The LGBTQ+ community is under direct fire in North Carolina and beyond, as lawmakers target queer and trans kids with hateful legislation. With attacks against our community at an all-time high and extremist ideologies on the rise, we cannot afford for our politicians to act with complacency. We need allies in office now more than ever. But what does real allyship look like, and is being an ally really enough?
This April, North Carolina saw a slate of anti-trans bills introduced in the legislature. In one week, half a dozen bills were dropped that would inflict direct harm on trans youth, including three trans sports bans, two gender-affirming care bans, and one license to discriminate in healthcare. Additional bills were filed in April as well, including more of the same as well as a bill making drag performances illegal on public property or in the presence of anyone under 18. All of these bills joined another gender-affirming care ban and the “Don’t Say Gay” bill that was filed in January, an anti-LGBTQ+ curriculum ban that would subject trans students to forced outing.
This kind of legislation puts our youth in harm’s way, effectively banning them from being who they are in school and their everyday lives. When passed, the impacts of bills like these are catastrophic to the physical and mental health of trans kids. With the very lives of our most vulnerable youth under attack, virtue-signaling politics are not enough to protect them. And allyship is only a starting point.
Allies are those who are willing to listen and learn about the experiences of marginalized communities and to offer a baseline of support. For politicians, that can look like voting against policies that harm our communities and voting for policies that help us.
While votes are vital to protect our freedoms, what happens when votes are not enough? What kind of support do we need when bad bills pass? These questions have become more urgent than ever in North Carolina, as we watch politicians who claim to be allies side with our opposition.
The level of vitriol and hate directed at the queer and trans community requires a new level of support and action. There are already over 460 anti-LGBTQ+ bills nationwide, and we know that there will be even more by the time this goes to press. That is why we need our allies in office to do more and move beyond allyship.
We need legislators who will join us as accomplices, offering more than a baseline of support and working directly towards dismantling systems of oppression. We need politicians like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who are willing to take a stand against the status quo and fight for the rights of marginalized groups despite the backlash.
We also need co-conspirators, those willing to work directly alongside marginalized communities like ours to take collective action for change. We have seen the impact of action-based support like this in Tennessee, where the politicians known as the “Tennessee Three” chose to stand alongside protestors who were calling for stricter gun laws to curb gun violence. Justin Pearson, Justin Jones, and Gloria Johnson put action behind their words, placing their careers on the line to fight for the safety and rights of their constituents.
This is the kind of action we want to see in North Carolina and across the country. The fight for LGBTQ+ equality and every other kind of equality is a fight for people’s lives. Complacency and performative support will not get us where we need to be, nor will it result in real progress or change. We need votes for equality, but we also need action. We hope you will join us in the fight.