Speculating about the future of a movement of any kind can be dangerous. But one thing I’ve learned writing about the LGBTQ movement over the years is that our community and the strides we’ve won are built on a shared sense of hope—hope for a better future and, at least locally, a better North Carolina, where society’s most vulnerable are cared for.

For that reason, I’m approaching this vision of 2040 from a place of idealism—envisioning the world that I’d like to see for LGBTQ individuals living in North Carolina twenty years from now, and a world that I know many of us are fighting for every day.

In many ways, the LGBTQ rights movement boils down to issues of access and safety. Twenty years from now, I’d hope that those concepts are realistically interwoven within the daily lives of LGBTQ folks living in the Triangle and all across this country.

That, of course, would include comprehensive nondiscrimination protections and full rights and protections under the law. HB 2 and HB 142 would be distant memories—perhaps even laughable to consider that such legislation ever existed. Maybe kids would grow up without a socialized expectation of how their gender would shape their experiences in the world, and perhaps be given the space to self-determine their gender altogether.

In the Triangle, twenty years would ideally bring a wider breadth of spaces for LGBTQ people—particularly a variety of spaces, not just bars and nightclubs. LGBTQ people deserve places to gather and cultivate community that aren’t framed around alcohol. Sober spaces like LGBTQ coffee shops and other gathering points are crucial to catering to queer folks from all walks of life.

It would also be beautiful to see our community reflected more comprehensively in the world around us. The election of two openly gay Raleigh City Council members bodes well for future LGBTQ representation in our local political leadership, and ideally, that trend will continue.

I hope that the domination of Raleigh’s best downtown restaurants by openly gay restaurateurs continues, and that we continue to see openly LGBTQ business leaders push our cities into the future.

Beyond that, my vision for 2040 is a vision for the future of our movement beyond just the borders of North Carolina. Reparations for people of color. A breakdown of the prison-industrial complex and functioning alternatives to incarceration. The eradication of homelessness and banning conversion therapy. Universal health care and a welcoming immigration policy. Eliminating AIDS once and for all.

It seems like a broad vision, but LGBTQ people are truly in every community, and, as a result, a better world for LGBTQ folks looks like a better world for all communities who suffer under the current structures governing the world. 

In a world where the life expectancy of a trans woman of color is thirty-five, my biggest hope for 2040 is a North Carolina—and a planet—where the LGBTQ community no longer faces daily threats of fear and violence. For some members of our community, the culture of America has shifted in such a way that we no longer have to fear regular harassment, discrimination, or violence. 

But for many people who call themselves LGBTQ, things haven’t gotten much better. Quite simply, I hope that the Triangle is a better place for them in 2040, and that queer and trans people feel safe and protected walking the streets in every part of our cities.

What will life look like for LGBTQ people in 2040? An unbridled sense of freedom for anyone who calls themselves LGBTQ. 

Oh, what a world that would be to live in.

James Michael Nichols is the director of communications for Equality NC. Comment on this story at backtalk@indyweek.com. Click here to read the rest of our 2040 predictions.

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