Guilford Green, in the light

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guilford green brian clarey

It is a rare thing, in Greensboro, for my wife and me to feel underdressed. But that’s what happened Saturday night at the Guilford Green Gala, held this year at the Cadillac Garage in downtown Greensboro.

Blame it on the weather. Blame it on the hour. Blame it on me.

The gala attracted hundreds of revelers decked in black-tie and variations on the Moulin Rouge theme — top hats and starched coats and bustiers and thigh-highs and all of that sexy stuff. Drag queen Jean Jacket and her crew worked “Lady Marmalade” on a corner stage, where local faves Evan Olson and Jessica Mashburn conducted ceremonies amid the fanciest of cocktails and the tastiest of small plates.

It’s true that Guilford Green — the organization that charges itself with promoting LGBT inclusion throughout the county — has limitations in scope and size, as any nonprofit does. But its bona fides are in order. It began in 1995, a group of Greensboroans who got together to raise money for the Triad Health Project, where their friends were battling AIDS.

More than 20 years later, its main fundraiser attracted no fewer than three sitting Greensboro councilmembers, including Mayor Nancy Vaughan, who is outgoing executive director of the organization. And at least four aspirants for office made sure to be there — Kathy Manning and Adam Coker, who will face off in a May Democratic primary to oppose Rep. Ted Budd in US Congressional District 13 in November, bumped into each other at the bar.

“We actually get along pretty well,” Coker said.

Also in attendance were Jennifer Mangrum, the teacher who is running against NC Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger in District 26, and Martha Shafer, who is running against state Rep. John Faircloth in state House District 62.

And so out of a plague, a political force has been born.

As the evening built to a crescendo, a friend remarked on how their community had emerged from the shadows as part of the plurality, and how a super-gay gala made its way onto the political circuit, how amazing it all was.

“I think this party used to be a lot more wild though,” they said.

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