Athens Begins Pride Month Celebrations

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ATHENS, Ohio (WOUB) — The LGBTQ community in Athens is gearing up for this year’s annual Pride Parade this weekend.

Pride month celebrations unofficially kicked off Sunday with a discussion on the history and future of the LGBTQ community at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship.

“The event many considered the first pride was a riot,” said delfin bautista,* local queer activist.  “In late June 1969, at the Stonewall Inn, New York City, a group of drag queens, trans folk, people-of-color, homeless youth, people on the fringes of white gay culture and of society as a whole were led by Sylvia Rivera, Marsha P. Johnson, Miss Major and others in fighting back against police brutality and harassment.”

Pride celebrations have evolved in the 50 years since the events in New York City. For Athens, it’s only the second year the community has held a Pride parade.

Kerri Shaw, an ally who has lived in Athens for 15 years, said over the years Pride has become much more visible and large-scale.

“I don’t remember anything that was this public [before Athens Pride,]” Shaw said “there were groups of LGBT folks but it would be specific dances or specific groups that would meet regularly. So the celebrations seemed pretty insular.”

Pride can mean and look like different things to each person. Shaw says her ideal pride is one that is not controversial but normalized in society. Lyndsey Autumn Fought, executive director of Southeastern Ohio Rainbow Alliance, an Athens Pride co-sponsor, said her idea of pride values safety.

“Pride month means to me that we can live together in visibility and solidarity and show the world that we’re here, Fought said. “We’re not going anywhere so we need to make space of our own in order to live safely and securely.”

But, with the increased visibility and acceptance of the LGBTQ community, some worry about the commercialization and exploitation during Pride month by companies.

“Brands and corporations know that is kinda trendy to be one with pride, Fought said, “so we’ve seen a lot more capitalism involved with pride as a whole, which, it’s nice to walk in a store and see a bunch of rainbow stuff everywhere. But you have to keep in mind, is this brand just trying to sell or do they actually believe in the value of being fair to everybody.”

For the future of Pride Month, some LGBT community members in Athens told WOUB  they want to create a more inclusive environment and expand to celebrating the LGBT+ community throughout the year.

“I would like to see the people who have been in the back come to the front, be given a voice, upheld a little bit more,”  Fought said.

Athens pride festivities will begin Wednesday, June 5, with a “Cheers and Queers” happy hour at Athens Uncorked starting at 6 p.m. The last scheduled event for Athens Pride will be storytime with drag queens at the public library on June 29.

* delfin bautista uses they/ them pronouns and does not capitalize their name.