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LGBTQ community should see year of struggle as opportunity to grow

Thanks for something, 2016

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As Thanksgiving weekend came and went, I found myself reflecting on this year. No doubt, 2016 has been nothing short of a tumultuous, challenging journey for LGBTQ Charlotteans and North Carolinians — indeed, for the entire national and global community.

After this year's election, as we stare down the onslaught of a Trump presidency and all the dangers it represents, it's natural for many of us to feel a deep, disappointing and, perhaps even depressingly negative outlook on what comes next. But through adversity here in Charlotte and North Carolina, we've found opportunity and new lessons — each with their own blessings and opportunities for our future.

As we enter the holiday season and with a new year approaching, I wanted to take the time to pause and reflect on our journey this year, give thanks where necessary and offer glimpses of hope for the soon-to-be new year we'll share together next month.

The right leader for the right time

Just a little over a year ago, I had my own doubts about now-Mayor Jennifer Roberts. Much of my doubt stemmed from her past positions on a range of social justice issues. I even personally endorsed her opponent, Dan Clodfelter. Throughout this year, however, Roberts has been the right leader for the right time here in Charlotte.

Starting with her unwavering commitment to LGBTQ equality, Roberts' steadfast support for the city's LGBTQ-inclusive non-discrimination ordinance put her at odds with local business leaders, local conservatives — even some among her own party — and a hostile, anti-queer state legislature and governor. At times, it seemed Roberts, with the support of a solid core of City Council, might be forced to bend under the weight of so many heavy hitters calling for compromise (I'm staring disappointingly at you, Charlotte Chamber). But Roberts never bowed, even when a potential ordinance repeal vote was rumored to come before City Council.

During the Charlotte Uprising, prompted by the police shooting of Keith Lamont Scott, Roberts took even more personal and political blows. Roberts probably has a long list of things she might have done or said differently. She hasn't always been perfect; many of us aren't. I'm thankful, however, for Roberts' leadership on the ordinance and against HB2, as well as her presence during the Charlotte Uprising. Lord only knows how both of those situations would have been handled by a less progressive, less visionary mayor.

Centering trans voices

The city's ordinance battle and the resulting political and economic turmoil caused by House Bill 2 have placed the transgender community center-stage in the city and state's political theatre. A mere handful of years ago, it would have been unimaginable to think that transgender rights and visibility would have the power to shape and shift the local political landscape and even be a main issue in a gubernatorial race. More important, however, are the many lessons our own LGBTQ community has been able to learn from the new, front-and-center fight over full LGB and T equality.

Local and statewide LGBTQ organizations have stepped up their outreach and inclusion efforts for the transgender community. Though still not perfect, cisgender community leaders — myself included — are beginning to learn more about what it means to be an ally and friend to the transgender community, especially trans people of color, who find themselves facing the highest risks of unemployment, health concerns, violence and more.

I'm thankful for the people in my own life who have helped me to learn new lessons this year, and I'm thankful for the trans leaders who have used their voices to rise up to give power and visibility to a community often ignored and even maligned among those who should be friends.

All-in-all, I believe we'll look back on 2016 as a harrowing time. A time for rising to and beyond challenge. A time of radical transformation and growth. No matter how difficult it is to see when one is in the midst of transformation, there are brilliant silver — no, rainbow — linings in the dark clouds which have by-and-large defined this year.

We'll soon celebrate a new year. With it, let us center what is necessary in our lives, our communities, our movements, city, state and world. Happy holidays and new year, y'all!

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