I admit, I’ve never had many great things to say about my hometown, Augusta, GA. In fact, when I was in high school, my classmates and I tended to call it “Dis-Gusta.” That was probably because it was a very conservative, sprawling suburban city with a very small town attitude — with a whole lot of nothing to do for teenagers.
Like the lyrics of “An American Dream” — that 1979 hit by the Nitty Gritty Band and Linda Rondstadt said, “Augusta, Georgia is just no place to be.” The title of a Pet Shop Boys track, “This Must Be The Place I Waited Years To Leave,” also comes to mind.
That’s because for gay teenager in the 80s, Augusta, GA was really no place to be. And I did wait years to leave it. And while I was somewhat shocked to hear that Augusta, GA may have a Gay Pride parade, I most likely won’t be making the trip down there to check it out.
Organizers from Augusta Pride anticipate thousands will show up and if the parade is given final approval from Mayor Deke Copenhaver later this week.
Augusta Pride President Isaac Kelly tells News 12 it is time for a parade. He says there has not been a large event for the gay community in Augusta since the 1990’s.
A parade would be a big step for many gay and lesbian activists who came together at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Augusta, including Alan Braden of Augusta Pride.
“Being gay in Augusta is very interesting,” Braden said. “When I moved down here I still had a rainbow decal on my car. When I moved here to take care of my mother her first words to me were, ‘Take that off or someone is going to throw a brick through your window.'”
Members of Augusta Pride said they are ready for some changes and adding a parade downtown is one of them.
Augusta Pride, huh? Well, more power to ’em — and, as we say in the South, “Bless their hearts.” I truly wish them all the success in the world, because goodness knows Augusta could stand to be a more gay-friendly. Certainly more than it was when I was growing up there. (The number of supportive comments on the news article is heartening, though.) Perhaps being gay in Augusta will be easier than it use to be.
Let me put it this way. When people ask about my younger days, I tell them “I was a skinny, effeminate, non-athletic, black gay boy growing up in the south — during the Reagan era.” The either wince or shudder, and then ask me how I survived. I tell them I was around 12 or 13 when I realized I was gay, and a few minutes later I looked around me — at my hometown — and had another realization: “I’ve got to get out of here.” I bided my time until I was 18, and then I did. I only got as far as Athens and the University of Georgia. But it had a gay student group, and I found it immediately.
Of course, I knew there were gay people in Augusta before I left for college. I just didn’t meet any until long after I left town. At least not any who were out. (I’ve heard from and about many who’ve come out since then.) I was long gone when Augusta had it Pride parade in the 1990s. I heard about it after the fact. But I made contact with “Gay Augusta.” I dropped by what was Augusta’s lone gay bar at the time, during visits home on the holidays. And there was one long summer when I visited MCC Augusta, just to have contact with other gay people outside of a bar.
Actually, I found it encouraging that there was an MCC Augusta. Now, there’s apparently likely to be an Augusta Pride if the mayor approves, which I hope he does. And I hope it’s successful and that it really is attended by thousands (which is quite possible, if people attend from the surrounding areas and other places in the state.) It could make Augusta a little less “no place to be.”