Hundreds act to end bullying of lesbian couple

By Scott Williams
Raleigh, N.C. FIST

Some 200 people rallied at a Raleigh shopping center Oct. 17 to support a lesbian couple. A security guard had ejected the couple from the property three days earlier for displaying affection towards one another.

Demonstrators defend rights of lesbian couple<br>at shopping mall in Raleigh, N.c.
Demonstrators defend rights of lesbian couple
at Cameron Village shopping mall in Raleigh, N.C.
FIST photo: Scott Williams

Holding signs which read, “Being OUT Saves Lives” and “Bullying: Just Another Word for Violence,” the energetic crowd denounced the ejection as yet another incidence of bullying and oppression of lesbian, gay, bi, trans and queer people.

Caitlin Breedlove, one of the women ejected from the Cameron Village Shopping Center, connected issues of privatization of public space with the rights of oppressed people. Speaking to the demonstrators, she said that “even on private property, LGBTQ people have the right to respect and safety. Only by reclaiming public space as our own, so we can be who we are everywhere!”

Caitlin Breedlove tells supporters: ‘Harness<br>the power of unity to demand dignity.’
Caitlin Breedlove tells supporters: ‘Harness
the power of unity to demand dignity.’

Breedlove, an activist with Southerners on New Ground, an organization of working-class people, people of color, immigrants and rural LGBTQ people based in the South, made the strong connections between oppression based on race, class, gender and sexuality. “Only by harnessing the power of unity to demand dignity” can the struggle to end oppression win, said Breedlove.

Imani Henry, a trans activist and co-founder of Rainbow Flags for Mumia, gave a fiery speech to the crowd, declaring, “This is not an issue of just two individuals. It is systematic. The bashing and murdering of LGBTQ people across the country occurs all of the time. The reality is that the media and ultimately the U.S. government don’t want to talk about why there are not equal protections for the safety and dignity of LGBTQ people.”

Due to the outpouring of support for the couple, including thousands of e-mails to the property owners, all of their demands have been met. York Properties, the owner of the shopping mall as well as many other Raleigh properties, is now requiring all security guards to participate in anti-oppression trainings. Breedlove and her partner were also given a written apology for their ejection by the property owner.

Immediately following the rally, participants were invited to the “snuggle-in” in the shopping center. LGBTQ and heterosexual couples transformed the shopping center into a queer-positive space, one where everyone can be treated with respect and dignity.

At a moment when we see the heartbreaking suicides of young people who are lesbian, gay, bi or trans or perceived as such by their peers, we also see a strong movement to resist homophobia and bullying. Just several days before the ejection of the couple from Cameron Village was National Coming Out Day — Oct. 11 — a day in which thousands of people spread a message of support for the equality and safety of LGBTQ people.

The show of unity with the couple ejected from Cameron Village is just one more example of how the struggle for LGBTQ liberation, connected to the struggle against the oppression of women, immigrants, workers and people of color, can win victory over the oppressors and take us one step closer to the kind of world in which we deserve to live.


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