The Laramie Project

2010 Census data and LGBT North Carolinians

As promised, here are the compiled census numbers about the state of North Carolina’s LGBT communities, courtesy of Pam’s House Blend (bolded text are her emphasis):

There are a lot of gay households in places other than the large metropolitan (read solid Blue) areas of the country, and the Williams Institute has sliced and diced census numbers to give a better picture of where we are.

The Williams Institutes will be releasing Census Snapshot: 2010 reports throughout the summer and will provide demographic and geographic information about same-sex couples and same-sex couples raising children for all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. These most recent batch is about Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut, Nebraska, and North Carolina.

The authors of these reports are Gary J. Gates, PhD, the Williams Distinguished Scholar at the Williams Institute, UCLA School of Law and Abigail M. Cooke, a PhD candidate in the Department of Geography at UCLA, affiliated with the California Center for Population Research.

In looking at my state – North Carolina, it’s no surprise that we have a lot of same-sex households as a percentage of the population, particularly in Durham, Carrboro and Asheville (notably, not Raleigh, though nearby Garner makes the list).  Total census-declared came-sex couples in NC: 27,250; Same-sex couples per 1,000 households: 7.28.

Those aren’t insignificant numbers, given our state has zero employment discrimination protections, and a hostile judiciary (for second parent adoptions in particular). Individual cities have offered same-sex partner benefits and have anti-discrimination laws in place; and the state has passed a gender identity and presentation-inclusive anti-bullying bill, something several Blue states have yet to get around to passing.

So with all of the talk and push to eliminate DOMA to obtain full marriage rights, LGBTs in states like Alaska, Nebraska, and North Carolina are restless and hopeful that the focus will return to federal ENDA – in order to marshall more LGBTs to political activism, these folks need to know they won’t be fired for being out of the closet.

To put these numbers in perspective and as a reminder for what is at stake this year for equality for LGBT North Carolinians, I refer you to an interview published by the Asheville Citizen-Times with NC State House Speaker Tom Tillis about his plans to bring the anti-LGBT marriage (or anything “resembling” marriage) amendment to a vote in an upcoming special legislative session. The ultimate plan is to have this “red meat” amendment serve as a lure to draw out large number of conservative evangelicals to the voting booth in the 2012 election. Here is how Tillis chose to frame the decision to bring the amendment to a full vote in the legislature (bolded text is my emphasis):

“The defense of marriage is one that a number of folks in our base feel very strongly about,” Tillis said, noting the issue would definitely be brought up in a special fall session. “Generally speaking, it polls fairly high across the voter base. It’s not a particularly partisan thing.”

Asked how he personally feels about gay marriage, Tillis said “data” show that traditional marriages between men and women are more stable and nurturing.

He expects the measure, which can’t be vetoed by the governor, to pass the House with the minimum 72 votes and go to voters in 2012.

As for whether the ballot measure should prohibit same-sex partner benefits given by some businesses and a few local governments such as Asheville, Tillis said he hasn’t taken a formal position.

“We’re doing our homework. We do need to understand that and have that factor in to what will ultimately be put into the language,” he said.

You all know that I am not even-minded about this issue. (Does that make me a less than effective teacher? A recent study suggests some students perceive political bias, whether spoken or not, when an instructor identifies as LGBTQ.) The issue affects me and my very ability to have a legally recognized family.  So it’s not surprising that I find it particularly ironic that while the #s above show LGBT families are on the rise in North Carolina, that while at their recent national conference the American Medical Association firmly affirms the full and equal rights of LGBT patients and their families, and while New York’s state legislators (even three Republicans) sign on to bring full marriage equality to their state (and Rhode Island passes a less than full step towards equality with civil unions), Rep. Tillis espouses unfounded assertions (assertions that have been shown to be patently false) about the relationships of LGBT folks who live, work, pay taxes, and make their homes in this state.

There will be equally nasty sentiments expressed on the legislative floor when this bill is brought for a vote and even more when it makes its way onto the general ballot. It puts me in mind of Jonas Slonaker, “I mean, imagine if more gay people stayed in  But it’s easier said than done, of course.”

Taking action post-Laramie

Folks —

For those undergraduate students who might be interested in taking a more direct role in securing and supporting LGBTQ rights here in North Carolina, Equality NC is looking for Fall 2011 interns for a whole host of jobs. It’s an absolutely critical time for Equality NC due in no small part to the threat posed by bills circulating in the NC legislature that are geared toward outlawing any recognition of gay and lesbian relationships (including protections and insurance coverage offered by private industries and various municipalities across the state).

These descriptions below are from their website:

Internships – Seeking Fall 2011 Interns

General Information

Equality NC is looking for outstanding students (and graduates who have a comparable amount of hours to devote to an internship) who are committed to winning equal rights and justice for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender North Carolinians to serve as part-time interns for the upcoming semester. Specific intern positions are listed below.

Interns will gain valuable experience working for a nonprofit advocacy organization.  Internship duties will depend on the skills, background, and interests of the intern. Many of our former interns have gone on to secure jobs in LGBT organizations and other political and non-profit groups.

While we don’t offer stipends at this time, we are glad to work with you to secure course credit.

How to Apply

Submit resume and cover letter via email to Rebecca Mann, Director of Community Organizing and Outreach, at Please submit applications for Fall internships by May 13th.

Intern Positions

Communities of Color Outreach Internship – Equality NC seeks a talented, motivated intern to help us strengthen our outreach and organizing in communities of color. Tasks include attending meetings and providing support to our People of Color Task Force, promoting Equality NC at events, working with staff to identify LGBT and allies of color to engage in our work, assessing the policy needs of LGBT people of color, and other outreach duties. Experience working in communities of color a plus. Updated 1/3/11

Story-Gathering Internship – Friendly, outgoing, compassionate “people-person” sought to lead story collection project for multiple issue campaigns. The ideal candidate will be a great listener with top-notch communication skills, flexible hours, basic film editing skills (YouTube-style), and a passion for helping people turn their negative experiences into positive legislative change. Updated 1/3/11

Community Organizing Internship – Energetic, organized, confident, hardworking, can-do students and community members with time to dedicate sought to rally North Carolinians in support of LGBT rights. As a Community Organizing Intern, you will work with individuals and organizations in your area to raise awareness of LGBT issues and empower community members to become activists through formation of local advocacy groups. Some understanding of the legislative process is a plus, and a passion for equal rights is a must. Fans of racism, sexism, classism, and the like need not apply. We are in need of Community Organizing Interns in areas across the state. Previous organizing experience a plus. Updated 1/3/11

Development/Fundraising Internship – The number one need within the state LGBT equality movement is for solid fundraising skills. Equality North Carolina’s director of development seeks a development intern to provide assistance with grant applications, leadership gifts, and special events including the annual Equality Conference & Gala.

You will need to have unbridled enthusiasm for our work, strong intuition, great people skills, and excellent writing and communication skills. You will also need to love working in a fast-paced environment with dedicated staff and other talented interns.

In return, we will teach you great skills that will help you move into a career in nonprofit fundraising/management, and we will make every effort to make your internship stimulating and rewarding. (Questions? Call Kay at 919.829.0343 x 112 or email her at Updated 10/7/09

Communications Internship – This intern will assist with the organizations communications efforts, including development of online content and press releases, and managing an effort to collect personal stories of how laws and policies affect LGBT North Carolinians. Rising college senior, recent graduate, or graduate student with background in journalism, communications or public relations preferred. Please submit three writing samples with your cover letter. Updated 2/25/10

Volunteer Management/Outreach Internship – Equality NC seeks a qualified, highly motivated intern to perform volunteer management and outreach duties. Specific tasks include drafting and sending information about ENC’s events to community organizations and our list of supporters, coordinating volunteer events for ongoing projects, and new volunteer recruitment, amongst other duties. Good communication skills and a flexible schedule are imperative. Updated 2/25/10

Transgender Issues Internship – Equality North Carolina is looking for an intern with interest working on issues related to transgender and gender non-conforming individuals. This person would support our Transgender Policy Task Force and help us engage transgender people in our organization’s work. Updated 10/7/09

You gotta leave them with hope.

After yet another wonderful Friday night talk-back (and thanks for sticking with us after we held the opening curtain for 15 minutes which put our final curtain time at 10:30pm), I came home and checked Jackrabbit’s blog to see that she got home safely after her whirlwind trip to see us. She did. She also seemed profoundly moved by the production and the conversations she had with actors and crew both before and after Thursday’s show. The same goes for our two guests last night and, as always, for me too.

As I tried to wind down from Friday’s long day and great night, I happened to catch the last seven minutes of Milk, Gus Van Sant’s 2008 docudrama (and I use that term in the porous sense that Derek Paget referenced during his lecture on Friday afternoon) about the life and death of Harvey Milk.

As “luck” would have it, I arrived during the scene where Dan White (Josh Brolin) asks Harvey (Sean Penn) into his office. White has already shot Mayor Moscone. After he closes his office door, he proceeds to shoot Harvey three times at close range. As the last bullet spins him around and his last gaze catches the San Fransisco skyline, the scene shifts back in time to an activity that has framed the entire film: Harvey dictating his apocryphal “last” words into a tape recorder. As we flip back from that retrospective event of him describing the very real potential of his assassination, we are also flung into footage (some historical, some re-created for the film) of the 30,000 mourners who converged on City Hall upon hearing of the deaths of Milk and Moscone. No surprise that the scene brought tears to my eyes and also put me in mind of our show. As the lights of that massive vigil fill the screen, we see and hear Harvey/Penn speak lines into that recorder drawn from Milk’s “Hope Speech” delivered March 10, 1978, 8 months before his murder, and from the “in the event of my death” tape itself.

We hear echoes of Milk’s rhetoric in Doc’s “H-O-P-E” moment, which makes me a bit skeptical that the “real” Doc O’Connor’s words might have been massaged a bit by Moises (or perhaps Doc’s admission of bisexual trysts to 20/20 are true, and he shares some core beliefs about sexuality with Milk?). For whatever reason, there are linkages between these deaths and the responses they engendered that the universe seemed to be reminding me about after last night’s show. Perhaps I was in particular need of feeling hope, considering I almost burst into tears during the talk-back when Pam Spaulding recalled a recent meeting with the NC legislator/pastor who couldn’t be moved beyond her religious beliefs to represent all of her constituents, especially the lesbian second parent (like me) whose family is under direct and immediate threat by NC House Bill 777 and Senate Bill 106. Not to mention the sick feeling in the pit of my stomach as she discussed the hate mail she received for promoting John Amaechi’s New York Times op-ed about Kobe Bryant’s use of the f-word in a confrontation with a referee, a piece which calls out Bryant’s assertion of a kind of “live and let live” privilege (if not in those exact words), a privilege that allows him to cast his apology for the slur as being sorry for his critics’ thin-skin at homophobic language rather than being sorry for his quick and easy use of that language.

Each night I see the show I am grateful for so many things. Particularly for the hope that you all give me that someday, as Derek alluded to in his lecture, there might be less need for stories like Laramie because the systems that divide and oppress will be dismantled and reshaped. In the meantime, you give me hope that through these stories and this documentary form, we will find ways to illuminate the path to that someday for ourselves and our audiences. I’ll leave you with the words (and some images) of Harvey.

I know you cannot live on hope alone, but without it life is not worth living. And you. And you. And you … gotta give ’em hope.