We Belong in Waynesville

We Belong in Waynesville

The world has felt heavy lately… more than usual. I’ve felt pretty helpless. Thinking to myself, “What’s the use?” It takes so much energy to deflect all the hate and negativity happening around us, it’s easy to feel apathetic and give up. 

But Tuesday night was a breath of fresh air and gave me hope for our community’s future. An estimated 100 people showed up at the Waynesville Town Board meeting to show support for the LGBTQ+ community after several people spread vicious lies about a transgender woman using the public facilities at the rec center. For more backstory, you can read Cory Vaillancourt’s story in the Smoky Mountain News.

After the Waynesville PD investigated, it was clear this person had done nothing wrong. She simply dared to exist in a public space, but that didn’t stop the hateful rhetoric and threats of violence on social media. 

Meanwhile, I had recently joined a Facebook group called Woke Waynesville as a safe space for like-minded people to share and discuss issues. The timing couldn’t be better. Once the group caught wind of these false accusations and threats, the members organized to bring a contingent of support to the next town meeting where they expected these transphobic fascists would show up. 

There were definitely a few there to oppose allowing transgender folx to use the public bathrooms, but the supporters filled up the board room and even spilled into the foyer. Speaker after speaker shared their personal stories, their love for Waynesville, and their unwillingness to let a few bad apples scare them away from their home. 

I met so many members of the LBGTQ+ community that live right here in Haywood. They are eloquent, brave, and well-educated on the facts. I was so damn proud of everyone who spoke and showed up. It takes courage to stand up in front of people who don’t think you have the right to exist and live a peaceful life. 

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I also watched a few of the vocal haters (who were the perpetrators of lies on Facebook) walk out of the meeting without taking their turn to speak. I guess it’s easy to be hateful to people from behind your computer screen, but a much different story when you are face to face with another human being. 

Lastly, I want to thank the council members for giving everyone a chance to be heard. They could have cut off the public comment period after 30 minutes but allowed it to go on for nearly an hour to allow everyone a chance to speak. Thank you for listening. Thank you for your empathy and understanding. Thank you for the unanimous vote to support Councilman Anthony Sutton’s statement of support for the LGBTQ+ community. Thank you to Town Attorney Martha Bradley for her vulnerability in sharing her own experiences and explaining the law to everyone in the room. 

The Waynesville town board members are up for election this year and there are several right-wing candidates coming out of the woodwork to run against the current members because of their progressive stance on issues like this. Let’s be sure to show up to the polls this November to vote for progress and to support human rights. Let’s not let a few vocal minorities set us back 50 years. We belong in Waynesville just as much as they do.

It’s not about the bathrooms, just like it was never about water fountains or swimming pools during segregation. It’s about creating division and instilling fear in people so they will fall in line with social norms. We must rise above it. We don’t have to understand the many nuances of sexuality and gender to love and accept people for who they are. We don’t have to be part of the LGBTQ+ community to be allies in the fight for social justice and equality. 

The fight continues, but our side definitely won the battle on Tuesday. Thank you all for showing up. 

This is an invitation to our LGBTQ+ community members to share your stories in this safe place. Your voices are welcome here anytime. We want to hear from you, we need to hear from you. You can send your stories to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to be included in the Rumble newsletter. 


Jessi Stone has been a resident of Waynesville for 10 years. She is a health justice advocate for Pisgah Legal Services and a board member of Women of Waynesville, a nonprofit supporting women and children in Haywood County. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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