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
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.