ABOUT WILLIAM: William Southerland is a professional musician and music teacher living central North Carolina. He teaches music in a school full-time currently, and will soon be starting his PhD in music education. He holds a NC teaching license for Music K-12 and is certified in the Kodaly music education method. In addition to his teaching, William is the conductor and Artistic Director of the Triad Pride Men’s Chorus in Greensboro, NC. In his spare time, William enjoys photography, composition, cooking, and getting outdoors. He also loves staying fit, especially his yoga classes at the YMCA.
ABOUT THE TRIAD PRIDE MEN’S CHORUS: The Triad Pride Men’s Chorus performs choral music to entertain, enlighten, and enrich while promoting equality and social justice for all people regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity–fostering pride, understanding and acceptance. Music helps to express the common human experience that we all share both within the gay community and with our broader audience. We hope to affirm each individual’s self worth by promoting diversity in the community, by providing a safe environment for all to learn and to share, and by reaching out through our music to evoke human compassion and understanding.
Why is LGBT activism still so important?
Plain and simple: Among other reasons, activism in North Carolina is still vitally important because of legislation like HB2, the recent state law forbidding local cities and counties from protecting LGBT people against discrimination. However, while the law itself is reprehensible and must be repealed, it’s what the law represents that is the most disgusting. Discrimination and prejudice against LGBT people in our state today is no longer actually about “family values.” Instead, laws like HB2 are political posturing by ruthless politicians preying on the fear of an uninformed electorate to destroy the working class. We must destroy once and for all these absurd beliefs that LGBT people are anything other than ordinary, hard-working, upstanding citizens.
By being visible and vocal representatives of the gay community throughout North Carolina, LGBT activists expose our fellow citizens, especially those in rural and underserved areas, to people they may not know or meet in their own communities. In this way, we directly protect the rights and dignity of both LGBT people in North Carolina and more broadly help all people to live happier, more successful lives.
What’s an important issue facing the LGBT community that we aren’t addressing as well as we should?
I think that, in general, our local and national LGBT organizations are doing a good job of advocating for and securing the rights and protections that LGBT people deserve. I would like to see continued advocacy for transgender people, as well as continued legal protection at the state level preventing discrimination against LGBT people in housing, employment, and public services.
What inspires your activism?
I was lucky to grow up when I did, able to openly watch Will and Grace and Queer as Folk as a teenager. I had adult gay role models at school and adult family friends who were out gay people. And yet, coming out was STILL hard for me. My parents questioned me and themselves, and I was terrified of what my peers would think. I advocate because I want to live in a world where a person’s sexuality isn’t a default assignment. I advocate so I can go to restaurants and say “my boyfriend” out loud without worrying about who is around to be offended. Finally, I advocate so that future generations of children and teenagers who are LGBT can grow up feeling safe and supported their entire lives and find happiness in their adult relationships without the baggage of self-doubt and repression.
What’s the best piece of advice you can give LGBT allies to be better and stronger allies?
Connections! If you are an advocate for LGBT people, find other advocates who share your values. It’s a hard thing to carry the flag by yourself, as many of us once did. Even if your local community struggles with LGBT acceptance, use social media, Internet forums, or other means to make connections and develop partnerships. Social change only happens when we as individuals work together with the larger community for the good of everyone.
What’s one simple action that readers could do today that would positively impact the LGBT community?
The absolute best advocacy is visibility in our local communities. If you are an LGBT person or advocate, be out and open! Talk to your neighbors, your friends, and your family about yourself, your life, and your relationships. Volunteer at a local non-profit or place of worship. Get out in the community so everyone can see how great LGBT people are in our world!
Information about supporting the work of the Triad Pride Men’s Chorus can be found at our website:http://www.triadpridemenschorus.org/support-us/
People are welcome to learn more about our organization: www.triadpridemenschorus.org
Or our international Gay and Lesbian chorus association: http://galachoruses.org/
Or me personally: www.williamsoutherland.com