The idea of stepping into the writer’s role of an established column can be very daunting. Being a relatively new permanent resident to the Myrtle Beach area has both advantages and disadvantages. Myrtle Beach has always the Mecca for high school students. First week at the beach was the reward that awaited all of the seniors and it was the climax of our academic careers. Most of us came to the beach as tourists with our close circle of friends and a few of us, statistics would put that at 10 percent, also came with an equally intimidating secret.
Growing up gay in the South is an experience that is difficult to describe to people in California or Florida or even to our nearby neighbors in Atlanta. I grew up near Charlotte, N.C. in the early 1980s in a family steadfastly entrenched in a fundamentalist discipline that left little room for interpretation. Words like inclusion, acceptance and diversity were not a part of my early life experience and curriculum. Still, I managed to navigate the perils of being dramatically different in my small Southern town and my conservative church congregation and finally made it to Senior Week at Myrtle Beach with the promise of greater adventures ahead.
It was not until the liberation of college and even the military that I began to experience an expanded view of gay communities in action. I lived in San Diego, Los Angeles, Miami and Washington, D.C. in the mid-to-late 1980s where the LGBTQ movements were vibrant and influential. Pride events were held in public parks and in downtowns instead of in local clubs. I began to understand that being gay was not merely an orientation but that it is also a responsibility and an opportunity. The fear I once felt because of my identity transformed into an almost militant confrontation of the institutions that once dismissed or excluded me.
Reality checks were never far away for me because home was still the South and as a good Southern son, the big holidays always required an appearance. I remember Christmas at my grandmother’s home one year when I came home from California. I was no longer the preppy, Izod-wearing kid who had spent four years of high school desperately wanting to fit in. I was the club-hopping, liberated guy who brought home a “friend” from school to meet the family. My cousin met me at the door with her customary wit, a cigarette and a glass of gin and exclaimed “My God, Drew! You look like Boy George.” Being “out” was still not an option at home, so I frequently brought home a random collection of these unfortunate “friends” who had nowhere to spend the holidays.
Even so, I was not discouraged from my newly-discovered independence and activism. I became involved in organizing events and fundraisers. I even stepped out of my comfort zone and judged pageants and marched in parades. The buffer zone of being 3,000 miles away from the Carolinas afforded me an audaciousness that I never would have enjoyed if I had followed most of my schoolmates to USC in Columbia. I was free to fully explore and to evolve as a young gay man and I was encouraged to carry that identity with me into my daily life just as contentedly as I would carry a Gucci messenger bag.
I consider myself fortunate that I have been presented with numerous opportunities and diverse experiences during my life. Among the most memorable are taking part in the birth of a child, serving in leadership roles within religious communities, working to defeat Proposition 8 in California in 2008 and also attempting to defeat the Amendment 1 vote earlier this year in North Carolina. There are many others that I hope to share with you in the future.
Once again, life, education and career changes find me back to the Myrtle Beach area. If I have brought anything with me from my life experiences it is the importance of continuity in working for the development of the LGBTQ community. There are issues now before us that would not have seemed possible a decade ago. There are forums open to us that we would not have been invited to and there is a place for us at the table where we once would not have been welcome.
A forum for discussing these issues with humor, honesty and even reverence in some circumstances is something we all need. Connecting to the community in which we live and contributing to it is how we will create a coexistence which will ensure that the dialogue and the growth will continue. We owe it to the many people before us who worked so diligently in an effort for understanding. I look forward continuing that effort in some way.
OUT & ABOUT
Saturday, Oct. 13 – CLAWS, the Coastal Leather Allegiance to Wisdom and Support, will host its monthly Happy Hour Social at PULSE Ultra Club in downtown Myrtle Beach starting at 6 p.m. Saturday. This group is dedicated to providing an atmosphere of support, growth and camaraderie for all individuals interested in the Levi-and-Leather community. For additional information, please visit www.clawsllc.com.
Friday, Oct. 12 & Saturday, Oct. 13 – Time Out, located at 520 8th Ave. N. in Myrtle Beach, will continue its tradition of Fabulous Fridays and Super Saturdays with two very showcases. On Friday, Roxy LaRouge will be the host and on Saturday, Miss Time Out US of A Kelly Brooks will host with Lady Manirva. For more details, visit the club Web site at www.timeoutmbsc.com.
Friday, Oct. 19 – C.C. Royal Productions and Pulse Ultra Club will present the Miss Myrtle Beach US of A Pageant at PULSE Ultra Club, 803 Main St., Myrtle Beach. This is a Direct Preliminary to the Miss US of A Pageant and will feature Miss SC US of A Kristina Deevine. The pageant will begin at 11:30 p.m. For additional information or to enter, contact the club at email@example.com or call 315-0019.