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Close encounters of the gay kind 

CONGRATULATIONS TO Tybee Island for surviving not just one but TWO Orange Crush gatherings last month! Aside from a few isolated shakedowns involving unfired guns and prescription cough syrup, nothing terribly dramatic happened. Those nice kids even cleaned up the beach before Easter services.

The mellow vibe proves that our little island can put aside the histrionics and welcome all kinds of well-mannered revelers, and the sociocultural edification of the Redneck Riviera continues this weekend as Tybee Rainbow Fest bounces into town May 2-4. Personally, I’m hoping for a little more drama. Nothing too savage, mind you, but if I don’t scope at least one pair of leather chaps I will be VERY disappointed.

Oh, who am I kidding? This ain’t San Francisco’s Castro district, and stereotypes about gays are so OVER. I can’t believe we’re still discussing gay (or college students with dark skin, for that matter) like it’s an actual issue while BP keeps spilling oil and psychos can now bring their guns to church.

Gay is still controversial? I thought Kurt Cobain settled that for us back in 1993 with “All Apologies,” no?

Yet the Washington Post just launched a new etiquette column by Steven Petrow called “Civilities,” meant to provide elucidation on LGBT lifestyle for the benighted. Sure, I can see the need for future in-laws to know how to introduce their children’s partners (“husband” and “wife” work just fine) and more awareness on how to treat our trans friends with dignity, but it seems like such ponderancies create a chasm that doesn’t need to be there.

Sadly, I am only a little gay in spite of some major effort during college to butch myself up. I asked my homegirl and Ink & Bones artist Corey Houlihan to lend me some of her homo cred (her words) on this non-issue as she’s been happily married to art therapist/garden magician Karen Abato for forever and a day. We came to the conclusion that all you really need to know about how to talk to gays, lesbians and transgender humans is “don’t be a douche.”

Rainbow Fest needs no translation anyway. LJ Hodges of GaySavannah.com and GayTybeeIsland.com has planned a fabulous weekend for LGBT travelers hailing from all over the country, full of dancing and maybe a tad of PG-rated debauchery. Operations genies Rick Fair and Angie Horne have also arranged a host of general beachy activities, including a trash sweep (the real kind, not just two mean queens sitting on a bench criticizing people's wardrobes), extracurricular waterway exploration courtesy of Savannah Kayaking and a yoga sesh with stretch mistress Sue Finkle.

(OK, there IS Saturday night’s foam party on Bernie’s back deck. Leather chaps, please? Sorry. Sometimes I just miss San Francisco.)

The fact is that Tybee has been an LGBT-friendly destination for years. Last year’s inaugural Rainbow Fest drew hundreds to the island, warranting a big boost in sales tax revenue for the weekend--and not a single arrest.

“The city has been incredibly supportive, they know this is great for the island,” avows LJ, adding that Mayor Jason Buelterman will serve as a parade judge.

Hell-oooh, did someone say parade?! Rainbow Fest will host Savannah’s very first official gay-friendly procession on Saturday afternoon, and people, it’s going to be fierce. Yes, it’s Tybee, where basically anyone can drive down Butler in a dune buggy with three friends and call it a parade. But this is monumental nonetheless.

In honor of this historic occasion, the Key West Business Guild—located on America’s No. 1 gayest beach—has lent 125 feet of its own 1.25-mile rainbow flag sewn by Gilbert Baker, the artist who created the first seminal Rainbow Pride flag in 1978.

It’s a reminder that while most of us sane people get that “gay” is about as inflammatory an adjective as “cerulean” or “shiny”, there’s still need to keep on marching.

Not that anyone’s raining anything but glitter on this parade. At the helm will be “Showgirl of the South” Kristina Foxx, as pretty, witty and gay as they come. Miss Drag Royale hath no fear of the three-foot wig nor haters with attitude. By day, Kristina is mild-mannered florist Jeffrey Kessler, who grew up in Toombs County and knows a little something about bigoted nonsense.

“Everyone at church was all about the ‘sin’ until they needed their hair done or their flowers arranged,” drawls Jeffrey, rolling his eyes. “Nowadays, there’s just no excuse for all that pearl-clutching. Come on now, y’all have cable.”

Hear hear. This weekend’s Rainbow Crush is as much a celebration for the gays as it is an opportunity for everyone else to enjoy their company, because honey, they’re not going anywhere.

(I know I said don’t do stereotypes but I will always be a loyal fruit fly. No other person on earth besides your gay boyfriend is going to tell you yes, bitch, those white jeans DO make you look like an albino rhino.)

Last week several pairs of brave husbands and wives in Atlanta filed a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Georgia’s ban on same-sex marriage, enacted back in 2004. That now leaves only four states in America where the right to marry whomever you love has not been appealed or is legal already.

I wouldn’t hold your breath for Alaska, Montana and the Dakotas. But it’s clear Americans want our gay, lesbian, bi and trans brothers and sisters to have the same rights as the rest of us. Maybe by next Rainbow Fest, the Tybee Wedding Chapel will be hosting the grandest gay beach weddings the South has ever seen.

Until then, my husband and I are proud to parade our queer-as-folk straight family around Tybee. I support same-sex marriage with my vote and my money (no Chick-Fil-A for us, not ever), but I believe the true benefit of the inclusive gayification of our culture is that it loosens the labels that bind us all. (Not that there’s anything wrong with bondage. Just remember your safe word.)

Each of us is far too magnificent and unique to be defined by anything other that how we treat each other. If you fit into one of the square-shaped cubbies designated by society and you’re comfortable there, well, super for you.

The rest of us will be over here with sand in our toes, having a gay ‘ol time.

cs

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About The Author

Jessica Leigh Lebos

Jessica Leigh Lebos

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Community Editor Jessica Leigh Lebos has been writing about interesting people, vexing issues and anything involving free food for 20 years. She introduces herself at cocktail parties as southern by marriage.

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