To the corporations and entertainers boycotting states with anti-LGBT legislation

I get it, I really do. You don’t want to give your business and generate revenue in states that are passing discriminatory laws. In recent weeks, legislatures in North Carolina and Mississipi have passed an anti-trans “bathroom law” and a broad “religious freedom” law respectively, and legislators in Tennessee and Missouri introduced anti-LGBT legislation. The public backlash has been swift. From corporations to entertainers to cities, many are taking a stand and boycotting these states, with a particular focus on North Carolina. The outpouring of support touches me deeply as someone who identifies as queer. In a world where I sometimes feel so alone, to witness the coalescing of voices to combat such hatred is truly breathtaking.

Although I feel that way, I also feel moved to say that boycotting is not the most impactful way to stand against hate. You can, and should, do more.

There is something easy about pledging not to spend money in states we see as “backwards” and not worth our time, and that is especially true with LGBTQ issues where we have a narrative that we grow up and “escape” our rural homes and move to the cities on the east or west coasts. While that certainly may be true for some people, it is definitely not the story for many LGBTQ people. There are certainly some states that are more friendly to LGBT people than others, but we shouldn’t settle for the status quo. People shouldn’t have to leave their homes in order to find acceptance and not live in fear. Instead of wondering why LGBTQ people still live in Mississippi, the question should be why we haven’t invested more in the fight for LGBTQ equality happening in Mississippi, or North Carolina, or South Dakota, or anywhere that is not D.C., California, or the Northeast?

Boycotts can work– we saw that with Georgia where the threat of a massive economic boycott forced the governor to veto the bill – but they cannot be the only response on this issue. For every Georgia, there is an Indiana, where the city of Indianapolis lost an estimated $60 million in revenue following that state’s passage of a Religious Freedom Restoration Act (similar to the vetoed Georgia bill), and a year later, there still are not state-wide protections for LGBTQ people. I understand the expressive value such moves may have for local queer people. But the threat (or reality) of economic consequences often fails to move legislators because no matter the size of the storm, invariably it will pass as the media moves on to new controversies.

More powerful than a boycott is investment in local change-makers. When I was home in Indiana this summer, I talked with a number of LGBTQ activists who volunteered with Indiana Youth Group. I heard so much frustration about the lack of support for their organization passed the initial media outrage. Everyone had moved on, but they were there picking up the pieces only they felt more alone than before. There was plenty of righteous indignation from the business and entertainment communities following the passage of the RFRA, but that soon faded back to complacency when it was no longer politically expedient to be outspoken about affirming LGBTQ people.

Boycotting may score easy political points, but it’s not a way to affect lasting change that is in accordance with your company and personal values that you love to provide when announcing your boycott. To do that, you have to invest in local communities doing the work.

Organizations that support LGBTQ people in southern, midwestern, and western states are under-resourced compared to their counter parts in Los Angeles, D.C., and New York. There is not significant infrastructure in terms of lobbying connections, programs, and initiatives, in those states to provide holistic support for LGBTQ people, but that does not mean that there are not people on the ground doing their best on a shoe string budget.

You can help those who desperately need it. Rather than simply pulling their all-star game from Charlotte, the NBA should donate to Time Out Youth. In all of Mississippi there is only one LGBTQ center registered with Centerlink: the Rainbow Center on the coast. They need money. Campus Pride which is based in Charlotte, does important work supporting LGBTQ students on college campuses and could use additional funds. There’s Out Central in Nashville, and statewide equality organizations. The local and state organizations on the ground need our support now more than ever.

Make a donation. Donate profits from your conference or game to a community organization.

While walking away might seem like a show of solidarity, all I see is your back.

With Pride,


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Katie Barnes (they/them/their) is a pop-culture obsessed activist and writer. While at St. Olaf College studying History and (oddly) Russian (among other things), Katie fell in love with politics, and doing the hard work in the hard places. A retired fanfiction writer, Katie now actually enjoys writing with their name attached. Katie actually loves cornfields, and thinks there is nothing better than a summer night's drive through the Indiana countryside. They love basketball and are a huge fan of the UConn women's team. When not fighting the good fight, you can usually find Katie watching sports, writing, or reading a good book.

Katie Barnes is a pop-culture obsessed activist and writer.

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