The LGBTQ Racial Justice Fund’s Program Officer, Miabi Chatterji, attended the largest-yet “LGBT in the South” conference, hosted by the Campaign for Southern Equality, in Asheville, NC March 17-19, 2016. The conference brought together more than 620 activists, advocates, and youth leaders from all over the South, many from rural and small towns. It was a terrific time to connect and break bread together in the cradle of the Blue Ridge Mountains. For many participants, it was a critical opportunity to share with one another about conditions for various Southern LGBTQ communities, from discrimination faced in prison and the family court system to the isolation and fear involved with being young and queer or trans in a small town. We also had the chance to dig deep on what makes Southern organizing so particular and potent.
RJF grantee Southerners on New Ground led a skills-building, deeply engaging workshop called “Taking Action: Exploring Direct Action Strategies in the Rural South” and their well-regarded session called “Que Diejron? / What Did They Say? – Queer Liberation Will Not Be in English.” They also helped run a workshop on dismantling the incarceration pipeline for trans people of color. Grantee BreakOUT!’s Co-Director Shaena Johnson spoke on the conference’s opening plenary, “Criminal Justice and LGBT* Rights.” These sessions show the breadth and depth of our grantees’ work in the South for policy and cultural change.
Only days later, North Carolina’s state government, led by its Republican legislators, horrified the country with the passage of HB2, a bill that rolls back all pro-LGBTQ North Carolina city ordinances, including a recently approved measure in Charlotte, and prohibits transgender people from using public restrooms consistent with their gender identity in schools and government buildings. Many participants in the LGBT in the South conference (including our grantees) are now leading the pushback against this law and the movement to make sure other Southern states will not follow suit.