Since the passage of North Carolina’s House Bill 2 in March, the LGBT community and its allies have raised their voices nationwide and elected to let their dollars do the talking.
Multimillion-dollar corporations, sports franchises and international music acts have jumped on board the boycott wagon, and the effect has taken its toll on the state’s economy.
I applaud their efforts. Boycotts are often successful in effecting change–but often not for the reasons you think. North Carolina’s lawmakers have demonstrated that they really don’t care how negatively the economy is impacted by Bruce Springsteen, the NBA, Pay Pal, and all the other entities that refuse to do business there.
Just a few weeks ago, NC Commerce Secretary John Skvarla blithely said, “it’s business as usual” in the state.
However, the damage to the state’s reputation has been so severe that some North Carolinians, including LGBT Pride and other organizations have openly worried that a boycott will bring unfair collateral damage to their communities and goals.
True, Charlotte Pride’s producers breathed a sign of relief when 130,000 attendees showed up at their annual celebration on August 21 (up 10% over 2015 numbers) while 51,000 people attended the Out Raleigh Festival in May.
But all Pride and LGBT organizations in the state have suffered from criticism and even outright derision, not only from the run-of-the-mill homophobes but also from within the LGBT community itself.
Campus Pride, the only national LGBT youth organization based in the South, chose not to move its premier summer leadership academy this July from its home in Charlotte. The organization did not want to abandon LGBT youth in the state. As a result of an LGBT boycott, the organization is looking at a $35,000 loss.
Earlier this summer, GayTravel.com asked their readers if HB2 would negatively impact their plans to visit the state. Pretty much everyone who responded said, “Yes.” One respondent said, “My family and I have spent a week or more in Carolina Beach every year for about five years. This year, we will look elsewhere.”
As the marketing director for Outer Banks Pride, I personally felt the organization’s angst over a slow start to this year’s ticket sales. Those numbers are supported by comments from the LGBT community posted on the OBX Pridefest social media pages.
They range from uniformed assumptions that the event was cancelled because of HB2 to concerns about being arrested in the public bathrooms to outright anger from one commenter who wrote, “I won’t spend a dollar in your hateful state.”
Which raises the question: What is the HB2 boycott of North Carolina trying to accomplish, and is it working?
Each boycott has a different strategy and approach, but successful ones all have a similar formula: to raise the economic and political costs of doing business as usual, to the point those decision-makers — whether lawmakers or corporate CEOs — are forced to change course.
And while it appears that HB2’s political fallout may result in a change of leadership come November, the economic boycott seems to be falling on deaf legislative ears.
Meanwhile LGBT North Carolinians are feeling varying degrees of abandonment by individuals within its own community who refuse to spend their dollars there.
While I certainly understand sticking to a deeply-held moral principle, the end result is that the Tarheel queer and trans community feels as if everyone’s running away–or at least not dedicating support to the state’s LGBT organizations.
I grew up in North Carolina, and I still have deep roots there. I have on occasion found being in North Carolina stifling to my LGBT identity. But it’s my home, and it’s home to hundreds of thousands of queer and trans people and their allies, many of whom are my friends. I am speaking for them when I ask that before offering up your personal boycott of our state, you consider the potential impacts.
Don’t leave us now when we need you most to show your pride.