LGBTQ 30 Day Challenge: Day 17

27 06 2011

Day 17:Your first experience with an LGBT organization or event (Day of Silence, Pride, etc.)?

My first experience with n LGBT organization was at a Pride festival…and it was an accident. I go to the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, TN and my best friend and I, along with our lesbian partner in crime, decided to go downtown to Market Square and get some lunch. We don’t live far from there, but we drove, parked, and headed to one of our favorite spots, Tomato Head. As we approach, we start seeing tons of people. Tons of gay people. I was out at this point, but still not 100% comfortable with it. But as we got closer, I suddenly felt ok. Here were tons of men holding hands with men. And women with their arms draped around other women. And all in East Tennessee, not exactly what you’d think of as a hotbed for the homos.

But here we were, surrounded by happy, healthy, well-adjusted gay people. It was a really positive experience for me. There were other people there who had also stumbled unwittingly on Knoxville Pridefest. The one I remember most was a frat-looking boy and a girl. They were on a date for sure, but whether or not they were in a relationship, I couldn’t say. Either way, the girl was gushing about how cute it was that all the gay guys were there, holding hands and “being themselves.” Her beau kept nodding and trying to agree, but it was all over his face that he was uncomfortable. This said, many students at UT are from very small towns in Tennessee and have very little, if any, experience with openly gay people, especially in this magnitude. I can’t say I was 100% comfortable, so I can only imagine what he was feeling. He was polite and friendly enough and I can only hope he was caught off guard and was trying to soak it all in.

The whole experience was great and I went back, intentionally this time, the following year and thoroughly enjoyed myself. Unfortunately, I have to miss Knoxville Pride this year, and I already missed Nashville’s, but Memphis’ is in October and I’ll likely drive home for it. I’ve never been to that one and it should prove a very interesting experience.

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