By Nikeala Frederick
Rabbit Box’s October show “Pride and Prejudice,” a collaboration with Athens Pride, gave voice to the Classic City’s LGBTQA+ community. Return emcee Tara Stuart fostered an environment of respect and support by making a point to ask each individual’s preferred pronouns and letting it be known that coming out is not simply a one-time event but a daily process. Check out the stories from the evening here on Mixcloud or in the video players below.
Kicking the evening off with good humor, the first storyteller of the evening, the writer and journalist David Ferguson, said that his preferred pronouns are he, him, or cake. The audience responded by chanting “cake!” (Who doesn’t love a good piece of cake?) As a child in Columbus, Georgia, he preferred the company of his opera singer mother’s friends and her jewelry box more so than that of boys his age. After coming out as a teenager, David made the decision to walk “gay first” into a room, asserting that when he came out of the closet, he “took the door off.” After visiting Athens for a college tour, he knew it was the place for him. He has since gotten married to a wonderful man, become the lead singer of the band Kompromat, and over the years is grateful to have found a diverse, safe community here.
The LGBTQ acronym has now expanded to a more inclusive acronym, LGBTQIA+. Elise Stangle’s coming of age story gave insight into an A+ perspective. After years of confusion and feeling abnormal, Elise has finally found her place identifying as asexual.
Local activist Cameron Harrelson has a story full of beginnings. He grew up in a rural, religious community where everyone was “the same.” Being a gifted musician, singer, and public speaker, Cameron was thrust into the spotlight at a young age, particularly within his church. By high school he was a full-blown worship leader, often speaking against what deep down he felt described himself. It wasn’t until he moved to Athens for college that he decided to stop living a lie. Even though his grandmother said that she would never attend his wedding, he wouldn’t be surprised if she ends up in the front row when the day comes.
Cracker Jack storyteller Ida Barrett reminded the audience that no one owes you a coming out story, and you don’t owe others one, either. Each person’s story is his or her own to share.
For this Rabbit Box show, a second Cracker Jack storyteller, Moriah Payne, was welcomed to the stage. Growing up in a strict, religious household where the word “gay” was not used and later attending a faith-based college, she tried to live up to certain expectations. But from a young age she knew that she liked girls. She tried dating guys over the years, but it never worked out. She just came out last month at Athens Pride and is now living happily in her truth.
Muralist, dance instructor, and make-up artist Jean/Jen Arias, who has lived in Spain, New Jersey, and Athens is now dealing with a second coming out. After starting adulthood living as a gay man, Jen is now ready to start a new journey as a trans woman.
For the first 40 years of Morgan Henry’s life, she went by the male name she was assigned at birth. Growing up as a boy, she was “gently corrected” by adults to not act too feminine even though that’s what felt natural. She spent years trying to figure out where she fit in. 2016 proved to be a pivotal year when she found out that gender identity, biological sex and sexual attraction are all separate parts of each person’s overall identity. She now spends her days in the artistic and game-design realms living happily as a gender queer trans lesbian.
Lucy Ralston described hate as jumping through hoops for little people who make you feel small. She knows all about having to pretend to be someone you’re not when it’s too dangerous to be your true self. She has dubbed this year, her 30th, as an opportunity to live a more genuine and open life.