Last Tuesday, October 11, was National Coming Out Day (NCOD) – a day for members of the LGBT community to take a brave step out of the closet and share their authentic selves with the world around them.
This past Saturday was Pride Day for the Memphis & Mid-South area. It used to be held in June, but was moved to October last year to coincide with – or at least be close to – NCOD. I think the cooler weather also may have played a role in the date change!
For years, the festival and parade was held in a part of town known for its liberal-minded residents and its large gay and lesbian population. This year, we came out of the “mid-town” closet. For the first time ever , the festival was moved to a park in downtown and the parade marched up one of the most famous streets in Memphis, if not in the whole country – Beale Street.
The whole event felt historic – we had more vendors and organizations with booths in the park, more groups and people marching in the parade, and more spectators than ever before.
There were two 100′ rainbow flags, carried by members of faith communities and by members of youth- centered groups such as GSAs from schools and a support group known as MAGY – Memphis Area Gay Youth.
My small church, with just over 100 adult members, turned out 40 adults and 11 children to help set up our booth, hand out information, walk in the parade, and/or break down our display.
The response from the public lining the sidelines of the parade was tremendous! Applause, cheers, flag waving, and affirming signs greeted us as we turned the corner from 2nd street onto the cobblestones of Beale.
There is really no way to describe the feelings I experienced that day. The beautiful weather, the friendly faces, and the party atmosphere made it one of the most memorable days of my life. It gave me hope that, step by step, moment by moment, one person at a time, we are changing the world. The time is now. We are out of the closet. We are who we are, and we aren’t ashamed to let the world know. Be proud of who you are… that is what Pride Day is all about!