A Closer Look at The Memphis LGBTQ+ Community

June 17, 2022 – Reflecting on the Memphis Proud Community Advisory Committee

 Written by Olivia Roman

As an intern, looking behind the museum’s curtain at all of its quirky and complex inner workings is fascinating, if not also overwhelming. The creation of an exhibit requires countless moving parts coming together, which would be impossible without the diligent work of researchers, organizers, and community members. Throughout our time designing Memphis Proud, we held Community Advisory Committee meetings, gathering together all involved for roundtable discussions on the trajectory of the exhibit. While these meetings continue, they have also evolved into something more—a space in which we can share our experiences, inspiration, and why they drive us to pour ourselves into the effort to tell our community’s story.

At first glance, the Advisory Committee meetings might look like a convention of local LGBTQ+ celebrities and activists. Audrey May, co-founder of Meristem—Memphis’ first feminist bookstore—might be found in conversation with Gwendolyn Clemons, CEO of Relationship Unleashed, which has been described as a “thriving nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering LGBTQ+ people.” This Committee has given me the great privilege of listening to unique perspectives and stories from the likes of Joe Calhoun, whose career of leadership and advocacy shaped the Memphis LGBTQ+ community while also reaching beyond it. As a teen, Calhoun assisted in the creation of the iconic “I Am A Man” signs during the 1968 Memphis Sanitation Strike. Inviting both thoughtful reflection and lively discussion, the diverse and authentic crowd this Committee has brought together to collaborate on the formation of the Memphis Proud exhibit has been an honor to be a part of and we look forward to sharing this largely untold story with the rest of the city.