donated altogether.
So far Campus Pride has not received any such donations.
Windmeyer says that he emailed NC Needs You, a group working with artists to encourage them to play in the state and donate proceeds, to be included in the list of organizations on their website, ncneedsyou.com.
At press time, he says he emailed them about two weeks ago and they have not responded or included Campus Pride on the list, which includes just over a dozen organizations, such as Equality North Carolina, American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina, Progress NC Action, Youth OUTright, Southerners On New Ground and the LGBT Center of Raleigh.
Those interested in donating to Campus Pride can do so through their website at campuspride.org.