With Pride Month Comes Reminders of Its Importance

Urban Brother, Stonewall Inn, East Village, New York City, November 2018

As I’ve considered how to acknowledge Pride month this year, my thoughts turned to Oren Yarbrough’s series of articles last June. I didn’t really understand the history and the systemic nature of the abuse of the LGBTQ community at the hands of not only citizens, but the government until I read his articles.

I didn’t know much about the Stonewall Inn or understand what happened there. In a series of articles, Oren also discussed the city’s current relationship with the gay community, the relationship between Knoxville’s gay community and the arts, Knoxville’s history with LGBTQ hate crimes, and past and present gathering spots for the LGBTQ community. Near the end of the year I was fortunate to have one of the greatest days of my life with my brother as we visited the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village.

The end of this month marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riot and protests that ultimately led to the changing of laws in New York City and, slowly, in the remainder of the country. It ushered in the modern era of the gay rights movement. With the passage of marriage equality it seemed we had finally put the worst behind us.

Stonewall Inn, East Village, New York City, November 2018

Not so much. This week marks the third anniversary of the shooting at The Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando which left forty-nine people dead. London seemed to be the setting for this year’s bad news regarding the gay community when two lesbian women were beaten in an apparent homophobic attack.

And then Knoxville had to find its way into the national news via the hate-filled sermon by Grayson Fritts at the All Scripture Baptist Church on Cherry Street in east Knoxville. Identified as both a pastor and a Knox County sheriff’s detective, he advocated governmental execution of gay people as a matter of Biblical directive.

It made Knoxville look bad enough on a national and international stage that Mayor Rogero felt compelled to address the situation. Here is her complete statement:

As Mayor of Knoxville, I am outraged at the statements by Knox County Sheriff’s Detective Grayson Fritts. To clarify, the Detective is not a City of Knoxville employee but an employee of the Knox County Sheriff’s Office.

However, Fritts’ statements raise concerns locally and nationally about protecting LGBTQ+ rights and equality. Fritts’ statements have cast a negative light on our community making it imperative to share my personal position and the position of the City of Knoxville.

The City of Knoxville has been proactive in implementing LGBTQ+ equality and promoting inclusiveness in policy decisions and employee benefits for many years, including the following:

  • In 2012, we expanded our non-discrimination ordinance for City of Knoxville employees to include sexual orientation and gender identity.
  • Since 2014, the City of Knoxville has offered equal health, dental, vision and life insurance benefits for LGBTQ+ and other City employees who are registered in domestic partnerships.
  • Since 2012, elected officials have participated in the Pride Parade and offered public welcoming remarks at Pridefest.
  • As a member of the national organization Mayors Against LGBTQ+ Discrimination, I joined other mayors across the country in 2015 in signing on to the amicus brief in support of the marriage equality case before the Supreme Court.
  • Both the Mayor and the Police Chief have community LGBTQ+ liaisons who work locally and nationally on issues of equality.

            A comprehensive list of LGBTQ+ equality efforts is on the City website: http://knoxvilletn.gov/government/mayors_office/lgbt_equality_in_knoxville

June is Pride month. I appreciate the work of Knox Pride in organizing the annual parade and Pridefest on Saturday, June 22. This year’s Pridefest will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots and the first pride march in the country.

The City takes very seriously the safety of everyone in our community. We also take great pride in serving a city that is both diverse and inclusive. We are excited to welcome the LGBTQ+ community and their supporters for PrideFest. We are planning and mobilizing staff to oversee the safety of all those in attendance.

Our goal is a safe and secure atmosphere to allow the diversity of our city to be celebrated. Elected officials, the Knoxville Police Department, the Knoxville Fire Department, and other City employees will be present to support, protect, and participate in this year’s Pride events.

We are actively engaged in ensuring our LGBTQ+ residents and visitors know that Knoxville is a welcoming and inclusive City.

In an international and national climate in which we continue to see violence against the LGBTQ community, we do not need encouragement of the hatred. In an era in which our city seems to have turned a corner and entered a more progressive era it is discouraging for the world to see an example of hateful bigotry and threats of violence in our midst and likely see it as emblematic of who we are.

Mayor Rogero and city officials in Knoxville’s Gay Pride Parade

For the people who earlier this month were calling for “straight” parades, implying equivalence, these events make clear that the marches that started fifty years ago need to continue and that there is no equivalent source of hate and bigotry directed at the straight community.

So, how do we want the world to see our city? Does Mr. Fritts get the last word? Is that the image of our city that will linger in the minds of people who rarely consider us, but will remember, “Oh yeah, isn’t that the city where that guy . . .” If there was ever a year we needed to show the world who the majority of us really are, this would be it.

Let’s make this year’s Pride Parade the biggest ever. Perhaps we should dedicate it to Mr. Fritts. Meet me there on June 22 as we celebrate our lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender and queer friends and support their right to simply be who they are.

Comments

  1. Thank You for the kind words Alan and Thank You for being a dedicated ally to the LGBTQ community. I really hope we have a massive crowd come out on the 22nd for Knox Pride so we can show the world that we are, in fact, a community that loves our citizens and celebrates our diversity.

  2. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and our mayor’s words on the matter. As a growing community, we surely care about what the world thinks of us as that world’s inhabitants ponder whether to come visit or come stay. I am struck by the thought that we — whether native born or adoptee — have the most potent tool for eradicating the misguided and hateful impression the false preacher created: the fabled “East Tennessee Friendly” attitude that impresses every visitor. Applied liberally every day, it benefits us in our dealings with each other and wows those fortunate enough to be in our midst. It doesn’t require or exclude religious affiliation or social status and comes, I think, from a well established understanding of the Golden rule . . . and breathing Smoky Mountain air.

  3. Mr. Fritts expression of hatred is NOT what Jesus proclaimed while he was on Earth. Jesus proclaimed Love. We need to live in peace and harmony- not hate.

  4. Thank you for this article! I just had a beer at The Stonewall just two weeks ago – it was quite emotional. I remembered you had been there with him last fall and of our conversations of our families prior. Thanks for continuing to build “commUNITY” as my friend, Katie, says. That will never be the last word and forget what people think of us – we KNOW we’re cool. Lol.

    It’s just as important for us to understand that preacher (he obviously has an unfathomable amount of pain to be that angry) as it is for him to understand that we are the same children of this blessed Earth – only then are we in true states of forgiveness and learn how to live without separateness or superiority either way. I will be remembering those at Stonewall, Pulse, those LGBTQ+ that, like me, grew up in a house that shamed (even if unintentionally) anything except heteronormative behavior and perceptions. It’s deep and very painful, very. Yet, thank you to all those who bring us together by shedding hate both ways regardless. I like to say “Happy Happy Pride” to remind myself to not let myself be frustrated at those who aren’t ready to join in equality and to keep what we are all doing sacred. 👨‍👩‍👧👭👩‍👩‍👧👨‍👨‍👧👬👩‍👧👨‍👧👨‍👩‍👧‍👦👫👩‍👩‍👧‍👦👨‍👨‍👧‍👦👩‍👧‍👦🚶‍♂️👨‍👧‍👦👨‍👩‍👦‍👦👩‍👩‍👦‍👦🚶‍♀️👨‍👨‍👦‍👦👩‍👦‍👦👨‍👦‍👦👨‍👩‍👧‍👧👩‍👩‍👧‍👧👨‍👨‍👧‍👧👩‍👧‍👧👨‍👧‍👧👪👩‍👩‍👦👨‍👨‍👦👩‍👦👨‍👦

  5. Jonathan says

    Thank you, Alan. We appreciate your support and the support of your readers. I look forward to seeing you at Pride.

  6. I’m sure Mr. Fritts would love it if a swarm of local LGBT citizens were to attend his church on Sunday and give him stink eye.

    • Truly the reaction to him has been gratifying, but continued attention is just going to fire up those with similar views. We just need to remember that there are plenty still out there teaching such things.

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