Blue Ridge Pride Stands Behind Our Youth, Our DRAG Community … and Everyone Else

Recent cyberbullying against local businesses and organizations forced us to reflect: Who and what do we stand for?

During the past week, a cyberbully has been stalking local businesses and organizations with sadly malicious misinformation campaign.  It is allegedly directed at anyone associated with this year’s Blue Ridge Pride Festival. But organizations with no role in the festival have been contacted as well.

The crux of the message is that gay pride is wicked and that children are involved in gay pride. It goes on to disparage DRAG performers. The author threatens that, if their “operatives and preachers” find any “inappropriate actions” at our pride event, they will let everyone know that the email recipient supports child grooming.

First, we want people to know that no one underage will be performing DRAG at Blue Ridge Pride this year.

Second, we want people to know that it isn’t because of threats like this.  It is because, this year, our youth are more interested in a media project they will be pursuing at the festival.  Blue Ridge Pride does and will continue to welcome youth – with written parental consent – to express and share their identity at organized events.

Everyone should take this issue seriously. 

To be forced to hide your identity is to live a lifetime walled off from humanity. I should know. I did it for fifty years. There is no feeling lonelier than the thought that no one in the world will ever know you.

Forty-one percent of trans people report having attempted or seriously considered suicide.  We don’t do it because we can’t wear makeup.  We do it because we feel so alone in the world. For me, the thought that I would die one day – my children, parents, siblings, and friends never having had a clue who I was – was crushing. If I died unknown, did I ever exist? Had I ever walked this earth?

I was lucky.  When I finally came out to my family, their chief sorrow was that they had never known or been there to support me.  My employer told my colleagues that if anyone had an issue with me, their issue was with the company.  Our leadership made it clear that they hire colleagues to perform, not to conform.

Blue Ridge Pride seeks to empower youth (and everyone) to define and to become their very best selves. We question the right of any individual or any religious sect to straight-jacket our children or our companies’ employees by imposing their personal worldview on them. We call that grooming.

Blue Ridge Pride also stands proudly behind our DRAG community.  Every day, they put themselves out there, fighting for the right of every one of us to live and express our largest selves.  We believe that this is what draws so many people to DRAG performances.  “If they can be free, maybe I can, too.”

Pride, you see, has grown beyond the liberation of the LGBTQ community.  It is about liberating all of us to live as who we are, and to learn to love our collective diversity.

Three years ago, an adult brought their queer nephew to Pride.  Out of nowhere, the youth suddenly raised their arms and bellowed to the world: “I have never felt so powerful in all my life!”

Now that’s pretty darn cool. This is what we are supporting. Sadly, this year, that youth will have to deal with the “operatives and preachers” looming over them.  What a horrible vision for America.

Still, we try to welcome everyone to the festival.  If you see these operatives, please smile, or politely pass them by.  Let’s focus our energy on building our community together – and telling our children that we love them for who they are.

Tina Madison White

Executive Director


Further Reading: It’s Personal

I believe that these issues can only be understood at a personal level.  I have tried to be as honest and transparent as I can about my own journey. 

  • If you want to know what it is like to spend 50 years trying to “fix” your gender, I share my own experience in Between Shadow and Sun (Malaprop’s | Amazon).
  • If you want to know what a struggle it is for someone like me to seek a relationship with God, I recently shared my efforts in a sermon delivered in Washington DC this summer, “Meeting God from the Inside Out” (text, video).

But I am only one of 85,000 LGBTQ people in our WNC community. Meet a few others in our Oral History Library. They deserve to live a life of their choosing.  And so do you.


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Eric Davis  MS, LCPA, NCC, Counselor

Willow Wellness and Recovery, PC 9 All Souls Crescent  Suite B, Asheville, North Carolina 28803  Phone: (828) 490-4137 | Website I am a firm believer in empowerment and self-determination. In the past, I have worked well with folks experiencing a range of issues, such as anxiety, depression, substance-use, sleep disturbances, relationship issues, and issues unique to the LGBT community.

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Judy Maris, Counselor, LPC, LCPC, MA, MS

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Elizabeth Heaney, Counselor, MA, LPC 

166 E Chestnut Street, Asheville, North Carolina 28801  Phone: (520) 447-3319 | Website I work with individual adults with concerns like: family history issues, relationship concerns, life satisfaction issues (related to jobs, living situations or relationships), anxiety and depression. I’ve had a particular focus on working with couples, addressing every aspect of relationship challenges – relationship dissatisfaction/boredom, affairs, sexual/intimacy issues, etc. And I was a civilian counselor on military bases for several years, so I have a clear understanding of the unique pressures and challenges facing service members and families. I offer free phone consultations.

Siljoy Maurer

Holistic Perspectives P.O. Box 333, Enka, NC 2872  Phone: (828) 333-0103  | or For many years now I have been mentoring men and women from all walks of life. It continues to be my greatest joy to accompany someone from “just being ok” into thriving! As a Mentor & Healer I partner with my clients in creating authenticity, wellness and deep contentment, in whatever area of their lives they are seeking change. The combination of giving very practical, livable tools for direct “next steps” while “holding the big picture” and then manifesting that big picture often feels like this: a new client brings me their life or life situation in a jigsaw puzzle box, they lost the lid and forgot what the picture on it looked like. I am good at knowing that picture and then guiding my clients/mentees to put all the puzzle pieces together.  

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