In Nashville’s diverse and active LGBT community, there is always something going on, often leaving us with hard choices about which of three events we’ll attend on a given night. This year’s faves include a diverse and powerful slate of community organizations and representatives that remind us how much we have to be proud of, and how much we have the opportunity to do.
Non-Profit – Nashville CARES
Nashville CARES, which has since the early days of the AIDS crisis brought essential CARE to those suffering from HIV, is truly one of Middle Tennessee’s most important organizations, not only for the LGBT community but for every community and individual touched by the epidemic. After three decades, the organization remains committed to its mission: “to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Middle Tennessee. We work to achieve this through education, advocacy and support for those at risk for or living with HIV.” CARES serves thousands of people in Middle Tennessee yearly, offering testing services, support and mental health care, as well as food and bill assistance. In addition to this, CARES is an essential organization in providing preventative options, from condoms to PREP services.
Community Group—LGBT Chamber of Commerce
Nashville’s LGBT Chamber of Commerce, helmed by Lisa Howe, has expanded rapidly in recent years. The organization provides opportunities for building connections within the LGBT business community locally and nationwide, and for building brides with LGBT-friendly companies we want to support. Event’s like TASTE not only fund this mission but facilitate it, providing opportunities to market to the LGBT community and to network.
Community Event – Nashville Pride
Nashville Pride, this year’s favorite community event, was by far the largest in the event’s history—even before the last minute expansion to add dozens of new vendors—and on the heels of this success it’s set for an even bigger footprint next year. The new location around Public Square Park allows room to grow and has proven an ideal location for the expanding festival We look forward to next year’s Pride, as the community comes together with new strength as it faces new and unexpected opposition. As the fight for equality shifts, Pride may just be able to return to its roots in resistance. Only time will tell.
LGBT Sports Team – HotMess League
HotMess Kickball League, which was featured on the cover of O&AN in July 2014, has hundreds of members, making it one of the largest of LGBT Nashville’s social groups, and definitely our largest local LGBT sporting league. It provides an essential opportunity for our community to gather, play, and party. Plus, with so many members, they have a huge built-in voting bloc! From its roots in kickball, the league has expanded to include both dodgeball and volleyball, and thus provides year-round activities. If you haven’t checked them out, you might want to give it a try, or at least crash the post-game festivities at the bars!
Outstanding Citizen – Mayor Megan Barry
Last year, Nashville voters, proving that we are a true blue beacon in this decidedly red state, elected Megan Barry as our first woman mayor. In the year since, Barry has cemented her place as LGBT Nashville’s favorite local politician. This year she was also voted our most outstanding citizen, for her continued advocacy for our community—a role she takes seriously not only our of ideological commitments but also as the daughter of a gay man—and for her solid leadership, as well as the diversity of her appointments.
LGBT Musician – Byron Rice
Byron Rice was this year’s top choice for LGBT musician. Rice previously performed as Christian recording artist Byron Keith, but has since moved on to work as an Americana-Folk singer and songwriter. Based in Nashville, Tennessee, Rice can often be found performing locally.
LGBT Artist/Actor — Chuck Long
This year’s favorite LGBT artist is actor Chuck Long, co-host of Out & About Today on NewsChannel 5. Long is an active force in Nashville community theatre as well. His resume is extensive. Long was in Next Fall, in which he played Adam, one of two men in a committed relationship that is ultimately troubled by faith and religion conflicts. He played barfly Peanut in Southern Baptist Sissies, Del Shores’ story of four gay boys growing up in the Southern Baptist Church and how they each deal with the conflict between the teachings of the church and their sexuality. He also played Brother Boy, the lead role in Shores’ Sordid Lives.
Long also played Mickey in the memorable and moving local production of Larry Kramer’s The Normal Heart, and Countess in Lilies, a play depicting the confession of an aging prisoner to a bishop, during which we learn that the bishop and the prisoner were part of a gay love triangle. Long is currently in rehearsals for Actors Bridge Ensemble’s production of Hand to God, set to run at the Darkhorse Theater December 8 – 18. It’s a Nashville premiere and recent Best Play Tony nominee. The play is a hilariously twisted piece about love, faith, the ties that bind us—and demonic puppets! Long will be playing the role of Pastor Greg.