"If you say "queer," people don't often know what it means because it is different, so there's some agency in it. People can't just label you. For me, it's like a home."
"Unlike the other letters, identifying as an ally is a choice. One that more people should make."
"Gay people want to get married. Intersex people want a box to check on their driver's license. These are very separate things."
"I feel like the revolution of the day, this generation's revolution, is a revolution of gender identity and what it means to be a human and not just man and woman."
"We are proud of the fact that we are strong and successful and loving, caring people who contribute to society in spite of the adversity that we have to overcome because of the fact that we're a member of a minority group."
"As I spend more time with people, as they get to know me better, the more that label fades into the background and becomes just one more part of all the things that define me. Because I'm not just the transgender guy."
For this year's Gay Issue, which coincides with the third annual Charleston Pride Festival (July 12-15), we decided to let the members of Charleston's LGBTQQIAA community speak for themselves. If you're not sure of the definitions behind some of the letters in this lengthy acronym — which you may be familiar with in both shorter and longer forms — here's the rundown: L is for lesbian, G is for gay, B is for bisexual, T is for transgender, Q is for queer, the second Q is for questioning, I is for intersex, A is for asexual, and the second A is for (straight) ally. We reached out to various leaders in Charleston's LGBTQQIAA community for suggestions on who to profile, and we got a diverse group of people, from a transgender high school student to the current president of Charleston Pride. Everyone had a different story to tell about identity and about living as an LGBTQQIAA person in Charleston. We also have a list of local and statewide LGBTQQIAA resources and the program for this year's Pride. Enjoy.
Born and raised in Charleston, Melissa Moore is currently the executive director of We Are Family, an organization that provides resources to LGBTQQIAA youth aged 16-23. She has also held positions with S.C. Equality and the Alliance for Full Acceptance — Melissa Moore
Rob Lewis has served on the boards of a number of organizations, from the Carolina Bear Lodge to the local World Adult Kickball Association to his neighborhood association. He is the current president of Charleston Pride. — Rob Lewis
Sabian Mignone is a female-to-male transgendered individual. He is the founder of Wando High School's Gay-Straight Alliance and is a member of We Are Family. Since he's on staff at the Tribal Tribune, Wando's student newspaper, we invited Sabian to pen his own essay. — Sabian Mignone
Gracie Aghapour is one of the founders of Girls Rock Charleston, a week-long summer program whose mission is to empower girls and trans youth through music education, DIY media, and creative collaboration. Its second run takes place this week. — Gracie Aghapour
Kneena (last name withheld) came to the Lowcountry to attend the College of Charleston. They (Kneena prefers them/they pronouns) has been involved with the Really, Really Free Market, Girls Rock Camp, and We Are Family. — Kneena
Susan Cohen is the editorial assistant at the Charleston City Paper. She conducted the interviews for this issue — Susan Cohen