Reader shares first Pride experience at age 65

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By Barbara Ann Ehrgott
Contributing Writer

As I prepared to go to Nashville for my first Pride event, I was nervous and apprehensive. A million thoughts went through my mind. I was not sure that those who were in attendance would accept me as a male-to-female transsexual. This was the first time I was going anywhere without my darling wife being beside me. Could I really do this without her being near me?  It was one of those milestones we all face; I had to do this for myself.

As I packed our car I realized that I would be making a large step forward for my own personal growth as the woman I am. I stopped at a friend’s in Lebanon, Tenn., and three of us went to the Friday night blow out at the park. $25 a person at the beer tent and a whiskey sour later, and the socializing began. The anticipation of the unknown was again the paper tiger.  To me fear is a paper tiger, it looks bad but it’s nothing.

On Sunday, we got to Nashville Pride just as the parade was pulling into the park. I helped out with the Tennessee Transgendered PAC table. The wonderful experiences came from talking with my brothers and sisters who stopped at the table.  It seemed as if I instantly relaxed and conversation flowed back and forth.  A friend, Greg, surprised me, I had not even thought about him being at the Pride.

We hugged, and it felt great to see him. We talked for a while, and I finally had to go to the bathroom.

I felt so enriched with the smiles that came my way, and even getting the once over made me feel very presentable. It hit me like a ton of bricks. Girl, you are a part of this wonderful and gracious day.  It felt like cloud nine picked me up, and it was carrying me to heights that I never knew existed.  For most of the day, I felt so elated. I felt that I was a very important part of everything going on.

Here I was talking with people that I had never met before and we were talking like long lost friends. Recalling all the experiences in my life of 64 years, this wonderful day at the Nashville Pride 2005 will be at the top of the list of memorable events – right along with my first Southern Comfort Conference – right beside the Pop Festivals in California, with Jimmy Hendrix and Janis Joplin and Buffy St. Marie just to name a few.

As I look back at my first Pride event, I realize that it was wonderful to say the least. I had the opportunity to talk with many people, and I made new friends by the scores. This would be the yardstick to gauge other Pride Events by, or so I thought.

When the Knoxville Pride came up, we were there.  We went to the Metropolitan Community Church for a conference meeting on Saturday.  Ruby Sales was the main speaker, and a very intelligent lady she is. Ruby spoke religion and the LGBT liberation movement. Ruby expounded her ideas and spoke of the facts of discrimination against women, blacks, lesbian and gays in days past.  Ruby tied these all together to present the idea that the transgendered people of today are going through the same battles that have been fought by our sisters and brothers in the LGB Community.

I felt very uplifted by Ruby’s concern about how important it is for our whole LGBT community to stand to and be unified together.  The fact that there are many people of faith in the LGBT Community and that God loves all his children, not just a select few.  I thought of a scripture that I had asked my professors about at Bible College and seminary about — the first shall be last, and the last shall be first.

The whole LGBT community is being looked upon as being the last within mankind; maybe we will be the first in God’s sight.

That Saturday evening after dinner we spent a evening with two very dear sweet friends. Beth and Sam asked us to stay overnight with them.  It was a very wonderful time of sharing and renewing a wonderful friendship. I think our friendship reached new depths that wonderful weekend.

At the Knoxville Pride on Sunday we arrived at 1:30 and everything was in full swing. After setting up the table and getting everything set out, the fun began. I saw Jacqueline Jones (MCC-K Assistant Pastor,) and she gave me a big hug. I felt a real feeling of caring and concern from her, she is a very dear lady. Mandy also gave me a hug, and we talked for a little while.

Rev. Bob and I also talked some. He is a very inspiring man to talk with and very friendly also. You can’t help but like him.

After relieving Marisa at the Tennessee Transgender Political Action Committee’s table while she got something to eat, I had the opportunity to talk with several of the people there. We had the opportunity to talk as people of faith, and I really enjoyed this time.

Suddenly a lady came up to me and asked me, are you Barbara?  Marquez and Michael said that I should interview you.  At that point in time I was shocked. Yet I agreed to the interview. We sat down next to my wife and I was interviewed. Jean helped with some very important input to the interview. The lady took 5 pages of notes and almost broke out in tears twice. I felt a possible friendship developing between us, and I felt as if I were talking with my sister instead of a newspaper reporter.  She said she would send me a copy when the article went to press.

As we socialized and talked with everyone there the feeling of this is really super great. Though numerically Knoxville was smaller in attendance, there was such a feeling of bonding and friendship that made the Knoxville Pride even better then the Nashville Pride.  New friendships were formed and bonds of love and admiration were formed. A spirit of kinship permeated Pride in Knoxville .

I would like to thank all those hard working people who made both the Nashville and Knoxville Prides such a great success. I know that many days and hours of hard work were spent by a very dedicated group of people to make these two events such a great success.  I send a very respectful thanks to all of you.

As a transsexual person, these two events will stand out in the rest of my life for they were both exceptionally exciting and wonderful events for me. And I feel very blessed in being a part of both of these Prides.