Pride fest will not be our undoing

I think I'm pretty transparent in my beliefs. I have no problem saying what I think when asked.

So it really irritates me when people lean in closely to whisper something ­negative about individuals or a group of people just because they assume I think as they do.

They might be right sometimes, which, I think, negates the need to lean in and whisper. Say it out loud. That's what I do when I have an opinion.

But most of the time, they are wrong. We don't share the same belief and we are not kindred spirits.

So leaning in and ­whispering is even less ­acceptable to me.

A friend stopped by ­Monday to ask when the Lexington Pride Festival was scheduled. He seemed to have just heard about it and was either saddened or shocked that city officials would allow anything so ­deviant to take place.

The festival in Cheapside Park will be a ­celebration of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and ­transgendered community; at the same time, Lexington's Diversity Festival will be held a couple of blocks east on Main Street.

That's a lot of different faces in Lexington at the same time.

”What about the ­children?“ my friend asked, speaking of the Pride Festival incredulously.

I had been hearing about gay-pride celebrations throughout the country for years and had even tried, lamely, to cover one in San Francisco during the ­summer of 1983. Admittedly, I was surprised at some of the things my country eyes ­witnessed that day.

But San Francisco is not Lexington, so I have no concerns that what happened there 25 years ago is what will happen at Lexington's first public celebration of gay pride. Being gay is not that shocking any more, thanks to public awareness, which is what a public celebration should foster.

”If I'm not doing anything, I'll probably go downtown for the celebration,“ I told my friend.

”No you wouldn't,“ he said.

”Yes, I would,“ I replied. Why not? Do you think I'll be converted or something?“

I obviously am not the person to talk to, especially if you whisper your disdain in my ear.

Paul Brown, chairman of Lexington Fairness and a sponsor for the celebration, said that fortunately, the negative comments have been few and far between. ”We feel so positive; we don't think anything will work to rain on our parade,“ he said.

But I needed to know how not to sabotage his efforts to give this community a more accurate glimpse of gays.

”Talk like that I chalk up to ignorance,“ Brown said of my friend. ”Their exposure to the gay community is only through the media. They see a gay pride parade in Chicago and see someone walking down the street wearing a thong.

”We are expecting a huge crowd, and when people see that and see that we are ­normal people just like ­everyone else, it will have quite the opposite effect. It will broaden our horizons.“

Mary Crone, president of the Gay and Lesbian Service Organization, said making the celebration more public, as opposed to being relegated to the grounds of a private farm as has been the case in years past, might be ­unsettling to some ­Bluegrass residents, but it brings comfort to others, especially young people.

She said she works with young people who know they are different but who aren't sure of their sexual ­orientation and are frightened.

Those young people don't always have supportive ­parents or any other safety net they can rely on.

A public celebration of gay pride gives those teens a point of reference in the ­future when they need ­support.

”I feel more responsible for youth,“ Crone said. ”I wasn't out until I was 37.“

Brown is anticipating a large crowd Saturday in Cheapside Park, 215 West Main Street. The festival runs from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

”This is new for us,“ Brown said. ”It is going to be momentous and historic, while the gay parade in San Francisco is old hat.“

He said Vice Mayor Jim Gray, the first openly gay ­candidate to win a ­countywide election in Lexington, and state Sen. ­Ernesto Scorsone, D-­Lexington, the state's only openly gay lawmaker, will address the crowd.

There will be Pride Idol, a karaoke singing contest based on American Idol; a cornhole tournament; raffles; a dunking booth; and two bands: Caribbean Blues Band at noon and Oxford Farm Report at 8 p.m.

About 5:30 p.m., there will be a drag show, for all those who have never seen one, he said.

Last year, The Advocate magazine voted Lexington one of the ”10 Best Places for Gays and Lesbians to Live.“

”We need to live up to that representation,“ Brown said.

And be bold about it. Don't whisper.