National Coming Out Day celebrated in Knoxville

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Continuing the tradition for its second year, the Knox-area GLBT community celebrated the 2006 observance of National Coming Out Day with an array of activities and events.

Beginning with "Out & About Newspaper’s" East Bureau Gay Favorites 2006 awards ceremony at Club XYZ on Friday, Oct. 6, the schedule ran through Sunday evening, Oct. 15, and was packed with something for everyone.

On Monday, the Gay Men’s Discussion Group “talked about it” as they dedicated their meeting to the coming out topic. They gather weekly at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church. The group, headed up by Rick Sawyer, LCSW, provides an outlet for gay men to talk about important issues in their lives.

The following day saw Chris Glaser, gay Christian author and speaker, who addressed the group on the topic of religion and homosexuality at UT’s Carolyn P. Brown Student Center’s Shiloh Room. (See the article about Glaser in this issue.)

Wednesday the Lesbian Social Group hosted their weekly LSG Wednesdays. The group, headed up by partners Donna Hankins and Caroline Malone, offers weekly gatherings at local venues, providing a connection point for newcomers to the community as well as old friends.

Saturday, Oct. 14, a “Talk About It” luncheon was held at the Knoxville Grill and Brewery, a popular downtown destination. The featured speaker, Carolyn Wagner of Fayetteville, Ark., is the co-founder of Families United Against Hate, an organization that provides support, guidance and assistance to families of all constellations and to individuals dealing with incidents based on bias, as well as to the people, organizations and agencies who serve and support them.

Wagner became involved in the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer) civil rights movement after her son, William, was victimized and harassed in the Fayetteville Public Schools because of his sexual orientation. Homophobic classmates assaulted him at school. The attack landed him in the hospital. The family, including Carolyn’s husband, Bill, filed a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) under the then-new Title IX explicit coverage of sexual harassment of gay students. Title IX is the federal statute that prohibits sexual discrimination. With the help of Lambda Legal, they were able to sue the school system successfully and affirm the right of LGBTQ students to obtain a public education without fear of harassment.

The mom turned activist also organized the effort that overrode the Fayetteville mayoral veto of a local Human Dignity resolution. The resolution laid in place policy prohibiting city hiring practices that discriminate against prospective employees based on sexual orientation. As the former vice president of PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), Wagner has spoken out publicly across the country in her efforts to advance equality for LGBTQ people.

Later in the evening, Wagner also addressed the attendees at the NCOD Evening on the Square 2006. The crowd gathered on Market Square despite chilly temperatures and was treated to the talents of singer/songwriter Mallory Boyd. This young artist wowed the crowd with her bodacious voice reminiscent of the women’s music movement sound, but updated and richer than most.

Nancy Mott, Licensed Professional Counselor, and Convener for the local Integrity group, addressed the crowd on the importance of being out. This wonderful woman, former board member for Knoxville Cares, is a familiar face to many. Most recently, she has been involved in the East Tennesseans for Faith and Freedom, a local group that is active around the Vote No on 1 Campaign.

The Cinnamon Girls knocked the socks off the crowd with their dynamic, amazing sound, regaling the crowd with familiar favorites and original material. Lynn and Oona ooze butch-femme energy, and it comes through in their music. The chemistry between the two makes for an electrifying performance that everyone enjoyed. Their band on this night was an all-girl affair. If you have not had the opportunity to hear Lynn, Oona and the other band members, they will be performing at Kurt’s Bar in the near future (see Knoxville briefs in this issue).

Sunday brought two more events: the Day at the Park sponsored by the KTown Softball League and a Cabaret hosted at the Fairbanks to benefit the Vote No on 1 Campaign.

The Knoxville LGBTQ Leadership Council, Inc., coordinated these events. Todd Cramer, Co-President, oversaw the Market Square event.

The event was hosted by the Knoxville LGBTQ Leadership Council and was held at the Downtown Grill and Brewery located at 424 South Gay Street in Knoxville.