Myrtle Beach has no pride. Well, no Gay Pride.
Based on the angry e-mails I have received, people in the local LGBTQ community seem to be upset that it’s Gay Pride Month and we are missing out on the celebrations that are taking place across the country. A couple of folks took me to task for not organizing the event. While I’m flattered that they think I have that much influence, I need to let them know that even in my own home, I have to move to another chair if the dog decides he wants the sofa to himself. Besides, I’m not sure an official Pride Week is what Myrtle Beach needs right now.
Pride celebrations are most definitely an affirmation of the fact that as a community, we are no longer segregated from mainstream society. We are no longer forced into the secret clubs in the less desirable sections of cities because we fear arrest or other forms of persecution. In fact, most of our clubs are now the favored celebration spots of our straight allies. If you think about it, that’s a considerable advancement in the practice of détente for the sometimes frightening world of two demographic groups who used to be separated by fear and misunderstanding.
Myrtle Beach has been christened the Unofficial Gay Capital of South Carolina and I’m not about to argue with that. For more years that I care to admit, I can recall a steady stream of vehicles heading this way from the Upstate to enjoy the once numerous bars and clubs. Many of those clubs are no longer open but they contributed significantly to the mainstream profile that we enjoy today. Places like the Offshore Drilling Company, Illusions, The Underground and Time Out! called out to young gay men and women across the Southeast for decades. These iconic clubs assured us that Myrtle Beach was not only the place where the celebration never ended but that there was also a rainbow respite from the angst of growing up gay in one of the reddest of the red states.
It wasn’t that long ago that we used to go out to gay clubs and then spend the next day trying to scrub the ink stamp off of our hands because we feared being outed. I believe for most of the gay community, both young and experienced, that time has passed. We have progressed from being classified as persons with a psychological disorder to one of the most significant voting blocs in the country. Politicians now realize that our endorsements and our votes can make a difference in their careers. They organize their campaigns to appeal to us by enthusiastically supporting our causes.
As I am writing this, there are people organizing events locally and nationally in anticipation of a ruling from the Supreme Court of the United States regarding same-sex marriage. Even if you’re a news junkie like I am, who lives on a steady stream of cable news, that one story should give you pause to hope. As a group of people lobbying for the basic rights afforded everyone else in our country, recognition doesn’t get any better than having our pleas addressed by the highest court in our nation.
Our progress In the last several years has been remarkable. Striking down the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell edict for military service, individual states endorsing marriage equality and a shout out from the President of the United States are all milestones in our very recent history. We also have two major protestant denominations, the Lutheran Church and the Episcopal Church, with openly gay persons serving as clergy and as bishops. Politicians such as Barney Frank and Tammy Baldwin would once have had no hopes for careers, but have been able to serve our country on a national level without fear. To me, those last two words “without fear” are tremendously powerful. It signifies the direction our nation is headed. We may still have our critics but they are more often being dismissed as out of touch and spiteful.
So, while we may not have an official week of Gay Pride this month in our corner of the Carolinas, we have many reasons to be proud and without fear. Don’t get me wrong, I have enjoyed watching the parades of seemingly endless floats containing the obligatory groups of go-go boys grinding out their pride statements to the club mix of Lady Gaga. And who doesn’t look forward to the roar of motorcycles as the legions of Dykes on Bikes roars down the street? But now, our Pride parades also contain a large contingent of folks from the faith communities, PFLAG and other groups that at one time would not be associated with our community. That makes me proud and for that I don’t really need an official week.
OUT & ABOUT
Saturday, June 29 - CareTeam Carnival for a Cause will take place from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. June 29 at Palmetto Missionary Baptist Church at 1301 Fulmer Street in Conway. There will be free HIV testing, food, carnival events for kids and a DJ. The event is in recognition of National HIV Testing Day.
Friday, July 5 - First Friday Happy Hour celebrates the 4th of July weekend at Smitty’s Pine Island Pub from 5:30 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. July 5. Smitty’s is at 364 Robert M. Grissom Parkway, Myrtle Beach. For additional information, visit www.firstfridayhappyhour.org.
Have a thought, comment or Out & About event? Send Drew Levy-Neal an e-mail to Drew.Levy.Neal@gmail.com. You can also follow him on Twitter: @Drew_Levy_Neal.