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|Melissa Carter: Pride can mean more than a party|
|by Melissa Carter|
|September 30, 2011 00:00|
Break out that gaudy rainbow attire because Pride is back in town! I have to be honest: I had a hard time deciding what to write about this week in honor of Pride.
Among the choices was my first Pride celebration in 1992 when I was still in the closet. Weaving my way among the 60,000 people I realized with watering eyes that I was not the only lesbian on the planet. Or ten years later, when I was honored to be a grand marshal in the Pride Parade. I was in kidney failure and on dialysis, but my friends made sure to crank the AC in the convertible that day so I wouldn’t pass out.
There are great memories of marching in the parade every year afterward with Q100, even pushing my way down Peachtree Street in a torrential downpour. If the crowd was getting drenched while celebrating, I thought, so would I.
But instead, I want to write about what Pride means to others in our community.
Kayla Keaney walked onto a stage earlier this year in California before a school assembly in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. That’s where she came out to her classmates. The senior said it was a plea for acceptance of who she is and the desire for gay people generally to live free of judgment and discrimination.
Randy Phillips was counting down the days until “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” ended. He had been posting videos on YouTube prior to the repeal to talk about his struggle as a gay soldier, making sure not to show his face.
Then the day came when DADT was no more. That’s when 21-year-old Air Force Senior Airman Phillips walked full bodied into his camera’s frame, sat at his bedroom desk, and came out to his dad on the phone and to the world.
“Do you still love me?” Phillips asked him.
“I still love you, son. Yes, I still love you,” his father replied and added, “It doesn’t change our relationship.”
He reminded us all how difficult that conversation with our family can be.
Jamey Rodemeyer went public too. The 14-year-old, who had been bullied for a year, let the world know online he could no longer take the pain and later committed suicide.
Before his body was found, he had messaged Lady GaGa on Twitter: “Bye mother monster, thank you for all you have done, paws up forever.”
Pride celebrations in cities around the world affected all these stories. Jamey’s ended tragically, but the outcry that lingers is a testament to people being tired of feeling shame and seeing others suffer from these same feelings.
When I was on air, I criticized broadcast news agencies for only reporting on Atlanta Pride during the parade so they could display what they thought to be the most shocking images. I wanted viewers to understand Pride’s purpose and not be made afraid to come with their friends and family.
There is another Kayla out there looking for inspiration, another Randy looking for strength, and another Jamey looking for hope. Pride can remind all of us of the beauty of a gay life and of all the love that also flows from our straight friends and families.
This year I too will be donning my gay attire and heading to Piedmont Park. However, this Pride comes with a better understanding that I am not there just for fun but also to honor and support those who don’t yet have the strength and ability to be there with me.
It is our responsibility that they don’t get left behind.
Melissa Carter is former co-host of “The Bert Show” on Q100, where she broke ground as the first out lesbian radio personality on a major station in the city and was one of the few out morning show personalities in the country. Keep up with her at www.melissatimes.com.
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