Camp Pride Chooses to Stay in Charlotte, North Carolina

Duke University student Sydney Roberts shouts during a protest against House Bill 2 on Thursday, March 24, 2016, outside of t
Duke University student Sydney Roberts shouts during a protest against House Bill 2 on Thursday, March 24, 2016, outside of the Governor's Mansion on North Blount Street in downtown Raleigh, N.C. (Jill Knight/Raleigh News & Observer/TNS via Getty Images)

This week I received another message asking whether Camp Pride was going to be held this July in Charlotte, North Carolina. The message read as follows:

Is there any discussion about changing the location of Camp Pride and the Advisor Bootcamp? We have budgeted dollars... However, if the current law in North Carolina does not change or Camp Pride and Advisor Bootcamp are not relocated to a state that does not have state sanctioned discrimination, we will likely divert our conference dollars...

Camp Pride is the nation's premier college social justice and leadership training for LGBTQ and ally young adults. This summer the camp will be celebrating its 10 year anniversary. The 5 day program also features an Advisor Bootcamp and professional track for staff and administrators working with LGBTQ students. We relocated Camp Pride last year to Charlotte and for the last six years we have held the camp in the South. Campus Pride has always called Charlotte our home and still today is one of only a handful of national organizations based and founded in the South.

Whether to move the camp has been weighing heavy on my mind with the passage of House Bill 2 (HB 2) and our decision has become even more critical as the momentum for boycotting the State of North Carolina continues. Safety for our transgender and nonbinary students and staff is our utmost concern and we have been seriously considering all our options. As the Executive Director of Campus Pride, I find myself needing to make a decision on something that hits at the heart of activism and why we do what we do.

When Campus Pride was founded in 2001, I intentionally chose Charlotte, North Carolina. I felt it was important to build a national LGBTQ organization in the South. It never made sense to me why national LGBTQ organizations all had to be in Los Angeles, New York or Washington, D.C. My own personal lessons in coming out had taught me that simply living my life openly as an active leader within a community could make a positive difference. Why not have more national organizations actually based and operated in areas with little or no LGBTQ visibility?

Over the last fifteen years by being based in Charlotte, Campus Pride has invested tremendous resources into the local community and across the state supporting LGBTQ youth. This past week, we assisted with several protests against HB 2 by students within the UNC system. We also reached out to North Carolina private colleges including Davidson College, Guilford College, Queens University and Elon University to issue statements about HB 2. As a result of being part of the Charlotte community, our organization is often a partner in all kinds of local events and gatherings. Our organization even spoke the night that the Charlotte Non-Discrimination Ordinance passed at the Charlotte City Council meeting. All of us were very proud of the victory that night. Charlotte did the right thing -- and as an organization we still are proud to call Charlotte our home.

After much discussion and careful consideration, Campus Pride has decided not to move Camp Pride from Charlotte this July. To address the safety concerns, we are taking pro-active measures to hold the camp at a private conference center or a college with LGBTQ inclusive policies and practices in place. Gender inclusive restrooms will be the standard regardless of the HB 2 law.

Activism and leadership takes conviction and fighting hard for what is just. That is what Campus Pride, and Camp Pride, teaches today's LGBTQ and ally leaders as social justice advocates. If we as a movement are to change hearts and minds in places like North Carolina, then we cannot run away or leave stranded LGBTQ people or organizations boldly living and making difficult but positive strides in the South. This is particularly true for our transgender youth and LGBTQ youth of color activism which desperately needs us.

Yes, I understand and support the need to put pressure on the Governor and the state lawmakers to repeal HB 2. Those efforts should be focused on banning travel for non-LGBTQ events, moving events like the NBA All-Star Game or cancelling a Bruce Springsteen concert.

Canceling or moving LGBTQ specific events, like Camp Pride, seems counter-intuitive. Trust me, the politicians who voted for HB 2 would be thrilled to hear that their actions kept a national LGBTQ organization from hosting their annual leadership academy in Charlotte. One of my young adult leaders who recently graduated college in Florida had the right idea: "We should be 'glitter-fying' North Carolina right now!"

I agree wholeheartedly. We should flood the state with LGBTQ events and activities. Rainbows and glitter everywhere, as if everyday was a Pride Parade. Together we should show visible support and solidarity for leaders and organizations in North Carolina and other states battling these so-called religious freedom bills.

Financially the actions of North Carolina lawmakers could negatively impact the budget of organizations like Campus Pride and jeopardize the future of our signature program Camp Pride from training another decade of LGBTQ and ally youth leaders. Attendance may likely be lower this year if individuals are concerned about safety or boycotting the State of North Carolina.

If the 90 plus corporations who signed onto the Human Rights Campaign open letter to repeal HB 2 would consider giving a thousand dollars each, we could double youth attendance at Camp Pride. Those are the types of actions we need right now in the State of North Carolina. Solidarity and perseverance in the face of adversity.

While Campus Pride is going to take every precaution we can to ensure safety, I fully respect any individual or college who chooses not to send their LGBTQ or ally student or staff to Camp Pride this July. I do hope you will read, share and discuss this article in making your decision. I am also willing to speak to anyone by phone.

If we are ever to achieve "lived equality," than this is the hard work ahead of us.