Montgomery, AL: Red State Pride
Howard Bayless welcomes attendees to the Montgomery Gay and Lesbian Association’s gay pride festival Saturday at Equality Alabama’s headquarters on Perry Street in Montgomery.
It’s one thing to hold Pride festivals in gay meccas like New York, San Francisco, Atlanta or even smaller friendly enclaves like my town, Durham. It’s quite another to hold a Pride festival in a belly-of-the-beast state of Alabama, where being out and proud can get you hurt, or worse.
That’s why the gathering last Saturday in Montgomery, Alabama should show people that coming out is the biggest statement anyone can make — gays and lesbians live everywhere. These people want and need community, and they are, even in what would be considered a tiny gathering in most cities, doing it while facing bigotry and disdain from the likes of the Christian Coalition. It’s a triumph and I’m glad to post something so positive — a significant thing to note is that there were no protestors at this event, even in this deep-South bible-belt city.
The Montgomery Gay and Lesbian Association held the city’s first gay pride festival in seven years Saturday.
The event included speakers, live music and a drag show — with activism as an undercurrent for much of the day’s activities.
About 150 people attended the festival at Equality Alabama’s headquarters on Perry Street, according to Montgomery Gay and Lesbian Association president Norma Mitchell. Equality Alabama and Soulforce Alabama are two groups that advocate expanding the civil rights of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community.
Howard Bayless welcomes attendees to the Montgomery Gay and Lesbian Association’s gay pride festival Saturday at Equality Alabama’s headquarters on Perry Street in Montgomery. (Photos by Mickey Welsh/Advertiser)
Angie Milam, 48, said that while Montgomery has gay bars for the younger generation, there is often no social outlet for gays and lesbians of her age group. Milam said Saturday’s festival was the first social activity of its kind for all ages.
“Because of their professional lives, (some gays) may not be so open,” Milam said. “They came from the time that you don’t discuss being gay, and there’s nowhere for the older lesbian or gay couples to get together.”
Milam and her friends said gays and lesbians from the younger generations are more open about their sexuality, but some in their 20s who were at the festival said being openly gay in Alabama still is not easy. Jonathan Conner, 23, grew up in Prattville. “It’s very, very closeted,” he said. “It was definitely not something you talked about.”
Also see my earlier Blend post, Fight of Flight: queer edition, on the debate about strategies for gays living in Red and Purple states.
Thanks to House Blender Kathy for the update.