Matt Comer, Moderator
Matt Comer is a native of Winston-Salem, N.C., and has lived and worked in Charlotte since 2007. He currently works as communications director of Charlotte Pride, as well as working with several other media, marketing and communications clients. Matt worked as editor of QNotes, the Charlotte-based LGBTQ newspaper of North Carolina, from 2007 to 2015. For two decades, Matt has volunteered and worked professionally for several local, regional and national LGBTQ community organizations. His advocacy and journalism work has been widely cited by a variety of national news-media and academic writers.
Elliott Royal is the Food Access Coordinator for Mecklenburg County Public Health (MCPH). She brings a wealth of knowledge, experience and energy to the department and community. Improving access to healthy food remains a priority for MCPH. She coordinates and manages health education programs that help individuals, families, and communities to improve their access to healthy food. A great accolade during her short time at the MCPH is the opening of the Rosa Parks Farmers Market in the Northwest Corridor.
Nikolai is a queer transgender man hailing from Chatham County, NC. He has been involved with LGBTQ+ activism for five years; his most recent work includes founding the UNC Charlotte LGBTQ+ Coalition and chairing a successful campaign to establish the UNCC LGBTQ+ Center. Nikolai is a Levine Scholar at UNC Charlotte, and majors in political science and international studies. In his free time, he likes to listen to Kate Bush and write.
Heather Vandall-Henson has a Master’s Degree in Social Work and currently employed as an HIV Case Manager at Mecklenburg County Public Health (MCPH). She also owns a business called, Conversations with Heather Vandall-Henson, MSW, which provides trainings and presentations on LGBTQIA issues and HIV basics. Heather is happily married to a thriving Real Estate Agent and they are Mommies to an amazingly intelligent 3 year old.
O'Neale Atkinson IV, LCSWA
O’Neale is the Director of Programs and Services with Time Out Youth Center. He has served as the Center’s Programs Director since 2013. O’Neale has also served as the Operations Manager for the LGBT Center of Charlotte as well as interim editor for Q-Notes, the Carolinas LGBTQ new publication. O’Neale is originally from Chester, South Carolina and completed his Social Work degree at the University of South Carolina in Columbia.
:33 Introductions. What do you do in the community, how do you identify and what are your pronouns?
2:50 The acronym has grown over the years, what do you think about the expansion over time? The spectrum should be as inclusive as possible.
5:47 Taking back offensive words, “queer” and “dyke culture”
10:34 Other labels defined: cisgender, nonbinary/genderqueer/gender fluid, transgender. Words are going to have different meaning to the person that wears them. Need to be aware of that fact. Do not force identities on someone else, let someone else tell you how they identify.
15:17 Generational gaps will also determine the language of identities and we need to be mindful of that fact as well.
16:07 History of why PRIDE month is celebrated in June. Charlotte celebrates pride in August and other communities celebrate pride in June or other times. What does pride mean to you? Community, centering power, resistance, feeling welcomed/acceptance. But we also have to think about danger and safety.
24:50 We are in the South and in the Bible belt, does the role of faith impact your life? There is a mosaic and melting pot of people, that the Bible belt is fading away a bit in Charlotte. Feel more comfortable here being gay in the South. Church and family. Many faith based organizations in Charlotte that are LGBTQIA+ affirming.
34:17 Trans, and especially Trans people of color are some of the most marginalized people in many communities but in Charlotte. What are we seeing on a local level? We all need to be a part of affirming/supporting them with employment, education, healthcare, mental health. Just say “OK”, validate their pronouns. It’s not that hard and doesn’t cost you anything to be that respectful and it saves peoples lives. County has made things better like changing their forms, asking them how they would like to be addressed, and coming to come get clients from the back office.
38:50 Homelessness in youth and Time Out Youth working toward a transitional housing project. Poverty rates are higher on average. If you’ve never gone hungry, you will never understand what it’s like. Often, the conversations are with people who are privileged and it’s a hard plea to make and to represent that population because they don’t know that experience. Also thinking about medical needs and how a healthy diet goes a long way for quality of life. The most people who are food insecure also have a lot of other problems and there are 7 zip codes in Charlotte that are food deserts. There are many layers that add (health care, housing, and transportation, etc) to this and they are all concentrated in the same areas in Charlotte.
43:00 One of the biggest issues within the LGBTIA+ community can be transphobia, racism, and misogynoir. People can be incredibly invasive and ask insensitive questions that are really personal. Also they constantly misgender and say things that alienate instead of welcome the most marginalized within the community. Think about your privilege even though you have a lived experience of oppression.
46:00 One of your favority LGBTQIA+ books or movies : Giovanni’s room by James Baldwin, Don’t Call Me Son, All He Wanted (book), The Brandon Teena Story (documentary), Boys Don’t Cry (drama movie), To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything Julie Newmar
*Here are a few LGBTQIA+ reading lists from the library
Mentioned in the video:
Time Out Youth Center, offers support, advocacy, and opportunities for personal development and social interaction to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning (LGBTQ) youth ages 11-20.
Charlotte Pride, creates programs and activities to enrich, empower, strengthen, and make visible the unique lives and experiences of LGBTQ people in Charlotte and the Carolinas. Which includes the annual Charlotte Pride Festival and Parade (in August), Charlotte Trans Pride, Charlotte Latin Pride, and Reel Out Charlotte film festival. Charlotte Pride will be held August 18-19.
Charlotte Black Gay Pride, is a nonprofit that wants to promote LGBTQIA pride primarily for, but not limited to, members of the Black community while building social awareness, embracing spirituality and celebrating the diversity that exists within our community. Charlotte Black Gay Pride will be held July 25-29 this year.
Rosa Parks Farmers Market, a fruit & vegetable market serving the Greater West Charlotte area. Find out more information here: Farmers Market Offers Healthy Options To One of Charlotte’s Food Deserts.