Category Archives: N.C. Politics

So I guess this is it…

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When I started this blog, the intention was to capture my thoughts and feelings, critiques and celebrations as I went through the wedding process as a lesbian living in North Carolina.

I am thankful I set a cut off date because I never wanted this blog to drag on forever with occasional posts that never mean much to anyone. Nor did I want it to be purely political. It was about all the different parts of my journey up through last Saturday. So I guess this is it, this will probably be my last post. At least until the wedding pictures come in and I can add a slideshow for folks to see.

I learned a lot on this journey, mostly how to be thankful for the folks who never treated my wedding weekend differently than anyone else’s simply because I was marry a woman: Pastor Kelly and my Green Street family, the folks at all three David’s Bridal stores, the caterers, the jewelers,  my family and friends. I learned that sometimes the world is awful to gay folks, but many times it’s not. I found that for me, the actual process of saying my vows and having other community members bear witness to my permanent relationship with Marianne means more than any piece of legal paperwork ever could.

I love you all, I mean it. I’ll still be around in some form or fashion, but for now this is it. There’s an ending here, but it’s also a beginning for me. I quoted bell hooks on the “About” page of this blog She’s also applicable here:

I still think it’s important for people to have a sharp, ongoing critique of marriage in patriarchal society — because once you marry within a society that remains patriarchal, no matter how alternative you want to be within your unit, there is still a culture outside you that will impose many, many values on you whether you want them to or not.

I’m grateful for all this blog’s readers who stuck with me for the past 11 months, encouraged me both in person and through the blogosphere and gave me a reason to continue each week. I sincerely hope that you all gained as much as I did throughout this process.

Shout out to Green Street UMC!

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Go Green Street

I’ve always known that Green Street is one heck of an amazing place, but now it’s official – Green Street was named “Best LGBT-Affirming Faith Institution in the Triad” for 2012 by Q Notes, a Charlotte, N.C.-based gay and lesbian newspaper.

During the Amendment 1 campaign, Green Street sort of became the go-to place to hold meetings, have events and get support from. Along with other houses of worship in Winston-Salem, we showed the so-called Christians who were actively voting against my rights as a lesbian that not all religious-based institutions feel the same way.

And Green Street did it all without ever catering specifically to the gay community, but by sticking to our 2009 Reconciling Statement which calls us to love everyone:

Green Street United Methodist Church is called to the ministry of the sacred worth of all people. We embrace as a gift the diversity of our neighborhood and the world. We celebrate our human family’s diversity of sexual orientation, gender identity, race, ethnicity, age, faith history, economic status, marital status, physical and mental ability education, and any other difference, real or perceived. We affirm that all people are created in the image of God and as beloved children of God, all are worthy of God’s love and grace. We welcome the full inclusion of all people in the life and ministries of Green Street United Methodist Church as we journey toward reconciliation through Christ. We recognize that there are differences among us, but believe that we can love alike even though we may not think alike. We proclaim this statement of welcome to all who have known the pain of exclusion and discrimination in the church or in society and know that everyone’s participation in our ministries enriches us. We invite all people to join us in our faith journey toward greater love, understanding, and mutual respect.

I am so proud to be a member here and seriously, if you’re looking for a church in Winston no matter who you are, check us out. If you’re curious about some of the work we’re a part of, check my blog here and here.

Seriously…go Green Street!

A 3-minute perspective change

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You’ve got to fight…for your right…well…just for your rights, actually.

Sometimes I love my job as a community newspaper education reporter. I always like it, but today I love it.

I’m writing a story about the North Carolina Pre-Kindergarten program designed to serve at-risk children who otherwise wouldn’t get a high quality education before they started Kindergarten. Long story short, the N.C. legislature wrote a section in their 2011 budget bill that placed a 20 percent cap on the number of at-risk children allowed to enroll in NCPK, as well as imposed a co-payment on children attending and drastically decreased the NCPK funding. Certain counties challenged the law and in July 2012 a judge ruled that the state was in the wrong – all eligible at-risk children must have access to NCPK with no “artificial barriers” like co-payments. The state balked and appealed the ruling but on Aug. 21, an appeals court upheld the July ruling.

All this matters because if the ruling stands and the state doesn’t appeal it (again), more than 700 children in my county could have access to a high-quality pre-k program they might otherwise never get.

As part of my story, I ended up speaking with Rev. William Barber, president of the N.C. State Conference of the NAACP who reminded me how important it is to continue to push for what’s right, regardless of party affiliation.

This shouldn’t be a Republican or Democrat issue. 144 years ago blacks and whites together guaranteed public education to every child (by way of the state constitution).

In the end, Barber said the legislature continues to hurt the most vulnerable in N.C.’s population, the 24.7 percent of the state’s children living in poverty, to protect their own interests.

This is bad for all children at risk. If you help children early, you ensure their success and ensure future of state and county.

Along those same lines, I got thinking about my rights as a lesbian in America. Currently North Carolina has a state legislature who just bullied an amendment that violates my rights through their ranks and got the voters to approve it in May and America is ripe to have the worst federal government in recent history for women and LGBTQ folks if voters don’t pay attention.

If the legislature can’t even abide by what’s been in the state constitution for 144 years, the right to a “basic, sound public education,” then what hope do I have that they will protect my (currently non-existent) rights to love who I want to love and to have all the legal protection necessary to care for my family?

I don’t, so it falls to me and other voters to get informed, educate others and work to gain legal and election victories in November and beyond.

Tuesday I was feeling a bit jaded and over the whole activist thing. Funny how one little three-minute phone conversation can change your perspective.

Preferred names

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Yay!

I finally got my official business cards in after ordering on the first day of work…Katherine Ayers, education reporter. I think it sounds ok and from the 25+ likes I got on the photo, I’m guessing others thought it was neato as well.

But it got me thinking about preferred names…again.

While I represent my self as Katherine (Katie) Ayers at work and in the community, at every turn I’m reminded that that’s not who I really am (yet). My credit cards, bank statements, student loans, Social Security Card, birth certificate…most everything that constitutes me as legal still requires me to be Katherine Booher which is not who I want to be anymore. Some days I feel I’m living a split-life. Half the time I’m Ayers and the other half, usually at inconvenient times when I don’t want to think about it, the government yanks me back and says “no, no…for a bit longer we require you to be someone other than who you are.”

Fortunately it’s only the government and once I work within their (stupid) rules, my preferred name will match up with my legal one.

In some ways, I’m glad  it’s just my last name I want changed, and I’m doing it at a point where no one at work and in the community knew me as anyone else anyhow so there’s nothing “new” for most people to get used to. But I got thinking about folks in the LGBTQ community who, for whatever reason, want to change their first name. Maybe they’re transitioning, maybe their uber-girly name doesn’t fit them and they want more than just a nickname. I’m sure there are stories where the transition was great and the preferred name stuck with no issues, but I can only imagine how frustrating and lonely it must be for some folks to ask people to use their preferred name only to get called their birth name months later.

I’m picturing a person standing at the bottom of the Grand Canyon where everything echoes and screaming at the top of their lungs “My Name Is JANE!” only to come to the top and have the first person you meet say “Hi, Jim,” either out of ignorance or disrespect or both.

My friend Elis, who recently chose that name, wrote their thoughts about it. I hope they don’t mind I’m linking to a part of their blog post:

One of the hardest things I’ve ever done is name myself. The realization that I could have a name that genders me correctly on paper and in speech, that has never been used to abuse me, only recently dawned on me. Once I knew who I could be, though, I couldn’t turn back. Now, I face the issues of being a college student, a leader, activist, and a member of many communities, and having to come out all over again. The ability to name oneself is a privilege; often, we elect to be known by our middle names, or by nicknames, or unrelated names altogether that happen to be gender-appropriate and justifiable. My transition, though, isn’t so easily justified. The old worries of inconveniencing those that I care about with my queerity have more than returned. Who am I to ask so many to reorient their mindsets for the sake of my identity? I’ve only told a few people my name, though I’ve more than claimed it in my self-narration. I’ve whispered it to empty rooms, but haven’t yet spoken it aloud to another person. It’s been a process with new challenges and encounters of privilege and justification.

All this to say, when a person (whom you’ve never met or with whom you’ve been best friends with since toddlerhood or a sibling) introduces themselves to you, or to anyone in your presence, take the name they say as truth. Don’t question it (in that exact moment anyway), certainly don’t correct them and understand that they chose the name carefully. If you’re (genuinely) curious, ask them politely in a private setting why they chose the name they chose (and maybe, only maybe) why they did it. In the end it’s none of your business anyhow and if they choose not to share there’s probably a reason for that. In time they will, or not.

Your only job responsibility is to love them exactly how and where and who they are.

Are you out or in?

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It seems lately that “coming out,” the term for declaring yourself to be some sexual orientation other than straight, is the thing to do. Just last week both journalist Anderson Cooper and R&B singer Frank Ocean came out in some way or another.

Thinking about it, it seems such an odd thing to do, this announcing to the world that you are not heterosexual. Certainly straight people don’t announce that they’re not gay. Which may be precisely why some LGBTQ folks feel they have to come out. Their coming out may be a way of destabalizing or decentering heterosexuality – intentionally queering the space.

But then I read an article (part two) by Darnell Moore on The Feminist Wire today which questions whether LGBTQ folks should “come out” at all. If we shouldn’t instead “invite in” those we care about and those with whom we want to share this intimate information about ourselves.

According to Moore, before WWII,  “coming out” used to be seen as a “coming into” gay society rather than any sort of political act in response to the heterosexual norm. It was more debutante ball than long dark hallway. Only in the 1970s did coming out become a political act and begin to function as a way to overcome heterosexist oppression. Since the 70s, that act of protest has slowly turned into a requirement rather than a choice.

 Where is the space for agency, or one’s volition, desire and choice to name oneself as s/he deems appropriate?

Coming out is now so important for “the LGBTQ movement” that “the movement” forgets that real people can get really hurt if they are not ready to disclose their non-straight sexuality.

‘Coming out’ and its many derivatives (i.e. (Inter)National Coming Out; coming out Campaigns; outings; etc.) seems too closely connected to the decimation of  ‘the closet’ (a Stonewall-esque political aim) and less on the building up of LGBTQ persons and particularly those LGBTQ persons, whom for many reasons like  socio-cultural, neighborhood, religious, or familial contexts, may find the process of ‘coming out’ to be more harmful than helpful.

From there, Moore spins off into the direction of “inviting people in” rather than coming out. The idea is that when you invite people to know things about you, you retain agency over yourself.

‘Coming in’ functions as a means of hospitable sharing, a choice to disclose to those with whom we may feel safe disclosing to, a choice to disclose when we feel ready to do so, and an opportunity to subvert heteronormativity by refusing to other ourselves, that is, to self-disclose as a means of compliance with the unspoken demand placed on all non-straight identified individuals to name ourselves as sexual minorities out of  fear of being named ‘straight’ and abnormal.

In some sense, I think Moore is playing a game of semantics. By coming out to my parents, I invited them in to share my world. I was already out (as out as I could be living under DADT in the Air Force), so telling my parents was an act of inviting them in.

It was also necessary. They were coming to visit for my birthday and I couldn’t very well hide the fact that my girlfriend at the time was living with me and our schedules were too crazy to permit taking the time to “unqueer” my room.

This is where I disagree with Moore. I think it’s necessary to be out rather than optional.

  • When I visit the gynecologist, I am not particularly close with them, but they need to know that although I do not sleep with men I am sexually active because it helps me get appropriate health care;
  • I have talked to my wedding caterer twice now, but in that first conversation he asked me if my husband wanted any special food and so I told him it was a same-sex wedding. I live in the south and I don’t want a (possibly) awkward confrontation on my wedding day when he suddenly discovers that it’s two women;
  • When I was single, it was more efficient to let men know right off the bat why I was not interested rather than them think I was playing coy.

Earlier today, I asked Facebook, by way of a status message, if coming out was still relevant or if discovering you were LGBTQ and then living your life authentically was enough. Two opposite responses I got were interesting.

Jess felt that coming out possibly meant furthering stereotypes of GLBTQ folks as fickle in their sexuality:

I have always had the issue with what to come out as… And with the fear that it would change again and further the stereotype that we don’t know what we want… I say live your life authentically!!!

And then Candice who had to re-come out:

I think it’s still relevant…I had to re-come out to some folks when I started dating Jon, which was a really weird experience. I tried to get by without the re-identifying, but it just didn’t work that well.

I totally understand that I am in a privileged place to be able to come out as a lesbian and live my life as I see fit. I don’t struggle daily with wondering who knows or doesn’t know. I believe in living my life authentically, which for me includes my sexuality, but I also think it’s politically necessary for people to know that I am not straight.

Moore says that coming out only reinforces the binary of “straight/gay, normativity/alterity” and that the more radical thing to do would be to create a “personal/political space that we are no longer forced to come out from, but available for us to invite others into. I just don’t believe we’re at a place in history yet that allows us to skip the coming out/inviting in step altogether.

What about you? Is coming out still relevant, or does Moore’s concept of inviting in resonant better with you? Comments and thoughts are welcomed and encouraged.

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Don’t Forget! Support the name change!

Any amount is helpful, we’ve got until the end of July to raise the money…we’re up to $237 which gets us two sets of fingerprints a piece, covers the cost of the federal and state background checks for both of us and gives us money for one of the name change application. We’re still looking to cover the other $120 for the second application and some money for dinner… We’re looking to raise $375 – only $138 to go!

What does $375 get us?

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Loads of paperwork…Can I go out and play now?

Just as an FYI, I thought I should detail exactly what the “Name Change and Dinner to Celebrate” fund is actually going towards, what’s been done already and what is still left to do.

Two sets of fingerprints each – $20 total

  • Even though Marianne is currently a uniformed Police Officer and I served in the military, we are still required to have background checks;
  • To accomplish this, they need a new set of fingerprints from each of us;
  • Finished – June 28.

State and Federal background checks – $28 total for the state and $32 total for the federal

  • Again, even though Marianne is a PO and I was in the military, we need these to prove we’re not changing our names to hide from the law;
  • The state requests were sent to Raleigh, NC and the federal request got sent to somewhere in West Virginia;
  • Finished – June 28;
  • Now we wait for the results to come in, hopefully sooner rather than later, although both info sheets said it could take three to four weeks;
  • State background check results received July 7.

Filing the name change request – $240 total in Forsyth County

  • Once the background checks come back, we will be able to actually file the paperwork for the request;
  • This includes hanging our intent for a name change notice on some board in the Clerk of Courts office;
  • This also includes having three (3) friends sign affidavits testifying to our character;
  • Ideally this will be done before we move but depending on when the background checks come back, we may have to file in Pitt County. Luckily Greenville, NC is the county seat so all the offices we need are a five mile drive from our new place;
  • Currently waiting on the results of the background check.

Dinner to celebrate – $55

  • I’m not actually sure we’ll get a $55 dinner, in fact I can’t really imagine doing that ever;
  • Let’s just say dinner + the cost of mailing stuff, gas, time and effort and other incidentals;
  • Hopefully around July 31, assuming everything stays on schedule.

So there you have it, I will update you all as the the progress as it occurs. Slow and steady may win the race, but fast and furious is more fun. I am so not a fan of waiting. My grandmother used to say that patience was a virtue, just not one of hers and I fast fear that that’s becoming my mantra as well. Oy vey.

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Don’t Forget! Support the name change!

Any amount is helpful, we’ve got until the end of July to raise the money…we’re up to $237 which gets us two sets of fingerprints a piece, covers the cost of the federal and state background checks for both of us and gives us money for dinner.. We’re looking to raise $375 – only $138 to go!

And then there’s my dad..

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Dad and I working on a section of Judy’s log cabin circa 2010 I think…

On the day that Marianne and I decided to (begin the process to) change our last names to Ayers, I sent both my parents an email.

It basically explained why we had chosen to change our names, what the name meant to us, and that yes, we had weighed all the options and realized what it was going to cost but that we were still going through with it. I also asked that while I was open to (and in fact would love to have) a conversation about the name change, they would respect our decision.

That was Monday. And until last night there had been silence. Then I got an email from my dad.

I have yet to hear from my mom which is fine, she’s always been supportive of me and my life and relationships, even if she didn’t agree with the way I was choosing to do things. She also once spent five days with me at the Virginia Women’s Music Festival and she was the first person I called when I decided to out myself to my Air Force ROTC commander and begin the discharge process under Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.

My dad is different. He’s always been quietly supportive of me and my relationship with Marianne, but he’s also always said that who is doing what with whom is no one’s business but the two people involved. Live and let live sorta thing. Which is why his email sort of caught me off guard. It read, in part:

Hi Kate, Kate Ayers, this is something else that I will get used to. I’m up for change. I understand your reasons for the change, and I understand the problems that many gay couples have with different names, so I guess this is as good of time to make the change as ever. When is it that you think that you are going to do the change? Let me know as you do with most other things.

In then, in my dad’s typical fashion, he started talking about the wood he and his girlfriend Judy are using for the barn they’re building on her property and the fact that the weather is 100 degrees in Ohio.

It’s not that I was ever worried that he wouldn’t love and support me just like’s done a thousand times before, it was just nice to get an email about it is all.

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Don’t Forget! Support the name change!

Any amount is helpful, we’ve got until the end of July to raise the money…we’re up to $77 which gets us two sets of fingerprints a piece, covers the cost of the federal background check for both of us and gives us $15 for dinner.. We’re looking to raise $375 – only $298 to go!