The monsoon was in full force as my friends and fellow OutRaleigh coordinators held down a collapsing, wind-torn tent while the vendor scrambled to pack away her wares. While I won’t speak for Rebecca and Kim, I’m fairly certain they’d agree that this was not how we envisioned OutRaleigh 2012 to close.
Minutes before I found the panicky vendor holding down her tent, I was ankle-deep in water after sprinting to stop a road barricade from it’s wind-blown track into busy downtown traffic. Between fragmented thoughts of wondering if my iPhone and camera had been soaked through like my bag and clothes, and realizing how ridiculously long my curls are when wet, I had to laugh at the entire situation.
A year in the making, OutRaleigh 2012 had been planned meticulously. But Mother Nature always has other plans, and we rolled with them with equal parts humor and fortitude. Because as vendors vacated their spaces, and onstage performances came to a halt, we kept going. And so did others. Out of storefronts that I passed in my frenetic sprints to and from soggy vendor spaces, people gathered and welcomed rain-soaked OutRaleigh visitors inside. Kristy Lee, one of our performers, gathered a crowd beneath a downtown business’s porch overhang and belted out her inspirational music. We were all wet, but we were all still there. Taking action, making a stand.
As with any organizational effort in which the LGBTQ community has a significant hand, there were protesting bigots who tried their best to dampen festival-goers’ spirits. Gathered on street corners, they held their religious texts aloft, reciting our collective sins and damning us all to fiery demises. On the KidsZone‘s periphery, a large group coalesced with signs, chanting hatred for young children to hear. But the most personally disturbing scene was witnessing one of the fear-mongers giving their young child an explicit sign to hold. With his tiny hands wrapped around the sign’s base, the boy served as a haunting reminder of the inculcated bigotry the LGBTQ-ally community endures every single day. But in an almost biblical way, the deluge cleansed the festival of those hateful people; they scattered and fled, like cowards usually do in the face of adversity. Those who remained celebrated life, albeit soggy.
And that’s what OutRaleigh is about: embracing diversity and living life to the fullest. We connect with and support one another when hateful zealots attempt to undermine our course, and advocate for our deaths. But we’re not going anywhere. As OutRaleigh 2012 showed me, not only can I count on dear friends to help me weather the storm, but I know there are thousands of others out there who will too.
All we have to do is continue our journey through the best and worst of times, shining brighter each step of the way, finding ourselves in the darkest hours.