When Matthew Alexander and I get together, we get giddy. Like spinning in a field, tell all of your secrets under a willow tree kind of giddy.
I was teaching a writing class to young LGBT people at Time Out Youth, an LGBT advocacy and support group, one night last November. Towards the end of class, Alexander walked in, sat down, and stared at me. That’s when I started to lose focus. The kids finished their last five-minute writing prompt while Alexander and I wiggled our eyebrows at each other. Afterwards, we saw Madonna in concert and yelled at her for being three hours late. As if she could hear us from our nosebleed seats. Then we gossiped over fries at the Midnight Diner until 2 a.m.
Alexander does not always feel this carefree, especially in a state without hate crime laws that protect people against violence motivated by gender identity and sexual orientation. In his experience, rural areas in North Carolina are especially unwelcoming — even threatening — for LGBT people. He doesn’t feel safe walking in his own neighborhood in Concord. He drives to Charlotte for work and to see his friends.
The 22-year-old only feels secure in Charlotte, a place where LGBT support remains strong despite the passage of Amendment One. The constitutional amendment passed on May 8 last year in North Carolina, where marriage between a man and a woman became the only legally recognized union in the state. Gay and straight LGBT supporters, particularly in Charlotte and Raleigh, fought the amendment together. Even after the loss, they remained unified.
In my latest for Creative Loafing, I talk with straight people in Charlotte who advocate for LGBT rights. Their anger from Amendment One passing led to a successful counter-protest against anti-LGBT street preachers at Pride Charlotte in late August. While some straight people in the counter-protest were raised as Evangelical Christians, they are now on the side of equality.