I write this piece to you from my car overlooking a Nashville City Hall bathed in red tonight.
Many of you would recognize the location as that of the Nashville Pride Festival. It’s hard to tell in the dark (and the cold…for once I wish it was hot and humid here.) But that’s where I’m at, and it is a fitting place for this commentary.
We need as a tribe to honestly discuss the person of Mayor Megan Barry. The dark of night has fallen upon her political future as mayor and, as a consequence, upon our own community.
Mayor Barry has proven to one and all this week that she is human. The difference between herself and countless others who have engaged in this same type of private-nature foolishness is that she is not a bigot.
She is an open ally to our community, and therefore she is family. As long as she is not proven to be a crook…we should defend her to the hilt.
Tribe, open ranks to let her inside…then form square to defend her.
Tonight I write to you as an openly partisan columnist in a major LGBTQ+ newspaper, taking a political position based upon personal emotion and fear.
Megan Barry has been the best mayor for Southern LGBTQ+ people that we have ever seen. Her resignation or forced removal due to an act of love, or personal stupidity…whichever you may wish to call this…would be a major setback for progressive-minded people throughout the American South.
We must fight this outcome at all costs.
If you have not heard already, Mayor Barry has publicly admitted to a years long extramarital affair with a Metro Police officer assigned to her security team. There are not unreasonable suggestions from outside her office that this coupling, whether the officer was officially on duty or not, may have cost taxpayers far more money than was necessary to protect the Mayor’s person…especially during business-related functions outside Nashville.
We do not know the extent of what she has done, but we do know that she is trying to be forthcoming about the matter. Barry’s responses to this point have been far more than we have come to expect from an elected politician caught in a very much self-induced jam such as this.
She has been open…to a point…and brutally honest about how much damage the revelation of her affair has done to her and her paramour’s families, not to mention her ability to govern one of the fastest growing cities in the country.
Barry’s explanation that this was “a consensual relationship between two middle-aged people” is understandable, especially for a community such as ours who have had to discreetly live our truth behind closed doors for far too long.
But should she be using this line of defense? “I screwed up” is what we want to hear from Megan Barry regarding her private life…and that’s all. The rest of her explanations belong in the dustbin. Well meaning people gave her some very bad advice before the press conference on Wednesday night, and she came off as a politician trying to survive…not Megan Barry.
Perhaps there is more under the surface to be discovered by investigating authorities, but as long as it is not malfeasance…I’m willing to give her a one-time pass. Frankly, we need her and her support for progressive ideas and progressive people. We cannot take a chance on someone else at the moment. Our own LGBTQ+ community needs a mayor like Megan Barry. Right now, and not tomorrow.
Yes, I think about Bill Clinton too…and former mayor Bill Boner. This commentary is hard to write because every fibre of my body shouts that she should probably resign over what she did. She has shown herself to be quite deficient in professional judgement. This affair did not happen before she was elected to public office. She began it after she was sworn in.
If Megan Barry was the CEO of a large company in the private sector, and had a relationship with a subordinate employee in some capacity that called into question her expenses and judgement, she would be fired on the spot. You just cannot do this crap anymore.
If she was a cisgender heterosexual male Republican who openly hated LGBTQ+ people on social media doing the exact same thing, we would all be calling for his head and not letting up until he stepped down.
And yet…I’m asking us to give her a pass. She is that important. I am partisan tonight and afraid. The bigots are out of control and we need all the allies we can get right now…flawed or not.
Megan Barry now has, officially and for the record, major character flaws. But she is one of us. She is flawed and, as a major ally to our cause…family.
Very few of us in this tribe are without flaws, especially the ability to separate emotion from good sense when we need it most. But we must open ranks and take her in, flaws and all. She is our sister now.
So form square, and prepare for the attack to come. This is war and our open political allies down here are few.
Defend your sister.
Julie Chase is the pen name for a local trans woman and Out & About Nashville columnist.