The South Is Not a New Frontier: An Open Letter to the Human Rights Campaign

Dear HRC,

I read last week's Washington Post piece claiming that you are trailblazing a "new frontier" by turning your attention to the South, and I'd like to share some thoughts.

I'm a gay man from East Tennessee. I came out at 19, and I started organizing for marriage equality in 2004, when I was 22 and a senior at the University of Tennessee. I met community elders who had been doing the hard work of organizing (and surviving) for generations before me, and I quickly understood that I wasn't a trailblazer. I fit into a larger history of struggle, and I stood on the shoulders of those who'd come before me. We reached out to your organization for support for the work we were doing, but no one so much as returned a phone call until we had national media for an event.

Welcome to the South, but this is not a new frontier. Take some time to get to know the local communities who have been building bridges, winning and losing campaigns, and making a difference for generations. Enter these communities with humility and a beginner's mind. And please, please don't erase the rich history and culture of the queer South just because you finally started paying attention.

Onward in the march for respect, dignity, and opportunity for all people,
Kip Williams