Tennessee has been getting a bad rap lately. From the passage of anti-gay legislation in the last session of the state legislature, to the current issue regarding Gay-Straight alliances in East Tennessee schools, or anti-gay assault in West Tennessee, national (and international) communities have lambasted the state as a haven for bigots and religious extremists.
Though this perception of Tennessee may in fact be true; it gives us a very one sided perception of a state that has so much going for it.
Though extremists may run the state, and though there are many people who harbor anti-gay views, Tennessee is, in fact, one of the most progressive of the Southern States. To paint a picture of Tennessee as a place where only those with hate in their hearts live, is to paint those equality minded residents with a brush that does not do them justice at all.
Within this state are individuals who work day and night to advance the interests of equality and equal protections for gays and lesbians.
It was through the efforts of dedicated allies in the fight for equality that the issue of Sequoyah High School’s drive to ratify a gay-straight alliance has gained national press.
And it is through the outspokenness of individuals such as Jerry Pittman Jr. and Dustin Lee that we can address head on the issue of hate-crimes in this state.
These past few years we have seen a profound shift in how we are dealing with anti-gay bigotry, for instead of staying in our closets, we will not take the degradation of our community sitting down. Instead we will stand and fight!
Tennessee is getting a bad rap, not because anything “new” is happening, but instead because we are actually doing something about what is going on, we are fighting against the forces of bigotry and hate. And, as everyone well knows, when the fight happens, the push-back is that much stronger.
This weekend, the City of Memphis and the Mid-South region are celebrating its annual Mid-South Pride. In the city which is known for the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. and encapsulates the reality of the civil rights struggle firsthand, LGBT people will cry out for their civil rights to be recognized.
Only blocks from the National Civil Rights museum, we will celebrate our community, and the impacts that we have made in this, and every, Mid-South city. In recognition of our struggle for societal acceptance, Memphis mayor A.C. Wharton issued a statement commemorating our celebration, a snippet of which follows:
“Mid-South Pride Festival and Parade is an annual, multicultural and educational event in Memphis that highlights the continued need for better understanding, respect, fairness, justice and equality for all people regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, in the crusade to outlaw discriminatory laws and practices”
Though Tennessee may treat its LGBT citizens with condemnation and hate, it is not hopeless. Change does not come easy, but even if it did, change that comes with sacrifice is that much sweeter.
Let us rejoice that we are seeing change happen each and every day in this great state.