As I pack for three months in Little Rock, I’m troubled by a new wave of anti-LGBT activity in the South. North Carolina and Alabama have passed anti-equality laws; Georgia’s governor, Nathan Deal, just vetoed something similar in his state. The South’s latest attempts to turn back the clock on equality are thankfully galvanizing a growing resistance; I thank Governor Deal and so does Marc Benioff, CEO of SaleForce, with this video:
When I was a teen in the throes of “figuring things out”, I happened upon a program about Harvey Milk on late night TV. It was confusing and exciting and startling. I watched it with the volume way down low, jumping to change channels if I heard the slightest noise. There were places in the world where I could openly be me? That was one of the most profound moments of my life. It would be years before college took me to Philadelphia where I found my haven city and a few familiar faces at the gay bars. Despite how it felt at the time, I wasn’t the only gay teenager in Pottsville. I also wasn’t the only one to find refuge and opportunity in the city of Brotherly Love despite Pennsylvania generally offering neither.
Back then I had another lifeline to a more accepting world, Channel 33 on CompuServe’s CB simulator. This pre-Internet chat technology let me talk to gay people across the country. Not only did I know there were other gay people outside of Pottsville, but I could talk to them anytime from the privacy of my room on my TRS-80 Model III. It wasn’t an easy road to coming out all the way, but technology certainly helped and has forever been inextricably linked with finding myself.
That’s why I take great pride in seeing technology companies like Salesforce and Apple stand against what’s going on. North Carolina’s discovering they cannot act without consequences from both the public and private sectors. It’s no surprise technology companies have become such strong advocates: many of us retreated from a hateful real world into the growing, more accepting virtual one. Now that virtual world is reaching back into the real one to say, “No.” It’s socially unacceptable and it’s bad for the bottom line.
And so yesterday NBC reported that the Arkansas Attorney General is attempting to block LGBT protection in places including Little Rock–where I’ll be working for three months as a part of the HubX Life Sciences Accelerator. So my feelings are mixed as I get ready to head South and potentially travel back into a past I was happy to leave there. As states, Arkansas and Pennsylvania are strikingly similar (and bad on) gay rights, but I live in Philadelphia, City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection. Things are different here. I love the home I’ve made. It’s not clear if Little Rock is or will remain different from “greater” Arkansas for much longer. Let’s see what we can do about that.