Monica Raye Simpson said she arrived in Charlotte as a student and was just figuring out who she was.
It was during her tenure at Johnson C. Smith University that she became her true self.
"I started to realize more and more who I was identifying as wasn't really the truth and felt like I was having to keep that face as a person who was young, black, woman who had to be with a guy because that's what fit and that's what society wanted to see. I wanted to be a good [communications] professional, I wanted to make a
difference in society. And I didn't see women who were black and identified as lesbian in that role. So whenever those thoughts came up when I was in college and those feelings and those urges, I was like push that to the side, stay in the picture."
But she said that after awhile, she couldn't do that any longer.
"I saw many of my friends being abused, violent acts started happening against LGBT folks on campus and nothing being done about that. So, a group of us came together at that time and said, we're going to stand up for our people. We didn't really know who to call or contact. The Lesbian and Gay Community Center was getting started at the time. One of the other people I met at the time was a pastor who had just moved here to start a church that was welcoming all of God's children home and her name was at that time Rev. Tonia Rawls, now it's "Bishop." She became a really great advisor to us. We had a big forum on campus, and I graduated ... and I think they were ready for me to graduate because I had become really militant at that time. I was a very militant lesbian and was like, "you better get used to it". I was the editor of the student newspaper, so I was writing about this stuff, and I was about to denounce my sorority letters. At the time, I was really about it."
After coming out, Simpson made a career of working in the LGBT community. Her first job after college was with the Lesbian and Gay Community Center. She was one of the founders of Charlotte's black gay pride and she currently works for Grassroots Leadership, a progressive Southern movement that works to bring Southern activists together.