We know Natalie Watson as the person who made sure there were enough volunteers to cover each shift at the LGBT Center of Raleigh. Natalie served as our Volunteer Coordinator for 2½ years and has trained many of the people who greet and assist you when you call or come to the Center.
But that is certainly not all of what Natalie did for our Community. Natalie self-identifies as non-binary trans masculine and uses they/them pronouns.
Natalie also works with QORDS (Queer Oriented Radical Days of Summer) and is on the Board of the LGBTQ Center in Durham.
QORDS is a summer camp where youth come together to create music, learn about LGBTQ issues, and have fun!
It all began in 2014 when Natalie began volunteering at the LGBT Center of Raleigh. “I had no friends, no community, no job, and no reason to get out of the house,” they say. After a few months, Natalie was already a “Key Volunteer” with over 100 hours of volunteering. Then, when the previous Volunteer Coordinator moved, Natalie was offered the opportunity. “Now I have an entire community for support, based on all I have been involved with over the last few years. It’s exciting to see how everyone has grown – the LGBTQ Center of Durham and this Center in Raleigh – over the past five years.”
“I used to be extremely shy – extremely anxious – and did not like talking to people,” Natalie explains. “Working as a volunteer here forced me out of my shell. I could answer the phone and not have a panic attack. Strangers could come in, and I engaged in conversations with them. Slowly but surely, volunteering at the Center showed me what I could do. It was nice to give back. We all want friends.”
“Before I met one of the founders of QORDS, I didn’t have a lot of experience working with youth, so they asked me to volunteer with fundraising and recruiting volunteers. Up until last year, I had only gone to the opening and closing of each weeklong session. Even with just participating in those events, I could see huge amounts of growth in the participants during the week. Last year, I served as a camp counselor and saw exactly how important QORDS is for the youth. Now, I wouldn’t miss it for anything.”
In past years, Natalie has also volunteered as a chaperone for the Raleigh Center’s ASPYRE Youth Leadership Camp.
Kelly Taylor told us, “Natalie knows what true community is about. Their commitment not only to the LGBT Center of Raleigh, but to QORDS, and the LGBTQ Center of Durham shows that they have an understanding of the need for all to feel accepted and loved. Their work ethic is beyond reproach, and they are open and welcoming to all.”
Thinking about the current political climate, Natalie says, “The Triangle is going to stand for what is right. We need to focus on local politics. If we can’t deal with the top, we need to deal with what is closest to us. I can’t give up hope. More and more people are saying, ‘This isn’t right.’
“We have to start taking stances on issues even when it feels uncomfortable. These are human rights issues,” Natalie says. “It’s a moral issue. You wouldn’t want someone to treat your grandmother that way. We can’t treat immigrants that way either. Our country has a history of taking it all out on people who don’t look like us. That has to stop. The same goes for reproductive health rights and equity for trans people. Eventually, you have to put your foot down.”
Natalie Watson continues to be vital to our Community. For all they have done over many years, we honor them this year with the Community Impact Award. Please come and celebrate with Natalie and all their friends at the Fall Achievement Benefit (FAB) on Saturday, October 5th at CAM Raleigh. Tickets to the event are on sale now.