Last year around this time I went to Raleigh, North Carolina to attend the National At Home Dad Network's 20th annual convention. It was an amazing time. Met fathers from across the nation, many of whom I had only interacted with on Facebook groups. Of course, there was a big contingent from the NYC Dads Group there.
It was the best. I shared a room with two perfect strangers Joël from California and John from Pennsylvania. All three of us were scholarship recipients and first timers at the convention. As a natural introvert it was nice having a few friends to cling to when I didn't have it in me to meet new people.
After the convention ended I was excited about returning next year. I wanted to be more involved. I joined the social media committee and helped out when I could. I was asked to think about running for the executive board at the convention. But then North Carolina did something that is inexcusable.
On March 23rd, North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory signed HB2 into law. The law which gained national attention as the "Bath Room Bill" does more than tell transgendered people where they can or can't use the bathroom, it all but eliminates any protection against LGBTQ people have in the state. Basically making it legal to discriminate against LGBTQ people.
The first thing I thought of was, how can we still have our convention there? I thought about it a lot. We were going to eat, drink and pay state taxes somewhere that openly discriminates against people. Who openly discriminates against people who are members of our organization.
I brought this up to members of the board who all sympathized with my position. But the company line was they were too far into the planning to move it. And the organizing committee had already done so much hard work. Which I don't doubt. But it was an answer I didn't accept. Would we still be going there if the law made it legal to discriminate against African Americans?
There was six months between the day that law was passed and the beginning of the convention. At that point, vendors, sponsors, locations for offsites, and speakers had not been finalized. Basically the only thing set was the convention site and the hotel. But I'm sure many other cities have a Marriott and a convention space to accommodate around 300 people.
I think that it was too set in stone that the convention was happening in Raleigh. And there were certain people who were set on hosting the convention. There was talk about tax offsets. But were all the dads going to double the taxes we spend in North Carolina to give to a charity? Even one as worthy as Equality NC. I don't have that kind of extra money. Sure its feasible for a national organization, but for the little guy who will hit the bar a few times, or the Starbucks in the lobby a few too many times, plus pay for a room at the hotel and perhaps lunch at the airport. I don't think so.
Although you may say the HB2 law may not affect the majority of the NAHDN members. As the vast majority of us are cisgender heterosexual males. But not all of us. At last years convention there were less than a handful of gay days in attendance, and I know that at least one of them faced open discrimination and attempts at intimidation while in Raleigh. But that is not my story to tell. We talk a lot about the brotherhood of fatherhood. So if this effects one of us it effects all of us. I know there will be a session on the subject as part of the programming of the convention which is great, but words are not enough.
I spoke with dads who live in North Carolina, who insisted that its not so backwards in the so called triangle. But these enlightened people did nothing to stop bigots from filling the House and Governors office. They do nothing to stop their neighbors from raising confederate flags. Its easy to just bury your face into your phone and ignore these things that don't effect you directly.
If I were attending and running for a position on the board, I would be talking about how as fathers it is our responsibility to make the world a better place, not only for our own kids but for everyone. And by not standing up for what is right and against what us wrong, we fail. Fail for our children. We can't only have outrage when something effects us directly. We need to act.
But please don't get me wrong. The convention will be great. All the dads are awesome, and you will meet people who will become instant friends. Like me you will be forced to join at least a dozen Stay-at-home-Dad facebook groups, but that is cool. This is in all sincerity, enjoy your time there. It will be nice to get away from being a stay at home parent for a couple of days. If the circumstances were different I would be right there with you. You'll get to breathe. May I recommend Big Ed's for breakfast and if the bar next door to the hotel has Cherry Bounce, by all means try it. I just can't be there. I'm not judging anyone who is there or who organized it, but to me it feels like a slap in the face to some of our fellow dads.
The NBA, NCAA and ACC have taken their All Star game and championship tournaments away from North Carolina. PayPal has stopped a planned expansion in the state. There is no legitimate reason why we didn't move our small convention also.