This article is a post Atlanta Pride Parade sequel to Laura Douglas-Brown’s, October 6, 2014, Emory Report from the Emory University News Center. That report was an interview with Michael Shutt, PhD., Interim Sr. Director of the Center For Diversity and Inclusion. Michael had been named a Grand Marshal of the Parade by the Atlanta Pride Committee. This article can be found at http://news.emory.edu/stories/2014/10/er _emory_at_atl_pride_parade/campus.html.
In this article, Michael is being interviewed by Maury Weil, Emory College, 1968, who had served as an Atlanta Pride Parade Grand Marshal almost twenty years ago, along with the other two LGBT Senior Advisors to Mayor Maynard Jackson. Maury, a member of the GALA Steering Committee, was given the privilege of meeting with Michael at Starbucks, sharing war stories, and recapping the importance of Michael’s honor.
The early Pride Parades were important because they gave visibility and a voice to a courageous, sanctioned and hidden LGBT community. The Parade continues that tradition, but also has long been surprising Atlanta’s LGBT community with its own diversity and stature.
Maury: I remember feeling both recognized and honored to act as a Grand Marshal. Those of us in LBGT politics and work get much gratification from serving, but pats on the back are special. What did it mean to you to be there as a Grand Marshal?
It was a great feeling to be surrounded by so many amazing people. We had wonderful representation from our students, faculty, staff, and alumni. In addition, it was very inspiring to be positioned among the other Grand Marshals. We were all able to connect with the Georgia Safe Schools Coalition, the plaintiffs in the Georgia same-sex marriage case, and my friend Faisal Alam, among others. Their energy inspired us even more!
Maury: I had the joy of marching those many years ago with my lifelong partner and another Emory graduate, Joel Vaughn. By chance I met your wonderful sister and mother on MARTA coming to the parade. What did it mean to have your family there?
My husband and I had a great time waving to our friends and colleagues in the crowd. He sometimes does not see me that often because of my work in the community and on campus, so I think it was important for him to receive appreciation as the supportive spouse from the crowd. He is my number one supporter.
Having my sister and mom there was also a lot of fun. My mom had a fan in her hand with a quote reading, “I am Michael’s mom and I am proud.” She was actually the star of the parade.
Maury: For many years in the 1980’s the Atlanta Pride Parade was tiny while there were more than 100,000 marchers in New York and San Francisco. The number of participants leapt after Mayor Jackson appointed the Senior Advisors and the Pride Committee made them Grand Marshals. The parade is a mirror in which we see ourselves and a media event in which we are seen.
Did your role of Grand Marshal increase the visibility of the LGBT community on campus? Did it increase the visibility of Emory in the community?
I felt so much love and appreciation from the faculty, staff, students and alumni of Emory. I suspect that someone at Emory nominated me for this great honor. I was not told who, but I have my suspicions. It gave the community a reason to come together and celebrate the present, but also reflect on the past. There have been many Grand Marshals in the past who are Emory alumni, including Danny Ingram 80 Ox 82C, Julie Kabula 97PhD, Rev. Joshua Noblitt 04T, and you, Maury Weil!!! Emory plays an important role in the LGBT history of Atlanta, and it is an honor to be a part of that history. I hope that my role this year brought even more attention to Emory’s commitment to the community.
Maury: What does the future look like for the LGBT community at Emory?
Emory continues to be at the forefront of access, inclusion, and equity. There is still work to be done, but our students, faculty, staff, and alumni are all engaged. In January, 2015, our health insurance plan will include gender affirming surgical benefits for employees. These benefits are already available to our students, demonstrating our commitment to fully inclusive and accessible places of work and study. We continue to see progress in areas of HIV prevention and treatment, an ongoing battle for our community. Emory Healthcare continues to examine ways to meet ALL patient needs, setting the bar for other healthcare providers in the community. This work must continue at the intersections of gender, sexuality, race, faith, class, and ability, so we will achieve full access, inclusion, and equity for all. If we stand still, we are sure to slide backwards. I do not believe this can happen with such a dynamic and engaged community at Emory.