As the year draws to a close and the season of holidays in many cultures approaches, we hope you’re spending time with your family, chosen or otherwise, and filling up your cup for the time ahead. 

With the end of 2022 approaching, it’s only natural to reflect on the year and its events. As Equality North Carolina’s executive director, I’m already assessing where we’ve been and where we’re going in the fight for racial equity and social justice. In that spirit, in this month’s column I’ll discuss what happened this year, both good and bad, and what that can say to us about the fight ahead.

One of the primary stories this year has been the vile attacks against the trans community on the state level, with over 400 anti-equality bills filed nationwide. This year, many states banned trans youth from participating in sports consistent with their identity. Other states banned some forms of trans medical care for youth. Many more have proposed legislation attacking care for trans kids. In Texas, the state Child Protective Services system has been investigating affirming parents of transgender young people – a horrifying and brutal government overreach attacking transgender young people and their loving parents. The situation on the state level is dire, and although many of these laws have been delayed in courts, many others are in effect causing tremendous harm.

Here in North Carolina, this spring’s legislative session saw attacks from conservatives in the NC General Assembly too. Legislators advanced HB755, a dangerous copycat of Florida’s horrible ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill. This bill, which sought to erase our communities from schools and force teachers to violate their students’ trust, was a powerful threat. But our communities came out in resistance, and over the summer legislative leadership said the proposal was shelved.

This summer we celebrated Pride Month, but we also saw an increasing backlash of anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric in reaction against Pride Month. Our Pride events, from Asheville to Wilmington, were targeted by far-right extremists and their allies in elected office. North Carolina tied the record with Texas this year for most attacks on drag events at 10, according to a recent GLAAD report. 

But our people and organizations stepped up to the plate in a spirit of resistance. All around the country, counter-protesters shielded drag performers and people celebrating Pride from hate. Here at Equality NC, when we heard that Apex Pride was under threat of cancellation due to hate, we stepped in to protect Pride and restore Drag Queen Story Hour. 

And then we had the elections. Election night had incredible highs and devastating lows. We were disappointed to see the failure of so many key races that stood to increase representation across the lines of race, class, gender and sexual orientation. But we’re so proud of our electoral work and the slate of pro-equality candidates that proved victorious. And we’re so proud of y’all, who came in and pitched in to ensure that “the red wave” turned into a red ripple. Eighty candidates endorsed by Equality NC PAC – an exciting 73% of all of our endorsees – won their races. And we saw strong strides for representation, with a large majority of our BIPOC, women and LGBTQ+ candidates winning victory. 

Through it all this year, there have been two principal threads. 

The first is the increasing visibility and aggression of our opposition. Far-right politicians and extremist leaders have stoked fear against our communities, attempting to ride the wave of backlash politics. This work, in turn, has mobilized extremist movements to target our communities. This pipeline of hate is who our opposition is, and that means that we’re up against a highly mobilized and extreme hate movement.

But the other point of commonality is this: Our people have been working relentlessly to fight for justice for our communities, and we’ve been building the power we want and need. In reviewing the tape on our 2022, there’s a thread of our people triumphing over harsh conditions. Our opposition will be targeting us, but we know that we can build structures of protection and liberation. With that, we’ve already won.

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