Out on the town: Pam Spaulding’s Durham

GayCities encourages you to stay safe during the Covid 19 pandemic. If you choose to travel, we recommend that you follow all CDC Travel Guidelines and adhere closely to all local regulations regarding face coverings, social distancing and other safety measures.

pamkatePam Spaulding is a CNN commentator and creator of the award-wining blog, Pam’s House Blend, which goes far beyond gay and lesbian issues to touch on trans rights, race, class, the religious right and what Pam, in her trademark biting wit, dubs the “general asshattery” of life in 21st-century America. You need not lean as far left as Pam to admire the glee with which she calls the anti-gay Liberty Counsel’s Matt Barber a “pantload”–or hauls out her “tiny violin” for MassResistance’s failed war on marriage equality.

Pam has lived most of her life in Durham, her hometown, where she and her wife, Kate, will kick back during NC Pride — held Saturday, Sept. 26, 2009 at Duke University– by marching with Pam’s former neighbors, the Old West Durham Neighborhood Association, and — this is surely a busman’s holiday — chuckling at the anti-gay protesters. GayCities contributor Barbara Wilcox got Pam’s lowdown on where to hang in Durham this pride weekend and the National Equality March, Oct. 11, in Washington, D.C.

What was your first Pride like?

Hmmm. That was a long time ago. I recall that it was earlier in the year (it was probably June, it was moved because it is too damn hot in NC at that time and so it’s in September). I was disappointed because there were so few vendors and displays — mostly local organizations and a few local LGBT businesses had tables. That’s incredibly different from these days. Last year, there were national companies represented — Southwest Airlines, several banks, HGTV, many more than I ever imagined you’d see down here in Durham. Ironically, there were no Bible-beaters protesting; we have more now these days — they provide excellent entertainment value!

Where do you hang in Durham?

During Pride, the best place to hang out is Ninth Street, which has a good number of local eateries — Blue Corn Cafe, Elmo’s Diner, Parizade, and many others. Also nearby is the Brightleaf Square area, which also fills up with LGBTs who are there for the day — Nikos, Alivia’s, The Federal, James Joyce (bar), Piazza Italia. Kate and I are big fans of Mount Fuji.

What don’t out-of-towners know about NC that they should?

That when you come to Pride, you’ll see more people than you’d imagine, that the atmosphere is laid back, and folks don’t feel they have to be closeted in Durham. Now drive 30 miles in any direction…LOL. But honestly, Kate and I have never encountered overt anti-gay bias in any part of the state. I think the idea that if you travel to the South you’ll have the same negative reception in all parts of the region is a mistaken one. The other side of the coin is that while there are plenty of LGBTs down here, we don’t have a real organized community outside of the club scene, as in an LGBT center. But as far as the state goes, it’s more culturally diverse than many imagine, because so many people move here from other parts of the country and their cultures with them. That is one of the biggest changes I’ve seen since I was a child.

Is Pride getting too commercial?

Not down here. While we have drawn the attention of more corporate sponsors and vendors, people at NC Pride are thankful for the opportunity to party as a community since still too many of us are socially out, but professionally closeted — we don’t have a state anti-discrimination law on the books, so that’s where the reluctance comes in. For those of us working at private companies with protections, it gives us an opportunity to present the face of LGBT North Carolina, not just activists, but regular folk — families, young people, allies–who represent the future, not the past.

Critics of the National Equality March contend that this is not the right time, with health care and global warming on the docket. You are one of the most respected political bloggers around. What’s your take?

Before plans were finalized I opposed the march because resources could be better spent where needed (Maine, Washington State) in actual battles over civil rights. Once it was clear the march was going to happen, I put my name on the list of supporters because I want it to succeed; no one wants to see an event of this nature be poorly attended.

What do you like and dislike about Washington, DC, itself. What do you think of the Dupont/Logan circle scene? Where do you hang out there?

Ha. I like that it’s convenient to get around in DC. Cabbing or the metro/buses make it easy. I also like the fact that many of my blogger buddies are based there, so when I am there–it’s fun to hang out with them in actual, not virtual space. What I dislike: the metro isn’t 24 hours like NY’s subway system. I also dislike, well, that’s probably the wrong word — am perplexed by the overuse of Crackberries and cell phones. People are so into politics that there are data junkies everywhere. Since DC is a company town where the widget being made is political power, there appears to be an inordinate amount of sucking up and conflict of interest that I find fascinating but disturbing. I always have to decompress when I leave there, and return to the sanity and pace of NC.

I don’t usually hang out a ton while there, since it’s often for a conference or event. One place I’ve been to several times is Busboys and Poets, which is a cool, low-key place to relax and grab a bite and have great conversation.

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