Locating here might be just what the doctor ordered:
In my late 20s, I followed a Sapphic North Star to Seattle, one of the nation’s most progressive cities. There, I met my wife at a coffee shop in the Capitol Hill neighborhood, where we would later share our first home together. We were represented by a gay mayor and two gay state legislators, while benefiting from robust statewide nondiscrimination protections—a lucky situation we only occasionally thought about.
Safeguards like these are far too rare for far too many. Only 44 percent of all LGBTQ people nationwide have these same guarantees today, and none of them live in the South—where we now live, in North Carolina. Here, we and all LGBTQ people are keenly aware of the potential vulnerabilities we face in the eyes of employers, landlords, and others. With the differing experiences of Washington and North Carolina in mind, it’s clear what is and is not useful in advancing equality nationwide—and ill-considered corporate relocation boycotts are definitely in the latter category.
I recently got into a pointless argument with somebody who basically said, "If you're a straight white male you should STFU and let marginalized people lead the discussion." And I get most of that. But I also know if I don't speak out in certain venues and media (like this one), the issues won't be addressed at all, or at best very infrequently. With that said, the opinion expressed above has been on my mind for some time also. The thing about boycotts is, they "isolate." The intention to isolate a state as punishment for discriminatory practices, in order to generate a loss of commerce, seems like a valid approach. Hurt 'em in their wallets, as it were. But that isolation comes at a cost to the LGBTQ folks who could have found employment and solidarity working at these companies. And those opportunities are desperately needed here in the South:
Consider this: The South is home to more LGBTQ people than any other region in the country. There are more LGBTQ people living in North Carolina than in Washington state, more in Georgia than in Oregon, more in Texas than in New York state. LGBTQ people here are more likely to be people of color, raising families and living in poverty or low-income conditions. Trans people of color have unemployment rates four times higher than the national average. In some parts of the South, many trans people drive up to 125 miles just to see a primary care doctor.
In Washington, it is clear that Amazon made a huge difference in advancing LGBTQ equality. Amazon creating new jobs in a state like North Carolina does nothing to lessen the protections already gained in the company’s home state or elsewhere. Job opportunities bringing equal benefits for straight and gay families alike and companywide nondiscrimination policies are, however, tangible social and economic protections for at least some LGBTQ people living in more hostile environments. Amazon and Apple’s gender-transition and gender-reassignment benefits could be a real aid to many of North Carolina’s 22,000 trans residents. For trans people—90 percent of whom face harassment in the workplace—being treated fairly in the hiring process and throughout employment is critical to their success.
“We fully expect companies to be active and vocal here in the same way they have been in other places,” says the Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, executive director for the Campaign for Southern Equality. “We see having more allies as a good and a positive thing.”
Demanding that Amazon, Apple, and other major queer-friendly companies cease consideration of North Carolina is pure folly and only reinforces existing disparities. If we are serious about advancing LGBTQ rights across the South, where this past year more than 71 percent of anti-gay legislation was proposed, then let’s urge these companies to expand here right now precisely because it is here where their presence will make the most difference. Bringing more assets to the fight for queer people in the South is not a betrayal. Standing in our way is. Accelerating opportunities for political, economic, and cultural power in the South is the smart move for everyone.
As I alluded to above, it is not for me to "decide" if this is a better approach, that should be left up to the LGBTQ community itself. And I know several in that community will read this over the next few days. Please speak your minds in the comment section below, because we need your voice.