Published: Oct 14, 2009 08:41 AM
Modified: Oct 14, 2009 08:41 AM
It was a gray but gay day in the Bull City recently as Durham hosted N.C. Pride, a weekend celebrating LGBT life the state and the allies who support the community. This year I was asked to deliver the keynote address. Really, I don't understand why people think blogger equals public speaker, but I decided to take a crack at it.
More than 4,500 people showed up to take in the speakers, entertainment and all the vendors. The crowd spanned all ages, races and religions. The many open and affirming local houses of worship far outnumbered the few tired protesters who showed up with their "turn or burn" signs.
In fact, one of the men who showed up with a giant sign saying "3 gay rights: AIDS, HELL, SALVATION" was an import from Primrose, Ga. -- Pastor Billy Ball, who has sent me repeated barely-tethered-to-reality hilarious e-mails over the years because of my blog, so his presence was for my benefit, I suppose. He wasted who knows how much gas driving up here for an hour-long parade.
I rode in the "celebrity" jeep with Stormy Ellis, who is the only out assistant district attorney in the entire state of North Carolina; it's no surprise she's here in Durham. Durham Police Chief Jose Lopez Sr., a strong supporter of the LGBT community -- after all we are part of this city's community as well, spoke; Stormy shared that the members of the police department volunteered to be there. It's gratifying to see open support from the city grow over the years.
As for my keynote, rewritten over and over up until the last moment, I was definitely nervous, since I wasn't delivering a traditional rah-rah address. After all, if you know my blog's political content, you may be asking for trouble -- or at least a generous amount of discussion about "undiscussable topics: race, religion, and homophobia. [You can see video and a full transcript here: bit.ly/Sz3m1
The drizzle continued as I took the stage, but about halfway through, the rain picked up but people stayed (thankfully!) as umbrellas went up.
During the speech I noted that it's painful to see people of faith cite passages in holy texts to oppress lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people when the same public admonitions are rarely delivered to the adulterers, thieves, and fornicators sitting in the pews, or worse, the person standing in the pulpit.
I talked about the LGBT community's inability to handle its own discomfort in dealing with race and religion, and the self-segregation that goes on that prevents mutual understanding. One good sign I saw was the many people of color who were present at Pride, particularly black and Latino members of the community.
I was surprised how many people come up afterward to say both of the above subjects -- church and state, and the racial divide -- resonated with them. One of my former neighbors from Old West Durham mentioned there are churches and denominations in our area that DO want to marry same-sex couples, so there obviously is no single way to read holy texts.
If all of the LGBT North Carolinians came out of the closet tomorrow (including all serving in office and in positions of political power, as well as major business owners), this struggle to gain full civil equality would probably be over in a blink of an eye. But for one weekend, many gathered to celebrate not just being LGBT, but acknowledging and thanking Durham for being open and welcoming place to be able to live.
Pam Spaulding is the creator of the political blog Pam's House Blend. Write to her at email@example.com
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