Since March is Women’s History Month, it’s an especially great time to celebrate female leaders and the hard work they’re doing in North Carolina. More specifically, I want to shout out some LGBTQIA+ women who have fought for equal rights while experiencing discrimination themselves. The following five women are activists for important issues surrounding gender, sexuality, race, religion, and more. Their work is not only impressive but also inspiring, and I’m thankful for the history they’re changing and the future they’re creating. For more information on these queer women and their incredible efforts, keep reading.
Tonyia is a Black, lesbian bishop. She founded the Freedom Center for Social Justice, which focuses on how race, faith, and classism intersect with LGBTQ issues. She was commissioned to start a church in North Carolina that supports people in the LGBTQ community and realized how needed it was by seeing how far people would drive to attend services. Tonyia works hard to encourage religious people to accept the LGBTQ community.
Allison is a trans woman living in Asheville who currently serves as the Director of Impact and Innovation at the Campaign for Southern Equality. She’s established name-change clinics, led support groups, and worked with various politicians, news agencies, and schools to increase equality for the LGBTQIA+ population. In addition, she’s helped create and lead trainings to support the queer community.
Jessica, a queer mother and advocate, focuses on important issues such as LGBTQ+ rights, anti-racism, reproductive health, and more. She’s the founder of Social Justice Storytime, which provides children an opportunity to learn about current issues while teaching adults about white privilege. Additionally, Jessica is the Director of Civic Engagement and Politics at Equality NC.
Lydia, the first openly lesbian mayor of North Carolina, is passionate about inclusion and making spaces safer for the LGBTQ community. Under her leadership, Carrboro now has more gender-neutral bathrooms. She’s also a professor at North Carolina Central University, where she’s taught courses about the intersection of the law and the LGBT community.
Mandy, a Black and lesbian activist, has fought for equality since 1968. She founded multiple social justice organizations and centers her work on peace activism, women’s culture, Black issues, LGBTQ issues, and more. Currently living in Durham, Mandy challenged Jesse Helms, an anti-LGBTQ senator from North Carolina, and was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
These women are only a few of those doing important work in our state. While they’ve made monumental changes, more work has to be done for women’s rights and LGBTQIA+ rights, even now in 2021. For ways you can continue their efforts, some options include reading educational books to your kids, attending a Safe Zone training, and having conversations about discrimination with majority groups.
Ashley Broadwater is a recent graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill, where she studied Public Relations in the Hussman School of Journalism and Media. She’s passionate about mental health, body positivity, relationships, Halloween, and Dad jokes.