LGBTQ Clarksville on what it means to move from self-acceptance to pride
CLARKSVILLE, TN (CLARKSVILLE NOW) – Jeremy Sumner said it was a struggle growing up because he was isolated from his family after revealing his homosexuality.
“At the age of 15, it was an untenable situation for my mother,” said Sumner, now 44. “I was sent to boarding school to be away from my younger brother and my sister because she was afraid that I was going to assault them… she got rid of the family dog because she thought I was going to attack them. was also going to assault him.
That was 30 years ago and a lot has changed even in the past five years, but many LGBTQ + people continue to face alienation or outright hostility.
During Pride Month in June, Clarksville Now spoke to several people from the local LGBTQ + community. While the interviews did not encompass the entirety of the community and the diversity within it, this is what they had to say about what it means to be proud.
Bumpy road to self-discovery
Kyle Pearce, 28, identifies as non-binary, i.e. a person who does not conform to either male or female, and pansexual, i.e., a person who is attracted to those of every kind. Pearce says they lived in denial and confusion for most of their young lives.
“I didn’t even know what (gay) was until church,” Pearce said. “At first I was excited because I was like ‘This looks like me’, then I heard ‘abomination’ and ‘this is evil’ and ‘you are going to hell’.
Living with great guilt over the discovery, Pearce said they find it difficult to come to terms with each other. “I’m going to die someday, and do I really want to die living half my life?” ”
Pearce went back and forth between identifying as homosexual before finally deciding that they were pansexual.
“Your physique (body) is such a temporary thing – why would I consider such a temporary factor in a potentially long-term decision? “
Pearce told Clarksville Now it’s not just about them. “I represent people who look like me.
Jade Irwin, 19, identifies as a pansexual woman.
“I haven’t had a lot of exposure to people in the LGBT + community,” Irwin said. “I grew up relatively sheltered.
Irwin turned out to be bisexual to her family and friends at the age of 14, meaning attracted to both men and women. Only a few months ago she started to rethink this.
“I felt bisexuality didn’t really define how I felt and how I liked people,” she said. “It was like wearing pants that didn’t really fit. Like, this is your size, but the waist is a little too big or the legs are too short, so it’s okay, but you kind of avoid wearing them.
Irwin decided that pansexuality suited him the best. “It’s so easy to fall in love with people. “
Irwin said she usually had a support system, but a lot of people assumed she just wanted the attention.
“It’s not inherently bad because you don’t understand something,” Irwin said. “You don’t have to understand everything. The only person that needs to make sense is that person, ”she said.
Mason Thornhill, 24 years old, is a transgender man, and he came out three years ago.
“Before I went out as a trans, I went out as a lesbian,” Thornhill said. “I struggled with this for a very long time.”
Although his family generally supported him throughout this process, he had some difficult times with others.
“Some days are better than others,” Thornhill said, “some people are definitely a lot nicer with it; they try, they correct themselves.
However, Thornhill still has a problem with people cheating on him. “They will use his pronouns on a daily basis.”
Jeremy Sumner, 44 years old, identifies as homosexual. “I think the cupboard burned around me; I knew this from a young age, ”he said.
Sumner told Clarksville Now that he grew up in the theater, which was a big influence on him. “It got me around a lot of older women and men who were like, ‘Oh, that boy is a fruit. “And it was accepted, so I really felt comfortable in my skin.
Despite such a welcoming environment, things were very different at home.
Sumner said his mother not only actively tried to change him, but feared him and isolated him. “She felt like it was a reflection on her of bad parenting.
“When I was in boarding school, I never really pretended to be anything other than what I was; It was kind of like ‘I’m here, I’m queer, get used to this.’ Either people loved me for it, or they absolutely hated me for it.
Sumner said loving yourself is an ongoing process. “I had never felt acceptance of myself because I was looking for that of others. ”
Growing up in the 1970s and 1980s, Sumner witnessed the gay liberation movements and the HIV / AIDS epidemic.
“This level of fear – I think we’ve had the briefest clue of the COVID experience. I think for straight people, COVID was their first contact with (a disease) they couldn’t control, ”Sumner said.
At the height of the AIDS crisis, he said: “You saw people who suddenly weren’t there; when you went clubbing, the person you danced with last weekend might not have been around.
Torrent Fritz, 25 years old, is a trans person with masculine. Torrence is also the founder of The Kaleidoscope network, an LGBTQIA + group that offers support to youth and adults by providing shelter, resources and educational materials.
“A big (assumption) that I had is that my sexuality stems from abuse when I was younger, which is not true at all,” Fritz said.
Fritz took testosterone throughout his transition and said it wasn’t an overnight process.
“You’re going through that awkward puberty stage where you’re a little bit depressed,” Fritz said. “Some trans people have dysphoria, and that just makes it worse.”
Dany J, 30 years old, is a queer trans man and has identified himself as such since 2015, when he came out to his mother.
It came out publicly last year and has started changing the way it looks.
“Here I am at 30, I find myself again,” Dani said.
“The most difficult part of the transition process might be dealing with a whole new list of changes to come, not only in the physical sense but also in the emotional sense,” Dani said.
Being black and trans
This year, the pride flag has a black and brown stripe to represent people of color and their contribution to the LGBTQIA + community.
“The reason we have a pride flag, and pride to begin with, is because of people like Marsha P. Johnson who was a black trans woman who started the Stonewall riots because they wouldn’t allow it. not to walk into a bar, ”Pearce mentioned. “I think America, in general, is built on the backs of people of color without any reconciliation.”
The Stonewall Riots were a series of protests in 1969 that ran from June 28 to July 3, sparked by raids on gay bars in New York City.
“With all the laws going against us as non-heterosexual people, it has been life for hundreds of years for all people of color in this country,” Irwin said.
“We all watched George Floyd strangled on television in front of us,” Sumner said. “When you marginalize a person or a group of people, we are all a little diminished.”
Dani told Clarksville Now that he got to experience two worlds, previously as a black woman and now as a black man in America.
“Black women – people think they are loud, aggressive, intimidating, etc. They may be seen as their own kind of threat to some people, but not as much as the black man. ”
Dani said that being a black man comes with its own set of micro-aggressions.
“People will approach me a bit more cautiously,” Dani said. “Now I have to think about how I look the least threatening?” ”
After going out
For those still struggling, this group of individuals said it won’t always be like this. Realizing how you choose to identify yourself, and the self-acceptance that comes with it, is an uphill battle.
“Somehow I was thinking in my head that in the future life would be easier for (the LGBTQ + community), then I could be happy, and I finally realized that life would be was never going to stop like that, ”Sumner mentioned. “You have to make the conscious choice to be happy.”
“You will understand each other a lot more and you won’t care if other people are doing it,” Pearce said. “You should be proud because people tell you not to be.”
Thornhill suggests learning more about the terminology and not just sticking with the first thing that fits. “Do your research,” he said, “take a closer look, because it took me a year to figure out.”
Dani said he wished he had known about the support system he had for him before he went out.
“You are taking a step on faith, you are entering something that is not certain, but it is important to take that first step,” he said.
Sumner said he wanted people to see the human side of each other, rather than making assumptions based on sexuality.
“I think if more people saw this, rather than focusing on what divides us, we would be much better off.”
AFTER: Gay history in Clarksville: 6 key moments for the local LGBTQ community