The month of June is celebrated as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) pride month. The celebration honors the June 28th, 1969 Stonewall riots in New York, which is regarded by some as the beginning of the modern LGBT movement. The month provides an opportunity to recognize and reflect on the progress that our communities have made, and to recommit ourselves to overcoming current challenges we face.
The recent attacks at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando have raised concerns and questions around safety and progress for many LGBT people across the United States. As we individually and collectively process this tragedy, I have found it helpful to reflect on the resiliency and resolve the LGBT community has shown when faced with unbelievable challenges in the past.
June 5th marked the 35th anniversary of the 1981 CDC report identifying what would later become known as HIV. It is currently estimated that around 1.2 million Americans are living with HIV, with around 36,300 of those being North Carolinians impacted by the virus. At the onset of the epidemic, our communities organized, responded and cared for those affected by HIV. This response organically grew out of our own resilience and continues to move the conversation forward around HIV.
Currently, LGBT North Carolinians face the challenge of House Bill 2 (HB2), a piece of legislation severely limiting transgender individuals access to bathrooms, in addition to many other civil rights violations outlined in the bill. National and local organizations, such as Southerners on New Ground (SONG), Equality North Carolina, and American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) have led our communities in the fight against HB2.
This organizing is important, yet it is the everyday resiliency and ability for LGBT North Carolinians to exist and live full lives within our state, despite the current legislations attempts to impede our ability to do so, which continues to inspire me.
On Saturday, June 25th, NCAAN participated in the local pride celebration in Salisbury, NC. This event was not large or flashy like those in major cities, but rather was homegrown and intimate with local community members celebrating their love and appreciation for one another. Jennifer, a community member from Concord, NC, talked to me about the importance of her local LGBT affirming church congregation. She described feeling lost and isolated before joining her current bible study, and described how this space provides safety and affirmation simply through its existence.
Jennifer’s words are particularly important as our communities continue to work through what happened in Orlando. Her words provide yet another example of the importance of our individual and collective resilience as we continue our fight against the challenges we face.
– Ryan Drab, NCAAN intern