When I came out at the end of eighth grade, one of the first LGBT organizations I learned about was the Human Rights Campaign. You can’t miss them. They’re everywhere. I’m sometimes astonished — completely blown away — when I talk about HRC and an LGBT person asks, “What is that?,” or “What do they do?”

Ryan WIlson, president of the South Carolina Pride Movement, says that even in Washington, D.C., there’s a bit of confusion over what HRC is and what it does.

“When I worked for HRC as an intern, I’d tell people I met that I worked there and people would ask, ‘What do they do?’” he told me in an interview for this issue’s cover story. “Even in D.C. there is this ‘cloak and dagger’ misunderstanding of what exactly the organization is and how it serves us.”

I don’t know if that says more about HRC (I don’t know how it could since they are a professional P.R. powerhouse) or if it says more about the general apathy that still exists in America, including inside our own LGBT community.

I embarked on writing this issue’s mammoth epic on HRC in order to give community members a greater understanding of what HRC is, how it operates, who runs it, where the money goes and what some of the general concerns and constructive criticisms of the group were in the minds of Carolinas leaders and activists.

Trevor Thomas, HRC’s deputy communications director, responded well to several inquiries. Thomas is just one of hundreds of HRC staff members working hard everyday for change and our equality.

In the article, Durham, N.C.-based blogger Pam Spaulding says HRC is a “big fat target.” She’s right. Sometimes it is easy to point fingers at and blame the first organization that comes to mind — usually HRC — when we start debating how our movement can better itself and achieve more.

I got the sense from Thomas and from every HRC staffer I’ve ever dealt with that constructive criticism and strategic thought and discussion are always welcome. Some HRC critics would likely disagree with that, but everyone’s got to have an enemy, right?

While writing my piece there was one concern that seemed to pop up in almost every conversation I had: money. Dammit. I hate talking about money. H-A-T-E it. Why do I get myself pulled into these things? That I’ll never know.

Some in the community believe that HRC should reinvest locally some of the money they raise at the HRC Carolinas Gala each year. Others take a more practical, realistic view, noting that people going to the dinner know they are donating to a national organization and that the money won’t stay here in the Carolinas.

I don’t agree or disagree with anybody. I’m not trying to play coward — I promise. I just understand both sides of the debate. If only issues were more cut-and-dry, oh, how my life would be more simple.

I congratulate HRC for all it has been able to achieve.

This year’s award winners — Denise Palm Beck and EqualityNC — deserve many, many rounds of applause. They’ve earned their honors.

I know, I know — this opinion column really didn’t unveil too much actual opinion. There’s much better writing in the cover story. You should read it.

Matt Comer

Matt Comer previously served as editor from October 2007 through August 2015 and as a staff writer afterward in 2016.