Less than three weeks ago, in the lead-up to Trans Day of Visibility, we reported that the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) had tracked a record number of anti-LGBTQ+ bills introduced in state legislatures across the country. In the short time since then, the numbers have nearly doubled.
According to HRC, as of April 3, more than 800 anti-LGBTQ+ bills had been filed countrywide, up from 435 on March 21. More than 110 of those bills would limit or prevent transgender people from accessing gender-affirming care, while others target curriculum censorship, drag performances and bathroom bans.
This week in North Carolina, House Bill 574, which would ban trans students from participating on the team consistent with their gender, passed through the N.C. House in a 73-39 vote, while Republicans also introduced new legislation to restrict drag performances around the state.
According to Bethany Corrigan (they/them), director of Transcend Charlotte, the increase in legislation targeting a marginalized community is the first step in a process that consistently follows progress. The next step is often an increase in violence.
“It’s very clear when anti-trans legislation is filed that it’s retaliatory in some nature,” Corrigan told Queen City Nerve.
Regardless of how many of these bills pass, and many of them already have, Corrigan warned that they will make an inarguable impact across society and take an immeasurable mental and emotional toll on the LGBTQ+ community.
Queer Prom, scheduled for April 22 at Resident Culture’s Central Avenue location, aims to be an event that celebrates queer joy in a time when that can be hard to find. It will serve as the inaugural premier event for the recently opened Carolinas CARE Partnership (CCP) LGBTQ+ Life Center, with the help of new CCP program member Transcend Charlotte, an advocacy organization that issues free social support and services to the trans community.
“[Queer Prom is a reminder] that we don’t have to earn rest. We don’t have to earn enjoyment … and kindness and community,” Corrigan said. “Those things are inherent rights.”
Tickets to Queer Prom are $15, though anyone who requests a complimentary ticket will receive one, said Corrigan. Hosted by TopCats cheerleader Justine Lindsay and local comedian Shaine O. Laine, the event will include a Prom Court of various gender-affirming titles (Themperor, The Royalty, King, Queen), a raffle, low-sensory spaces, food and beverage vendors, a photo booth and more.
Queer Prom is the first large event dedicated to and in honor of CCP’s new LGBTQ+ Life Center, Corrigan said, with all proceeds going to fund the center and CCP and Transcend’s programming, including mental health programs and direct resource programs like support groups.
The Carolinas CARE Partnership
Founded in 1990 as Charlotte’s first Ryan White Care administrator, the Carolinas CARE Partnership was one of the area’s first LGBTQ+ advocacy organizations, helping those who lived with or risked contracting HIV. Today, CCP offers in-house and mobile testing for HIV, syphilis and Hepatitis C, as well as medical case management for anyone who needs it following a test.
Located at 5855 Executive Center Drive, the newly opened CCP LGBTQ+ Life Center also includes the Xpression Space, an affirming place for trans and questioning folks to explore their gender expression. Originally launched by Transcend Charlotte and formerly known as Transcloset, the Space is stocked with clothing, shoes, wigs, makeup and gender-affirming specialty items like binders and packers. Transcend also offers free haircuts through The Space.
The caseload is currently full for mental health therapy, but folks are welcome to get on the waitlist or join existing peer groups, Corrigan said.
They also mentioned the Center is working on expanding its housing programs in Charlotte and will help folks get in line to receive a subsidy and support those finding alternate options while they wait.
For people who use substances, the Center can connect them with harm-reduction items like drug lock boxes and pill disposal packs while also providing education, direct referrals and enrollment services if they’re interested in ending their addiction.
“Anytime we’re given a platform [it’s important to] make sure that the community knows that we are never content where we’re at,” Corrigan said. “We’re always pursuing more for the community.”
They added that the Life Center also has a small food pantry, a small computer lab and, through Transcend, is able to offer name change workshops and referrals for legal advocates.
Beginning in May, the Life Center will launch a Drop-In Space as an affirming, dedicated space for LGBTQ+ community members and people living with or at risk for HIV. The Drop-In Space will be held on the first and third Saturdays of the month beginning May 6 from 9 a.m.-1 p.m.
Corrigan told Queen City Nerve that, while the center is currently located in CCP’s existing offices, the organization is pursuing corporate, government and community partnerships to establish a standalone building for the center within the next 18 months.
Events like Queer Prom help CCP and Transcend raise awareness around those efforts, but more importantly, celebrate the LGBTQ+ community.
Corrigan said launching the CCP LGBTQ+ Life Center and simultaneously hosting Queer Prom is a message to everyone in the community that in the face of these attacks, they refuse to back down and will continually open doors.
“And if we’re finding those doors are nailed shut, well, then we’re just gonna figure out a different way to tunnel through.”
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