Historically, lesbians and gay men have never gotten along. Other churches use hate language against us, and thereby give the community permission to hate us. Methodists — clergy and laity — from a variety of churches all of which are not Reconciling made up the largest of the faith groups marching in the parade. Small town doesn't necessarily mean small-minded.
How many straight folks run into that kind of problem? Jim Richards came to the Metropolitan Community Church in There is a somewhat oppressive atmosphere in smaller cities. Dubbed the Gay Liberation Front, the group was active throughout the early '70s, culminating with its participation in a massive anti-Vietnam rally on Cumberland Avenue in Each concern is answered with a prayerful requisition, recited en masse, until Richards, satisfied that all supplicants have been heard, calls for a final hymn, then a moment of reflective silence. That something was Annual Conference! Someone had to organize a group of United Methodists to change history and be part of the PrideFest parade. Thanks be to God. As I watched the parade snake down Gay Street, I was amazed that the number of faith groups marching had grown that year — by a lot. The service was performed by Bishop Anthony O'Connell, who left the mourners with an epitaph Crumm suggests as an apt credo for all who would heed: The crowd, a mostly-gay assemblage with a conspicuous smattering of straights, hoots its appreciation with as much lewd fervor as any gang of blue-collar strip-club regulars. And he notes that many in his congregation "can never go home again," having been ostracized by parents who, by his reckoning, answer to a far less benevolent God. The thought of organizing a group to march struck fear in every fiber of my being. Even now, a full two hours before the evening's trademark festivity is set to begin, deliciously trampy queens, all spider lashes and flashing sequins and dagger heels, patrol the grounds with the sort of smug hauteur that only the Very Beautiful dare flaunt, mingling at capricious intervals with eager patrons in tasteful sweaters and backwards caps. In the end over 50 United Methodist clergy and lay members marched with us! Today, clubs like the Carousel, the nearby Electric Ballroom, the Old City's Rainbow Club or the cyber-friendly Network in Western Plaza carry on a tradition of "gay bars that have always been in the face of Knoxville. I knew they would be there. They agreed this should happen and someone should organize a delegation. That's a mindset you don't see a lot of places. The church recently celebrated its one-year anniversary in the free-standing building in West Knoxville it now calls its own; and Richards now performs "holy unions" for gay and lesbian couples at MCC, a church function that complements what might seem to some in the heterosexual community a broad range of very traditional Christian outreaches. Again, I prayed it would not be me. While building momentum for Pride Week by inviting sister chapters from neighboring cities with the boost, turn-out is projected at more than this year , the group has begun hosting events throughout the year, including an upcoming "Gay Prom," for "people who never got to take who they wanted to the dance. Tony Carlisle, a well-known local female impersonator, remembers that their participation ruffled feathers among other local gays and lesbians, as well as among the larger straight community that was witness to the rally. It's a garish harem of man-girls with alluring sobriquets like Champelle and Angelie; in now-classic drag-show fashion, each queen takes the stage for a solo exhibition of vainglorious lip-syncing and dirty dance, by turns showing off their florid yet still somehow exquisite costumes, then for the boldest and best-equipped of the bunch baring their often-astoundingly woman-like parts. This historic moment began on a similar Saturday one year earlier. Per square mile, there's probably more gay people here than anywhere in the Southeast. We joined together spreading the love and grace of God along Gay Street to a crowd of thousands.
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