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The Green Monkey sits humbly at the edge of a Hillsborough roundabout where it has watched the world change immensely for the LGBTQ community over the last decade. It is a specialty bar, a gift shop, an art gallery and it is where James Miller, Executive Director of the LGBT Center of Raleigh, chooses to discuss OUT! Raleigh, a family-friendly LGBT festival.
“This is where it all began,” Miller says with an arm sweep to encompass the bar as well as the owner, Rusty Sutton, who was one of the three founders of OUT! Raleigh in 2011.
Though that was only five years ago, when Sutton shares stories of getting the festival started, it sounds like he is spinning yarn about decades long past.
“We were told, ‘You’ll never get this thing off the ground.’ We had doors closed in our faces,” Sutton says.
Though we might expect this kind of pushback from certain segments of our society, given the current political climate, Sutton says there was even pushback from within the LGBT community at first. Because the aim was to do something different, organizers of OUT! were asked not to use the word, “Pride.” It turned out to be a blessing, according to Sutton, as they were able to grow the movement in another way that embraced the whole city.
“The name OUT! Raleigh wasn’t confining. We could take it as far as we wanted to and encompass the entire community. We wanted it to be more family centered, so many people during that time, they just considered gay to be sexual. We were trying to take sex out of the equation and let them see that we had families,” Sutton says.
He gets emotional as he thinks of how far things have come and of the businesses and people that supported them when it was all still an idea. The 2011 festival welcomed 6,000 attendees. Last year over 30,000 people flooded Fayetteville Street to enjoy a festival filled with entertainment, games and great food. This year looks to grow even further.
OUT!’s grand sponsor, Workplace Options, was there from the start and continues to support the festival today.
“At Workplace Options, the nature of our business is to support the individual needs of each person regardless of what they believe. OUT! Raleigh was about celebrating the authenticity of every human being in the city. It has grown because of its extraordinarily positive statement. We are incredibly proud to be a sponsor,” says Alan King, President and Chief Operating Office at Workplace Options.
Raising Awareness, Raising Support
OUT! Raleigh serves as a fundraiser for the LGBT Center of Raleigh which facilitates more than 20 programs ranging from education and support to advocacy. Though a festival run for and by the center, Miller emphasizes that everyone is invited.
“We use it not only as a fundraiser, but as a friend-raiser. We like the friend-raising part because visibility is something that’s paramount to what we do at the center. Especially for this [LGBT] community that has so often been marginalized,” says Miller.
“We call it OUT! Raleigh for a reason. This isn’t leather-daddies in boas and strippers. This is about family, two lesbians walking hand in hand with their children. [The family aspect] is something that is very important for us to show. The media likes to show off the colorful and ‘flamboyant’ side, [but] this is real life,” he adds.
The free-admission family festival will be held Saturday, May 7 from 11 a.m.-6 p.m.
Why I use the word, “Queer”
By James Miller, Executive Director of LGBT Center of Raleigh.
It is an interesting generational divide. We tag the divide right around the age of 37. When you’re older than 37, the word “queer” is derogatory. It was used to keep you down and keep you in place. The youth and young adults are reclaiming the word to not only reclaim the word as power but also as an umbrella term because they don’t feel the need to segregate themselves. Just because you’re a lesbian, that doesn’t mean you’re not gay. Queer is the entire LGBT community. It’s really this umbrella word that gives us flexibility, especially in trans communities because LGB is sexual, T is gender. I consider myself a queer man. We have a program at the [LGBT] Center focusing on elders and they absolutely detest hearing it come out of my mouth. I appreciate that because they have that open conversation with me, but the youth really use it as a reclaiming of the idea that they can be whatever they want.
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