September 27, 2011

An Open Letter to the NC General Assembly


Dear NCGA,

Hey, it’s me. I don’t know if you remember me or not, but we used to be pretty good friends. Do you remember that awkward high schooler who stood at the dais of the Senate back in 2007 when he was a Senate page? You remember, the one who had just gotten a haircut because his father said that he should look presentable at the legislature. The one who had long, brown, curly hair before then. You don’t remember me? But I stood right at the front of the Senate sessions, just to the right of the now-governor Beverly Perdue.

Perhaps you remember me in a slightly different way. Maybe you remember me as the young, scared, closeted high schooler that I was; maybe you remember the way you made me feel then. When I sat in a question and answer session with Senator Jim Forrester, and he decided that the best thing to talk about with a group of pages was how frustrated he was that the Democratic leadership wouldn’t hear a bill on a referendum to ban gay marriage in the state constitution. Maybe you remember me as the kid who went home to my best friend Paige that night, the only person I was out to, and told her how angry you made me. Or maybe you remember the way that I timidly talked to the other pages about how frustrated you made me feel, but not so much as to give away that I was hiding something.

Or it might be that you remember me when I came to the legislature on a field trip with my high school, and after sitting down with representative Deborah Ross to hear from her about what it’s like to work in the House, I asked her why you couldn’t pass a law that protected people from employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Maybe you remember the way that she looked at me with sad eyes and told me that other legislators are scared to support the LGBT community because they could lose their seats.

Or maybe you remember me from a year later. I could’ve sworn that we met at some point. That summer I was interning in my state senator’s office. It was only for a week or two, but it was really exciting for a high schooler like me to feel important in that way. You even gave me a staff badge so I could walk around on the Senate floor without getting in trouble. Didn’t you see me? I was that same, curly-haired high schooler that you saw running around to drop something off at a committee meeting or at a caucus. You probably saw me as I welcomed you into my senator’s office; I was the young guy sitting at the front desk, who smiled as he asked you to wait for a moment as he went to see if the Senator was in. Maybe you remember me as the intern who hesitantly came out to his state senator, so that his state senator might better understand why he should vote for a bill that stops LGBT kids from getting bullied. Does that ring a bell?

But maybe I made a stronger impression later in high school, when I was volunteering with Equality NC, and I went around to all of you and handed you all hand-signed postcards from your constituents telling you that they support having a law that protects LGBT kids from bullying. Do you remember the way that made you feel? Do you remember how strange it was to have a gay high schooler come around to your office and tell you to vote for a bill that would protect him and other people like him from harassment in school; that would protect his fundamental right to seek an education in a safe environment? Do you remember me? Do you?

Two weeks ago, you showed me that you don’t. When you signed into law a referendum putting my minority rights to a majority vote, you erased me from your memory. When you decided that my right to one day marry the love of my life was less important than your own political goals, you showed me that you don’t remember me at all. Two weeks ago, when you decided to denigrate my identity in our state’s founding document, when you decided to slander my pride and self-esteem in the most permanent, public way possible, you denied that we ever met. Last week, while you were on the house and senate floors rejecting my worth as a citizen and trampling on my human dignity, I was crying in the LGBT Center at Duke, lamenting the fact that you can’t even remember my face.

Given that you seem to have forgotten me completely, I’d like to take a brief moment to re-introduce myself:

Hello. My name is Jacob Tobia, I’m a gay North Carolinian, I am someone’s son, someone’s brother, someone’s future husband, and I am deserving of your respect.

Do you remember me now?

—Jacob

32 comments:

  1. I have no words Jacob, this is absolutely beautiful.

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  2. this is awesome jacob, you get em theyll listen eventually

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  3. Bravo, Jacob, beautifully said. I pray stories like yours jerks any "straight but not narrow" folks out of their passively supportive existence. I cannot believe the majority of voters imagined 'the work of the people' to resemble anything close to this legislature's incredible acts of bigotry. We ALL - straight and gay - truly do have a dog in this fight and must stop the private hand-wringing and take ACTion. Thanks for sharing!

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  4. Also, I'm done being angry with this. I'm through with admitting defeat and lamenting over the fact that I am a second-class citizen in North Carolina. We may be a minority, but we are a powerful minority, and it's time to show it. Let's do something.

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  5. I love you. Lets campaign the shit out of this referendum.

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  6. Jacob,
    You are a very brave young man who has my respect and support. When will legislators learn that no group in America should have to rely on the majority to give another group their Constitutional rights. We are already guaranteed them. The audacity of anyone thinking that they have the right to deny any group of citizens their rights to pursue happiness. I realise that the Constitution does not guarantee that anyone will be happy, but laws that deny any group the opportunity to pursue that happiness does not believe in our Constitution.

    Wake up Americans! Wake up North Carolinians! If any group can take away the Constitutional rights of 1 group, another may at some point take away yours.

    LGBT's and all of you who love or are friends with LGBT's, now is the time to take our to the streets and across the internet, peacefully reminding people of the fine members of the community LGBT's.
    Now is not the time to sit idly by and let this happen to anyone in our state or country. And remember, money talks. Boycott all businesses owned by people who are opposed to equal rights for all people. Vote out of office anyone who voted for putting the rights of the LGBT on a ballot when they had the opportunity to stand tall and say, "Hell no! I will not allow the rights of anyone be voted away in this state!"
    THom

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  7. It's a shame that we need to use emotional appeals on the members of the assembly when the correct decision could be determined with a decent educational background. Jacob thank you for the fantastic post, and I can definitely see you leading the march to equality.

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  8. Wow, incredible.

    This is the line that truly moved me to tears:
    "Two weeks ago, when you decided to denigrate my identity in our state’s founding document, when you decided to slander my pride and self-esteem in the most permanent, public way possible"

    Thank you for writing this.

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  9. Love you. Gosh, trying to make me cry when I've got homework to do...

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  10. Jacob - AS a Duke alum and former Equality NC board member, I am proud to remember you. You made quite an impression when I first met you back at a meeting in W-S. Glad you are a Blue Devil. Keep fighting the good fight.

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  11. Jacob,
    Really powerful stuff. As a New Yorker myself, it's sad to see other states moving towards bigotry and hatred while others are finally "getting it". Beautifully written though.

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  12. Wonderfully written, Jacob. I'm proud to have met you a few times in high school, to know the person that wrote this excellent letter that beautifully sums up this awful situation. Bravo, keep at it. There are so many of us supporting you, they will eventually realize the magnitude of their mistake.

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  13. Keep speaking up and giving others the strength to speak up. Posting this on my facebook wall, I hope others will do the same and pass on Jacob's message.

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  14. Jacob, Thank you so much for sharing your story. I am an ENC supporter and straight ally. Never forget that there are many people with you and other LGBT North Carolinians in this fight for equality. Thanks again for your message!

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  15. This is beautiful, eloquent, and moving. Thank you.

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  16. Jacob
    Thanks for your powerful post. Now is the time for all of us to stand up and be noticed for the integral part of society we are.

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  17. Jacob, your eloquent post is powerful. As an EqualityNC board member I do remember you and celebrate all you've done on behalf of North Carolinians. There's much work to be done, but we'll win the recognition of our equality. Hopefully in May we'll prevent discrimination being written into the state constitution. Then we'll work for nondiscrimination statutes. But regardless of what happens in May, it will happen. It's inevitable. Hopefully the good and fair-minded people of North Carolina will prevail and demand that all North Carolinians be treated with respect, dignity and as equals.

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  18. Well said/written. Funny how it's equal rights until it's for someone other than self. Not funny, sad actually. Chin up - attitudes are changing, if slowly, and your day will come.

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  19. There are no words, you took them all and put them exactly where they should be. Thank you for having the courage to share.

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  20. Jacob, you're an incredible person and your words are amazing.

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  21. Jacob, you just made me cry, you are so amazing, and your voice demands attention. Just amazing.....

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  22. Jacob, my deepest respect for this letter. It is one of the most spot on, most eloquently written, most beautiful open letters I have ever read. You will go far in this world!!

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  23. This is beautiful Jacob, congratulations and thank you.

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