Rainbow Colors in Every Direction Under Gray Skies

Urban Family Ready for the Pride Parade, Knoxville, June 2019

Thousands came downtown despite the threat of storms for the annual Pride Parade. Layered with special poignancy, this year marked the 50th anniversary of the 1969 riots and subsequent marches resulting from the confrontation between gay patrons and the police at the Stonewall Inn in New York City.

It also followed a volatile week in which Knoxville made the national news for the hate speech of a local minister who recently was also a detective with the sheriff’s department. His inciting of violence combined with the word that right-wing groups were busing to Knoxville put an extra tension in the air.

Pride Parade, Knoxville, June 2019

Pride Parade, Knoxville, June 2019

Pride Parade, Knoxville, June 2019

Pride Parade, Knoxville, June 2019

Pride Parade, Knoxville, June 2019

Whether produced by the specific threats of violence or simply as a response to the United States’ tendency toward gun violence at the hands of extremists, local police established a heavy presence from snipers on rooftops, to machine guns on the street, barricaded streets and numerous officers circulating on foot and bike.

The heavy presence of security didn’t seem to diminish the joy and exuberance of the crowd. Perhaps it helped. In any case, the crowd built into the thousands as the moment approached. It was a strikingly diverse crowd, from children to the elderly, ethnically varied and mostly everyone united in the festivity and the wash of color in every direction. It has to be the most colorful event of the year, hence the large number of photographs in this article.

Pride Parade, Knoxville, June 2019

Pride Parade, Knoxville, June 2019

Pride Parade, Knoxville, June 2019

Pride Parade, Knoxville, June 2019

Urban Brother Displays Incredible Dexterity, Pride Parade, Knoxville, June 2019

And the crowd roared as the parade began. And continued to roar in waves throughout the rather long parade. With the exception of the lone protester who walked up and down Gay Street looking rather sour, joy filled the crowd. It was also obvious on the faces of those in the parade. It’s really different from any other parade. It’s hard to overstate its importance to many of the participants, as well as many of the observers.

For our family, it has always been a big deal, but this year was bigger: Urban Brother took his place in the flag corps as part of the Gay Men’s Chorus. It’s hard to express to someone who hasn’t walked it with a friend or family member, just how long the journey is for so many to arrive at this point.

Pride Parade, Knoxville, June 2019

Pride Parade, Knoxville, June 2019

Pride Parade, Knoxville, June 2019

Pride Parade, Knoxville, June 2019

Pride Parade, Knoxville, June 2019

It wasn’t that long ago that he and I followed the parade, only to be caught up in it to march together and cry about the journey. Don’t let the rainbows and unicorns mask the fact that there is a lot of pain along the way for many gathered for this parade.

One of the ways this was exhibited was in the presence of people wearing shirts with “Free Dad Hug,” or “Free Mom Hug,” on them. It may seem like a silly idea to some, but for particular people, to be hugged by a father or mother figure when they’ve lost all hope of ever experiencing that with their own parents, is very powerful. A male friend of mine who wore such a shirt told on Facebook of a young man who grabbed him and sobbed. Human touch means so much.

Pride Parade, Knoxville, June 2019

Pride Parade, Knoxville, June 2019

Pride Parade, Knoxville, June 2019

Pride Parade, Knoxville, June 2019

Pride Parade, Knoxville, June 2019

Del Shores was present in our parade this year, serving as co-Grand Marshall. It’s a big deal to have him join us. If you don’t know his series of movies (or plays) staring with “Sordid Lives,” you owe yourself a treat. Look them up and be prepared to die laughing as he offends at least one sacred cow for everyone. They are classics.

Pride Parade, Knoxville, June 2019

Pride Parade, Knoxville, June 2019

Pride Parade, Knoxville, June 2019

Pride Parade, Knoxville, June 2019

Pride Parade, Knoxville, June 2019

Lots of cute children lined the parade route and marched in the parade with their parents or with their church groups. As always, I couldn’t help but tune in to them and to the cute pets that joined in. A small pig stole the pet competition, while all the children were precious.

Pride Parade, Knoxville, June 2019

Pride Parade, Knoxville, June 2019

Pride Parade, Knoxville, June 2019

Pride Parade, Knoxville, June 2019

Pride Parade, Knoxville, June 2019

I don’t have much of it pictured here, but there were two other major presences in the parade worth noting. The corporate involvement continues to grow as Pride becomes more mainstream. Companies like Whirlpool and local businesses like Knox Brew Tours and Preservation Pub lined up along the various local LGBTQ+ and church groups. In what other context does that happen?

Pride Parade, Knoxville, June 2019

Pride Parade, Knoxville, June 2019

Pride Parade, Knoxville, June 2019

Pride Parade, Knoxville, June 2019

Pride Parade, Knoxville, June 2019

The other notable presence was local and state politicians. There has always been a contingent from city government and they were present. Commissioner Evelyn Gill was there, but I didn’t see anyone else from county government. It would be great to see a continent, next year. The Democrats were out in force, but I didn’t see any Republican organization. Mayoral and City Council candidates were out in force, waving and shaking hands along the way. There is no mistaking it is political season. What is striking is that we have arrived at a point where it is seen as politically expedient to be a Pride Parade. That wasn’t true just a few years ago.

Pride Parade, Knoxville, June 2019

Pride Parade, Knoxville, June 2019

Pride Parade, Knoxville, June 2019

Pride Parade, Knoxville, June 2019

Pride Parade, Knoxville, June 2019

There were other groups of note, as well. A group of self-identified kindergarten teachers marched and that would not have happened just a short time ago. Groups of high school students joined in. Maybe we’ll know we’ve gotten somewhere when local high school bands want to join the parade (although the time of year likely will inhibit that possibility). It’s also worth mentioning that the street, from city-supplied banners to businesses lining the route were festooned in appropriate rainbow decorations.

Pride Parade, Knoxville, June 2019

Pride Parade, Knoxville, June 2019

Pride Parade, Knoxville, June 2019

Pride Parade, Knoxville, June 2019

Pride Parade, Knoxville, June 2019

In the end, it was another happy parade, as best exemplified by the proposal in the street during the parade. Of course it happened at the intersection of Gay and Union. I understand the Pride Festival itself was also a success. A downpour forced a brief evacuation and the Gay Men’s Chorus sang a portion of their program in the parking garage to, I suspect, the delight of everyone present. The event resumed and finished without further problems.

And with that, another Pride Celebration comes to an end. For all the build up, it was pretty low drama. I have another hundred or so photographs that I’ll try to load onto the Inside of Knoxville Facebook Page, so watch for that. There are many more good ones.

Pride Parade, Knoxville, June 2019

Pride Parade, Knoxville, June 2019

Comments

  1. Gayandconservative says

    Republicans dont attend pride largely because of the hostile reception conservatism receives from the “community”. As a gay conservative I’ve been treated far worse by the gay community than I have by the,conservative community.

  2. Sherry, I highly recommend you get coffee with Urban brother Mark Sims and find out how it feels to live in hiding. Because as my very close lesbian junior high school friend once said to me “it’s not a choice, otherwise no one would choose this life”. Once you have your head wrapped around that, you might understand that no amount of “training” is possible. What if it were you or what if it were your child? No one chooses this life, but nor do they want to hide from it. And nor should they. And those with different sexual orientations have been hiding it since the beginning of time. Happy you are now happy Mark Sims xo

  3. Bonny Pendleton says

    I had a wonderful day anad gave out many loving mom hugs. Such a happy bunch of people. It warmed me heart. It was interesting that when I searched for a wi-fi connection, the first listed was the TBI Surveillance Van,. Also, I did wonder whose drone was flying over the crowd most of the day.

  4. Gail mitchell says

    Thanks for your wonderful coverage of the parade. If we’d been in town we definitely would’ve attended. I’m planning on sending this article to my brother and his partner in Cleveland to try to get them to come for a visit to our growingly inclusive Knoxville. I think they would be impressed by the number of people who would be so very welcoming. Although there are obviously still some judgey/pray-the-gay-away people here we have come so far in our acceptance of those with different lifestyles in the 16 yrs we’ve lived here. GO Knoxville!! 🙂

  5. Michael Gill says

    What do you mean, ” I didn’t see anyone from county government?” You didn’t post it here, but it looked like you did see us and take a photo of me and Commissioner Gill.

    • KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says

      Because I stupidly forgot the photo I had just edited when I wrote that sentence and because I’ve known Commissioner Gill as Evelyn for so long that it didn’t hit me. I apologize and will change the sentence. I would love to see a larger group from county government, next year.

      • Michael Gill says

        No worries. We figured it was a flub and not a snub. But you still didn’t tag Evelyn/Commissioner Gill in the cool photo you posted on FB. If you want to get completely off the hook, you might want to fix that, too.
        Thanks, Urban Guy. Great photos and coverage of a wonderful event, perhaps Knoxville’s most joyous event of the year.

        • KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says

          Um, yes I did. I tagged you both. And, yes, flub, not snub. I’d just love to see a county mayor or a group of commissioners one year.

    • Evelyn Gill says

      Thank you for acknowledging my presence. Michael has been apart of the parade for 4 years. This is my second year walking because the parade was scheduled when, I was traveling. Additionally, I have participated in Art Out Loud donating several pieces over multiple years as well as, attending the Picnic and supporting the Diversity Prom.

  6. Mark Sims says

    Sherry
    I would love to sit down over a cup of coffee if you’re open to it. I have no agenda to change your mind, perhaps we could just talk and you could get a glimpse that the love I have for another man is anything but sad. I was “trained up”. I was in church every time it was open, went to a Christian school, a Baptist college, seminary, and became an ordained minister. As the writer above mentioned, there’s that pesky matter of biology at play as well. I welcome your response and would love to have a one on one real conversation. What do you say?

  7. Leland Wykoff says

    Wonderful photos and a delightful read and recap of events. Thanks Urban Guy. Looking forward to your posting those additional images.

  8. As a counterpoint to the negative local news that made it national here is some positive local news that made it national: https://www.cnn.com/2019/06/23/us/knoxville-diversity-prom/index.html?fbclid=IwAR20r7Sr6ibxa3o1aiNyNDnGZNNXPFZqmMmIPLZ2ojSbKJtUvr2h-6iJ_60
    Signal boosting is appreciated.

  9. Thank you for your excellent photos and commentary, Alan. It was a beautiful day and exemplifies perfectly why I am happy to be a Knoxville transplant. So many allies and so few haters! A few years ago I couldn’t have imagined this.

  10. Sherry,
    Why not train your children to accept what YOU don’t understand. If you don’t understand it you need to get to know the people in the community better so that you DO understand it! If there is a higher power let the higher power sort it out and in the mean time, love everyone!

  11. Go, Urban Brother! I’m so glad y’all are part of the KGMC family <3

    This was my first Pride and it was really weird feeling 100% at home out in public and belonging in Knoxville. I just felt *normal* for the first time in my entire life. Like I didn't stick out from the crowd and no one was staring at me in a bad way. I wish Knoxville could feel so much like home every day of the year.

  12. Jonathan says

    Sherry – According to a 2017 Gallup poll, 4.5% of Americans identify as LGBTQ. That means that 95.5% of Americans are probably “men who like women, women who like men, women who want to BE women, and men who want to BE men”. Pride was a great day, and seeing so many of the 95.5% coming out to show their support of the 4.5% was inspiring. I hope one day you will be there with us celebrating diversity, love, self-acceptance, and acceptance of those who aren’t like ourselves one day as well.

  13. It’s a pretty sad state of affairs that so many men don’t like women, and women don’t like men anymore; men and women don’t like each other anymore. And women don’t want to BE women, and men don’t want to BE men. What’s wrong with men and women today that we are not happy with our biological presence? Train up a child……….

    • We’re too busy minding our own business.

    • Thank you, Sherry, for helping to demonstrate why an event like the pride parade is so valuable.

    • My parents tried real hard but turns out you can’t train children to be straight, there’s biology also at play here. 🙂

    • Train up a child to love everyone for who they are and not judge. We are all humans after all.

    • KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says

      Hey Sherry,

      I appreciate your different perspective. I also appreciate the responses you’ve gotten, as I feel they are accepting of your perspective. I don’t usually wade into the conversation as much because it usually evolves to the point that most opinions get expressed. On this one I wanted to add just a little, if I might.

      As a child, I was taught that being different with gender identity or attraction was a choice, and not a good one. I accepted that perspective early in life even though I had some evidence to contradict it should I have tuned in. Eventually, it occurred to me to ponder when I made my choice of gender identification and attraction. When was that decision point after much thought and consideration, that I established what my sexuality would be? Of course, the answer is that I didn’t make a decision. At some age or another I simply knew. It was a short step from that moment for me to realize I had no reason to assume other people had made a decision. Another layer came as I considered, could I now make a decision to change my gender identification or sexuality? Well, no, I couldn’t. So again, why did I assume others did or could?

      Then came my understanding of how many LGBTQ+ people have been taught that they are defective, less than and otherwise not good enough for others. I watched friends and family desperately try to be “straight.” At great personal cost they tried to conform, many feeling shame and literally praying to stop having the feelings they had. For many, if they could have chosen, they would have happily chosen to avoid the condemnation and rejection that comes with being different.

      I understand that not everyone will accept my thinking that I just laid out. I hope we can all agree that we are all human and doing the best we can. No humans deserve to be targeted by hatred or actual physical harm. The parade serves as a reminder of the non-conforming people who have been and continue to be victimized around the world. It serves as an opportunity for the larger population to say, “We see you and you are OK. You are part of all of us.”

      Thanks for listening and thanks for being willing to express your opinion here.

      • Thank you for so eloquently explaining what I try to explain to cisgender/heterosexual folks far too frequently. You are a blessing for this city.

      • Thank you for that thought. I do often wonder why I owe respect to anyone’s beliefs that speak to who and what I am (negatively) and who I can love and to what they choose to believe about it, though. Her belief is wrong, whether based on a misunderstanding or having been taught wrong and it says that I cannot and do not exist except as someone taking an action which her beliefs tell her is wrong.

    • Thank you to everyone who responded here, I do appreciate the conversation. I do have many friends who are gay, and I truly like them, as people. I believe everyone deserves respect and consideration as humans. There are a couple of things that I question, though. I understand that a very small percentage of people have always been born with differences – medically, physically, emotionally, and mentally. However, I believe that those differences are being over-represented in society, for example in movies and in media. And when I mentioned “Train up a child…”, I was not referring to guiding a child in an honest, productive, and virtuous path, which I assume all of us here are doing. I was talking about indoctrinating children. For example, a man who transgenered into a woman, raised a daughter who grew up to be a lesbian, who wrote a book encouraging gender confusion targeted at five year-olds (“Introducing Teddy”). Then the state of California re-vamped their sex education curriculum to include this book as reading material in Kindergarten classes. This is how children are indoctrinated into accepting lifestyles that aren’t healthy. Or maybe it’s just that the university graduates of Gender Studies have to have something to do with their degrees, and targeting children is the easiest way to change the thought of an entire generation. To be “born” a certain way is one thing, but to “teach” it is quite another.

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