Nashville Pride president Huskey shows ally pride

Not too long ago, even in huge cities, Pride was more of a political action than a festival, and LGBTQ people were subject to harassment and abuse for daring to show up. In Nashville, that is much more recent history. So it is unsurprising that members of the LGBTQ community have strong feelings of ownership over Pride.

Claudia Huskey has as much enthusiasm for and, well, pride in Nashville Pride as any of her predecessors, but she does bring something different to the table. Huskey is a straight ally. When this was announced, there were murmurs, but as the community has gotten to know her and her work on behalf of Pride, those murmurs have generally been converted to nods of approval.

Huskey isn’t a newcomer to ally status. She recalled two close family friends, Rick and Steve, one of the first committed gay couples she met. “I saw the struggles they faced trying to get and keep jobs, purchase property together and make medical decisions together—all things that for others in our community don’t come as a struggle. I remember thinking at a really early age, ‘Wow, that’s not fair, that’s not cool.’ So I just really felt compelled to fight for human rights, which are completely basic, in my opinion…. That motivated me to serve Pride and our community, and I think that it is incumbent upon other straight allies to do the same.”

Getting Huskey involved, then, didn’t require a hard sell. “I worked at the Tennessee legislature with Joseph Woodson when he was about to become president elect, and they didn’t have anyone to fill the position of secretary. They were also looking to diversify their board a little, and were looking for some straight allies. In the role of secretary I entered the executive committee right off the bat....” 

At the end of the festival in 2013, Woodson approached Huskey about running for president elect. “We had a lot of discussions about it, and actually I called each member of the board personally, because it was something I was very sensitive to. I wanted to make sure that if it was a direction we wanted to go I had full buy-in from the board. The consensus was that everyone thought it was a great thing, that I had the leadership skills to help move things forward and a passion for the mission.”

Most have viewed her presidency as a positive step for Pride. “Obviously the LGBT community can and should have a great amount of pride for who they are. But straight allies also need to show pride in our coworkers, our friends, and our family members who are members of the LGBT community, and we need to come together. Our slogan this year is ‘Keep Moving Forward Together’ and the stronger our numbers are of LGBT people who are out and thriving and of straight allies who support the community, the faster it’s going to happen, and the more we can get done.”

Engaging straight allies in our community, Huskey believes, is key to expanding the reach of the message of Pride and forwarding the cause of equality. “If we limit involvement in and leadership of the festival to only those within the LGBT community, it can only grow so large, and our message can only go so far…. By expanding and having a bigger footprint downtown at Public Square Park, we can bring straight allies in to support our cause and to raise awareness of all the important work that’s being done by community members now and that has been done in the past. The amount of knowledge I have gained as a straight ally of fights that were fought ten, twenty, thirty, forty years ago is incredible and amazing.”

Engaging people in the struggle to forward the cause is essential, and Huskey sees Pride as the cornerstone of building a stronger community that links LGBTQ people not only with each other but also with allies and potential allies. “I just want to see people come together in our community. We can’t continue to look at it as ‘us versus them’ on issues of fundamental rights! Hopefully by having a straight ally president, it signals other allies that this is a festival for you too, we want you to come, we want you to join together with our brothers and sisters and keep moving forward together!”

Aside from its social value forwarding the cause of liberty, Pride serves a very important function now. Huskey recalled a moving moment from last year’s festival. “I met a young man from outside of Nashville. He was able to attend the festival and was able to hold hands with his boyfriend. Really it’s one of the only few times in the whole year he’s able to do that and live as an open, gay man. 363 other days of the year people have a hard time being who they are. If we can provide two days where they can hold hands or be affectionate, wear what they want to wear and say what they want to say, nothing makes me prouder than helping provide people with that opportunity.”





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