Finally, Charlotte’s LGBT community is ‘standing up, standing out, standing proud’


After running scared from anti-LGBT protesters for five years, Charlotte’s annual LGBT Pride festival will finally move back to Uptown Charlotte and back into the public square.

From a Pride Charlotte press release:

The Queen City’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Pride festival will be held this year on Aug. 27 in Uptown Charlotte, along S. Tryon St. between 3rd St. and the new Levine Center for the Arts. Pride Charlotte, which attracts thousands each year, is the culmination of a week-long slate of events highlighting the social, cultural, ethnic, artistic and political diversity of the metro Charlotte area’s LGBT community.

“We are very excited to move our festival Uptown and to the heart of Charlotte’s artistic and cultural center,” said Jonathan Hill, Co-Chair of the Pride Charlotte organizing committee. “The S. Tryon St. location provides a unique opportunity for our event to grow and to raise more visibility for this city’s diverse gay community.”

I’m lucky enough, again, to serve on the organizing committee for Pride Charlotte. In fact, I should offer a full disclosure and say I wrote the primary draft of the release I just quoted. Regardless, this post (like every other post on InterstateQ.com) is entirely my own opinion; trust me, it doesn’t come even close to representing the official views of anyone.

Anyways… This year we’re not only moving to Tryon St. (exciting and landmark news in and of itself), but we’re also expanding and committing ourselves to greater community-level coalition building and teamwork. Speaking as someone who has seen Pride as both a current and former committee member, as the editor of the local queer paper and as a general community member and Charlottean, I think it all adds up to phenomenal news and a wonderful change in the pace of the last few years’ events.

For far too long, Charlotte’s queer community has been weak and timid in the face of anti-LGBT prejudice, protesting and bigotry. Despite the relatively small number, we’ve allowed anti-LGBT protest groups like Operation Save America and Coalition of Conscience to dictate to us the terms of our own community’s outspokenness, political involvement and civic engagement. No more. Come August, Pride Charlotte will be back in the public square and in the heart of Uptown. LGBT Charlotteans are no less deserving of full participation in the political, social, artistic, cultural, civic and religious lives of this city. This is the year we take back our God-given rights to be who we are, openly and proudly, and as fully-deserving citizens and residents of the Queen City.

Pride Charlotte’s move back into the public spotlight comes after five years of nearly-closeted Pride festivities. After a 2005 Charlotte Pride event in which scores of protesters caused distraction (and later proclaimed to the city council, “Charlotte Pride is back in the closet. And it’s back in the closet because the church of Jesus Christ came out of the closet. And because you, city council, helped us to do that very thing.”), organizers of a new event (“Pride Charlotte”) organized under the umbrella of the Lesbian & Gay Community Center moved the event to Gateway Village. The new, privately-owned Uptown venue left much to be desired; enclosed on three sides, a passer-by would never have known what was happening there. I never could understand why we were “hiding,” though organizers always rejected the accusation they were running from anybody or anything.

Last year, Pride Charlotte organizers took the closeting of Charlotte’s gays a step further. The N.C. Music Factory is a phenomenal building. Great bars and restaurants, and the Center is even located there (that’s an entirely different story, altogether). But, like Gateway Village, the choice to move Pride to the Music Factory felt to many, including me, another instance of closet-ization. How are we supposed to “Stand up, Stand out, Stand Proud” when no one in the city can see or even knows about our community’s premier cultural, political and social event each year?

I believe this year will be unlike any of the past years’ Pride festivities I’ve known. We’re out. We’re proud. We’re visible. We are what an LGBT community should be. With any luck, we’ll see that spirit spill over into other local, LGBT organizations. Perhaps, this is the year Charlotte will start working toward becoming a better, more LGBT-inclusive city. We’ve waited long enough, wouldn’t you say?

Photo Credit: JenelleRW, via Flickr.


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