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Taking a Stand

Taking a Stand
July 2019

The Alliance for Full Acceptance works to ensure the rights of Charleston’s LGBTQ community

Over the last 20 years, the Alliance for Full Acceptance has been championing “acceptance without exceptions” for the Charleston LGBTQ community

On April 14, Charleston police officers responded to a West Ashley home after a family’s rainbow flag, a symbol of gay pride, was found charred in their driveway. “It’s concerning when something like this happens because it raises the possibility that this was a hate-motivated incident, which deserves the full attention of the police department,” says Chase Glenn, executive director of The Alliance for Full Acceptance (AFFA).

AFFA, a North Charleston-based nonprofit social justice organization that’s dedicated to achieving equality and acceptance for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer people, was quick to send a message of solidarity. In response, AFFA offered a rainbow flag to anyone wishing to display one. More than 200 requests poured in. That kind of immediate support has distinguished the organization since it was founded in 1998 by local leader Linda Ketner.

In 1999, the organization put up its first billboard on Interstate 26: “Gay and lesbian people are valued members of this community.” Two years later, AFFA reported 1,500 members who began working toward incremental changes. In 2009, it successfully lobbied Charleston, North Charleston, and Folly Beach police departments to write ordinances protecting the LGBTQ community. By 2014, AFFA member Colleen Condon and her wife had sued the state for the right to marry.

Today, AFFA’s mission has expanded. Following its own message of inclusivity, members now include marginalized groups such as non-binary people and LGBTQ communities of color, and its initiatives go far beyond public awareness, with outreach events at local churches and businesses, police training, and efforts to pass anti-discrimination laws.

Chase Glenn, AFFA’s executive director, at the organization’s new North Charleston Equality Hub which also houses We Are Family and Charleston Pride

“So many folks think that we have achieved equality and full acceptance,” says Glenn, who believes that the misconception is often based on the legal recognition of same-sex marriage. “For people who live at the intersections of marginilized identities, discrimination is still a day-to-day experience.”

Touching on subjects like quality of life, mental health, and personal safety, AFFA recently completed the Tri-County LGBTQ Community Needs Assessment study which offers insight into the experiences of 1,436 respondents—under half of whom feel like they can be themselves at work.

“We live in Charleston, a progressive place, but it’s similar to everywhere else where LGBTQ members have negative experiences,” says Glenn. That’s why AFFA is sharing personal stories with Our Trans Voices. The documentary, shot by award-winning cinematographer John Barnhardt, will premiere on July 17 and feature transgender individuals discussing their experiences. Glenn, a trans man, knows how meaningful such a platform can be. “Having the agency to tell your own story is so important.”

Translating Experiences Our Trans Voices will be screened on July 17 at 6:30 p.m. For information on AFFA and the film’s screening location, visit AFFA’s Facebook page.


Photographs by (Glenn) MaryKat Hoeser & (parade) Tom Steenhuysen