How will the Sept. 29 Columbus Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Pride Festival at Flat Rock Park compare to similar festivals in other cities?
Festivals tend to be in "midtown" areas or parks. Flat Rock Park is comparatively remote. However, the facilities lend themselves perfectly to our needs and I adore the grandeur. Columbus is uniquely aware of issues facing the GLBT community. Our proximity to Fort Benning makes "serving openly" a yearly topic. Columbus has one foot firmly as a military town, the other attempting to become a full-fledged university town. Attendees are thinking about their futures, which might include marriage. Others are keenly aware of how difficult high school was/is and are seeking acceptance. At our festival we attempt to inform, include and inspire -- hopefully entertain.
You're an avid Tea Party supporter. How does your lifestyle mesh with your political beliefs?
Perfectly. I'm not a hyphenated American.
Issues I care about -- concern myself with -- are as an individual. The goals of the Tea Party are limited government, lower taxes and individual freedom. These serve the GLBT community. The preconceived notion that fiscal conservatism is somehow against the GLBT community puts me in the minority, a familiar place. Ironically, preconceived notions are something the GLBT community is fighting against. Tea Party members have been totally accepting of my belonging to the GLBT community. Unfortunately, the opposite can't be said.
How long does it take to become Candy?
It took 40 years to become Candy. She's still evolving. Her first public appearance was when I was 22 years old. As for how long it takes me to change genders ... that depends. I can be "stage-ready" in three hours. However, personal appearances or private shows (such as charity events and bachelorette parties) take longer. With any stage performance there is the "fourth wall" that tends to help an illusion. But for face-to-face, up-close Candy, four hours is required.
The Chattahoochee Valley Pride organization focuses largely on anti-bullying efforts. What's your advice for a teen being bullied?
Understand the difference between being bullied and being offended. You have the right to an environment free of threat. You do not, however, have the right to never be offended. Words have power, given to them by the listener. If you are being bullied, you must speak out. Too often, those in a position to effect change don't react because the issues are those that, until recently, weren't even talked about. Respect is earned, not bestowed. Being bullied is not a sign of weakness but bullying is. It is upon you to refuse to be a victim, especially when others try to convince you that you are.
What's the best-kept secret in the Chattahoochee Valley?
The shameless self-promoter in me wants to say "my show." While the variety of live entertainment is amazing, the best-kept secret is its phenomenal potential. No other area has the ability or desire to retain the very best of its history as well as a willingness to embrace change. In my opinion, the Chattahoochee Valley is poised to both remain the land of "hometowns" and destination central. I've seen so many changes -- some bad, but the vast majority good. The future is going to be brighter than bright.