Growing up gay can be hard. That’s especially true if you grow up in the South or other rural, conservative settings. Despite these hardships, many of us LGBT Southerners still long for a piece of home or clamor to embrace what we consider our “roots.” Being gay and Southern — or “country,” “redneck,” “cowboy” or whatever term of endearment you choose to identify yourself — has never been mutually exclusive.
Organizations like Southern Country Charlotte (SCC) and a host of similar groups across the nation prove it.
SCC, which holds their annual Queen City Stomp each April, was founded in 1991 and celebrates their 20th anniversary this year. Though folks come from far and wide to partake in a show of Country Western dancing, they’re also contributing toward good causes. Southern Country Charlotte has raised nearly $100,000 in cash, goods and services benefiting local non-profit groups, both within and outside of the LGBT community.
But SCC President Chris Gray says the group is about much more than Country Western dancing and fundraising. When he and his partner moved to Charlotte in 2008, SCC offered them welcome and friendship.
“We had gone to the Eagle one Wednesday night and they were doing dance lessons,” Gray says. “He fell in love with it and we started going every Wednesday. The atmosphere, the people, they welcomed everybody gay or straight or whatever.”
In the mood for more Country Western dance? In addition to Charlotte’s Queen City Stomp, be sure to check out these great events this season.
Seattle :: April 29-May 1
Emerald City Hoedown
Hosted by Rain Country
Provincetown :: April 29-May 1
19th Annual Spring Stomp
Hosted by Gays for Patsy
Philadelphia :: May 26-29
The Philadelphia Hoedown
The 18th Annual Convention of the International Association of Gay/Lesbian Country Western Dance Clubs.
— Event listings courtesy IAGLCWDC
Gray’s partner loves to dance, though Gray himself doesn’t.
“It’s what I call a spectator sport,” he says. “There’s a lot of members that don’t dance, including myself. A lot of people who come out do so just to watch and it’s amazing to watch the unison of these people dancing.”
After the late 2009 closure of the Charlotte Eagle, a gay Leather/Levi bar off South Blvd., SCC was forced to move their Queen City Stomp to the Sheraton Charlotte Airport Hotel. There, SCC members’ love of dance and their camaraderie has overflowed and left its mark on hotel staff and guests alike.
“The relationship we built with Sheraton last year worked great,” Gray says. “They’ve been real hand-in-hand. If we needed something they were right on it. We had no problems. Even people who were at the hotel — who weren’t gay and who just happened to be staying there — they would pay to come in and they had a blast.”
Gray says the Sheraton has even purchased a new dance floor. It mades its debut at this year’s Queen City Stomp.
The community that surrounds SCC and welcomes new members and guests extends beyond the group’s local activities and mission. SCC is a member of the International Association of Gay/Lesbian Country Western Dance Clubs (IAGLCWDC). Incorporated in Texas in 1993, the international fellowship is a member of the Gay and Lesbian International Sports Association and helps to promote both dancing balls, like Queen City Stomp, and competitions across the globe. In July, it’ll host a dancing competition at the North American OutGames in Vancouver.
Gray says SCC’s relationship with IAGLCWDC has been fruitful and Queen City Stomp has even managed to get the attention of many of the group’s members.
“We have wonderful cocktail parties,” he says. “They were the talk of the [IAGLCWDC] convention last year.”
Though SCC appreciates the praise, their mission and focus remains squarely with the people and organizations it benefits.
“We are able to raise money for organizations and charities while at the same time getting out and doing stuff in the community as much as we can,” he says. “Even with the economy last year, we were able to raise around $10,000. That was a great thing and we hope to keep it going.” : :