People living in rural areas often do not have access to LGBTQ-friendly health care and other support. (Photo Credit: Iliya Mitskavets via Adobe Stock)

The Campaign for Southern Equality (southernequality.org) is one of many North Carolina-based organizations that strive to make a difference throughout the state. However, the more rural the location, the more difficult it may be for LGBTQ people to receive the support or care that they need. Updating their “Trans in the South” guide, the Campaign for Southern Equality aims to improve the process of finding trans-affirming healthcare that extends to almost all southeastern states.

“Rural areas in society are often outsourced through charities,” Allison Scott, Director of Impact and Innovation at the Campaign for Southern Equality explains, “This gives these charities the ability to serve, or not serve, people because of who they are. Many transgender and nonbinary individuals in rural areas are turned away if they seek help from social services that are run by charities.”

For this reason, Scott and her colleagues strive to engage with charities and organizations in a positive way, emphasizing that every group and person is capable of growth and acceptance. The Campaign for Southern Equality is constantly working with religious associations, educational campaigns and grassroots organizations to provide as many resources as possible to the community. 

Something that all people need is healthcare. Not all LGBTQ-friendly medics or physicians need to specialize in hormone therapy or gender confirming surgery. Scott emphasizes the need for safe-spaces within the medical field saying, “sometimes I just have a cold that needs to be treated, but I don’t want to go to a doctor who doesn’t respect my gender-identity.”

Outside of the realm of medical treatment, there are other rural organizations seeking to provide events and get-togethers facilitated by and for LGBTQ individuals. 

Celebrating their 20th anniversary, Tranzmission (tranzmission.org) is an Asheville-based organization that is dedicated to advocating, educating and supporting members of the LGBTQ community. They hold online support meetings for those who are feminine and masculine transgender, nonbinary and parents/guardians of gender expansive persons. 

One of their newest endeavors is an effort to end transgender homelessness in rural areas. Tranzmission’s LGBTQ-inclusionary training programs are designed for religious communities, elementary schools, healthcare workers and businesses. 

Sandhills Pride (sandhillspride.org) LGBTQ Support Network is in Pinehurst, N.C. and offers scholarships, safe zones and discussion groups for all interested parties. To celebrate Pride month, they will be hosting a drag show in Southern Pines on June 13 at 4 p.m. Featuring LatinX drag queen Naomi Dix, the proceeds of this performance will go towards future Sandhills Pride needs.

In a drive to promote healthy habits and nature exploration, Sandhills Pride also hosts a monthly program titled “Time OUTside.” Hikers are encouraged to interact with like-minded pride members and have even formed a Pokémon GO group together. 

In Rowan County, Salisbury Pride, Inc. (salisburypride.org) is a grassroots organization that offers entertainment and safe spaces to those of all ages. Their bowling league plays together for 14 weeks out of the year, encouraging bowlers of all levels of experience to join in on the fun. Their drag shows and art exhibits are open to the public, but only those ages 21 and up may attend the drag shows. 

The Dr. Jesse R. Peel LGBTQ Center at East Carolina University (ECU) (lgbtq.ecu.edu) is one of the few places that provides resources for gender-affirming care in Greenville. The Health Sciences Sexual and Gender Diversity Committee (SGDC) at ECU includes an internal medicine specialist, a gynecologist and a family physician who are all well-versed in LGBTQ health care. With a program titled “Pirate Ally Training,” the LGBTQ Center also promises to create a Safe Zone for staff, students and employees alike. 

Housing programs, LGBTQ parent support groups, transgender discussion forums, HIV/AIDS task forces and anti-violence trainings are available through the Onslow County LGBTQ Community Center (onslowcountylgbtq.com).This group is currently holding auditions for their Mr. and Miss Gay Onslow County Pageant as they also prepare to remember the Pulse shooting with an in-person memorial.

At the LGBT Center of Raleigh Library, the LGBT Center of Raleigh (lgbtcenterofraleigh.com) has never had more well read members. The concept behind this reading initiative was to have representation for all LGBTQ readers. With material available for children, young adults and adults of all ages, this library boasts more than 5,000 volumes of LGBTQ works. 

Partnering with SAGE Central North Carolina, the LGBT Center of Raleigh focuses on LGBTQ elders, HIV/STI testing, transgender outreach and intergenerational conversations regarding LGBTQ history. Via Zoom, the center will be hosting a Triangle Autism Discussion and an Open Mic Night. 

The Frank Harr Foundation (frankharrfoundation.org) operates out of Wilmington, holding 501c3 nonprofit status. They have also partnered with SAGE in an effort to include LGBTQ seniors in events and outings. Their support groups range in age and identity, with one group for transgender adults and another for transgender young adults. 

Self-proclaimed as a “grassroots intermediary,” Southern Vision Alliance (SVA) (southernvision.org) is one of Durham’s most far-reaching LGBTQ organizations. Their Ignite NC project aims to better North Carolina in terms of living wage, student debt, police brutality and rape culture. This program has several trained cohorts organizing within their perspective colleges. 

SVA has also created the People’s Solidarity Hub. This is a space for community members to come together in a strategizing session for ways to implement societal change. The Stop Evictions Now Network is fighting unlawful evictions in North Carolina, especially focusing on those who are evicting tenants during the COVID-19 fair housing moratorium. 

“LGBTQ people are the key to our liberation,” says Scott, “We know what we need. Those in rural communities know what they need. We just have to be listened to.”

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