CHATTANOOGA, Tenn.—Hundreds of people gathered with their children to cheer on parade performers in drag and outfits suggesting sexual fetishes as they flung candy and gyrated along the street and across the stage at the 2022 Chattanooga Pride Parade.
“We were able to adjust schedules for today and get people down here,” said David, an employee of Amazon, one of the event’s corporate sponsors. “The company also paid for all of our swag that we’re handing out and some of our costumes too.”
Other sponsors included the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) electric company, the T-Mobile communications company, and the Chattanooga insurance provider Unum.
David was part of a parade of between 500 and 600 people, including many who graphically displayed their sexual tastes in front of children. But unlike many parade attendees who spoke to The Epoch Times, David opposes drag shows at bars aimed at children, such as those that Chattanooga Pride has been organizing. The topic kicked up controversy when a viral video showed a young child at a drag show rubbing the crotch of a performer, who did not stop the youngster.
Destiny, a T-Mobile employee who said her company was a sponsor, attended with her child. She knew about the drag show where the controversial contact occurred between the child and the performer.
“I think it’s appropriate for kids to express themselves however they feel is necessary,” she said. “I don’t think they should have stopped” the behavior.
Many parents brought their families to the parade.
“Love is love, and you know, that’s their thing,” one mother said to her daughter.
Many event attendees suggested that celebrating LGBT ideology should be a Southern cultural practice.
“Y’all’ means all,” some chanted.
“We are here, we are proud, and we ain’t going anywhere,” an announcer vowed.
Some men at the parade wore zipped-shut leather dog-face masks, suits with leashes and tails, and other paraphernalia.
One man wore a bulletproof vest, carried a sword, and made it clear he was keeping a close watch on three counter-protestors to the event.
Another wore a dog-face mask and a flag indicating that he enjoyed a sexual fetish involving self-degradation.
Parade participants passed out candy to children along the route.
After the parade, event attendees partied on Chattanooga’s riverfront, where some local businesses sold wares from tents.
Some offered water bottles in the shape of a part of the male anatomy. Others offered free chest binders so girls could flatten their breasts to downplay their feminine form. Experts have said binders can cause skin damage, back pain, chest pain, and shortness of breath.
Men dressed as women and other costumed participants danced onstage in front of an audience that included young boys and girls.
One man in a leather chest harness and dramatic makeup snapped his rainbow suspenders provocatively as he writhed in front of children and teens.
One drag performer strutted up and down the stage’s catwalk. Another, Sweet Tooth Von Tata, danced to the popular children’s song “Baby Shark” while wearing a shark onesie.
“What do you think is my best feature?” Chattanooga Pride organizer Noah Corbin asked while performing in his drag persona, Hormona Lisa. He mentioned his nose job fund and said he wanted to change his profile.
“Who thinks I should keep my nose?” he asked the crowd, receiving cheers.
The event had the support of Chattanooga’s mayor, Tim Kelly, who condemned rising local opposition to drag shows for children.
“It’s been an…interesting…week in Chattanooga, and it’s really important to me, as the mayor of Chattanooga, that our city remains a diverse and welcoming city forever,” Kelly said. “Chattanooga is a city that celebrates diversity, and we don’t care who you love.”
Progressive Congressman Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) also made a surprise appearance at the event.
“To innovate, you have to respect diversity,” he said from the stage.
Khanna suggested embracing diversity was crucial to keeping Chattanooga’s tech industries thriving. He urged Chattanoogans to support the federal Equality Act.
Sponsors enthusiastically got behind Chattanooga Pride’s event.
“The TVA is extremely supportive of all of its employee resource groups, and all of its employees, no matter what they believe, who they are, where they come, from their backgrounds, their experiences in life,” Megan Flynn, the TVA’s chief diversity and inclusion officer, told The Epoch Times.
The company’s LGBT resource group aims to sponsor LGBT activities in Chattanooga, she said. The TVA is a federally owned electric utility company and America’s sixth-largest power company.
But when asked about the appropriateness of the event for children, sponsor representatives balked.
“If there’s children at events, they have parents that are there and involved,” Flynn said. “They have to address those aspects.”
“I have no comment on that,” said Lis Ahmed, the executive vice president of people and communications at Unum. “We’re just here to come and celebrate with our employees.”
The event attracted many local and national businesses, including Disney, Keller Williams Bakery, the AARP Tennessee, and The Democratic Party, among others.