by Cris Candice Tuck
As we work to try to recap 2022 and explain where we go in 2023, I'm stuck. It's this indescribable feeling of anxiety and hope tied up in knots fighting to determine whether we can turn this page and move into greater things for LGBTQ+ Loudoun. It's because we've done so much incredible and important work in the last 12 months that I'm at a loss as to where to start. But, as I sit down to write this, I believe we are now at 242 anti-LGBTQ+ bills filed in State legislatures across the country, the overwhelming majority of which are aimed at transgender youth and young adults.
Here's the hopeful part- most, if not all, will fail here in Virginia in 2023 thanks to the dedicated legislators who understand the importance of LGBTQ+ equality. We've already seen a small number of bills effectively die in committees that dealt with forcibly outing children, restricting trans participation in sports, restricting educational content and books, and restricting gender affirming care. These threats are not existential - they are very real, very tangible, and could have a very dangerous effect on Virginia. We do not want to become the next state where our queer neighbors have to flee just to exist safely and with dignity. And make no mistake, with the introduction of bills like those banning 'cross-sex attire' in public places, the goal is to effectively eliminate our transgender population. With bills like those aimed at restricting LGBTQ+ 'indoctrination in classrooms,' the goal is to destroy the safety and security of all LGBTQ+ children and their families.
But I'm an optimist. We have a chance to be the bulwark on which this growing attack against trans issues crashes and breaks. In 2023, Virginia votes. In 2023, Loudoun will again elect members of the legislature, local offices, and the school board. Our efforts must turn to the ballot box in November, to recognizing LGBTQ+-inclusive candidates, and to getting out the vote. We must send a Rainbow Wave in Virginia that drowns out the chorus of extremism rising each day. If we don't, these bills will all become our reality in 2024. Our vote is our greatest source of power. We have a growing movement of those who understand that these attacks are part of a long war for equal rights.
We are called the Bellwether State. We must show the Nation that the winds have changed.
So, more importantly, what are we doing to fight? Well, it's simple- we are focused on prevention, awareness, and inclusion. On saving and improving lives. And on changing hearts and minds. Our focus in 2023 is to get even better at what we do already and:
Growing a library of resources to fight discrimination;
Creating a network of allies to promote acceptance; and
Being present in spaces to demand LGBTQ+ voices are heard.
We also have new opportunities every day. We were approached about opening an LGBTQ+ Transitional Housing Project here in Loudoun, a goal I hope we can put on our horizon. We have the Community Center starting to take shape. And we have the opportunity to more than double our $5,000+ in 2023 educational scholarships and grants.
But we need your help.
We need time and we need money. The risk is a collapse in the rights of LGBTQ+ people, especially transgender individuals. We will see this in our schools, in our neighborhoods, and in our daily lives if anti-LGBTQ+ extremists have their way.
You can volunteer to advance our efforts to help improve Loudoun in so many ways. In the coming days, you'll see our new Volunteer Portal open up online to provide opportunities to be involved and help advance our vital mission. Our new volunteer focuses will include a variety of options to best suit your time and availability.
We also need donors, sponsors, and contributors. Right now, we have sponsorships open for the Loudoun Pride Festival that need to be filled to make this event a reality. We will be launching GiveChoose in March to help fund the Equality in Education program to provide scholarships and educational mini-grants. And we have our donation portal open year-round to help fund other ongoing initiatives and operational expenses.
I know it sounds cheesy, but together we have a real chance to turn the tides this year. Loudoun is the epicenter of politics in Virginia right now, whether we like it or not, and Virginia is the canary in the coal mine for national politics as we head into 2024. This year has already been dubbed the year of the War for Trans Existence, and it is where most of our fights will be aimed. If you cannot help us with our mission, I implore you to find a way to become involved in making Loudoun the kind of place we will be Proud of for all the future generations to come.
Here's to 2023, let it be the year we move forward.