Gay rights isn’t just a city issue and Salisbury is stepping out to illustrate that this weekend with the Salisbury Pride Festival. With a population of around 33,000 the event is, according to organizers, the largest Pride Festival per capita in the world.
The festival features a variety of drag and musical performers including Cierra Nichole, Justin Dionne, Ashley Joe Farmer Band, Caleb de Casper and the Foxy Jail Vixens, Lita Alexander Storm, Cinnamen, Laura Vella, Dakota Rain, the Charlotte Pride Band and others. It’s not just about entertainment though. Several speakers including V 101.9 FM’s Chirl Girl - a Salisbury native - will talk about equal rights, education, outreach, love and creating safe, accepting communities for all kinds of people.
I grew up in a relatively small town - big for West Virginia, maybe, but small compared to the rest of the world. We had a kid at school that cross-dressed from seventh grade on. His willingness to put himself out there forced the rest of the student body to deal with transgender issues and acceptance early on. By the time I was in high school the issue had grown less controversial.
Caleb de Casper grew up in a small town in Georgia and had a similar experience.
“Growing up in the South, being gay was seen as something that you needed to keep secret. If you were gay, you were automatically a bad person and influence,” he said via email. “I remember I had a boy who cross-dressed in my high school and to this day he is still one of my heroes. People treated him like a freak, but he didn't care. He was himself and thought everyone else could deal with it. While I am walking (through downtown Saturday), I will be thinking of him.”
De Casper welcomes others to join him Saturday as he walks through downtown Salisbury as a show of support for equal rights and the LGBT community following his afternoon set.
He says he’ll also be thinking of the high school boyfriend who struggled with his sexuality.
“I suffered an immeasurable amount of pain during my adolescence trying to get him to realize he was who he was and that was something special. I don't want any young person to ever have to go through that. I will be thinking about that while I walk,” he says. “I will be thinking about all of the children who kill themselves because they are different - not just the gay ones. I will be thinking about all of the couples who were not allowed to be together while one of them died in a hospital. And I will be thinking about what else I can do to bring acceptance of all people to the entire world.”
As a teenager de Casper found comfort in making music. On his new EP he comes across as the lovechild of Amanda Palmer and “Glee.” He describes his music as goth dance-pop and there’s definitely a campy horror element to it, which I dig. Glam, horror, goth is an equation that equals “Fangorious” - the name of the EP. It’s an interesting combination. There's a little Elton John piano-pop spliced with the occasional rock guitar, dance beats, and a dark theatrical twist in the rock opera-vein of “Hedwig.” Based on the YouTube clips I’ve watched, there’s definitely a musical theater element to the show.
Pride kicks off at 11 a.m. Saturday. An after-party will be held at Cooper’s in downtown Salisbury, where the event takes place. For more information and a full schedule of acts click here.