June is a time for celebrating inclusivity, diversity and heritage. These concepts are best showcased through Pride.
“There is nothing else like Pride,” said Montana Swiger, President of the USF P.R.I.D.E Alliance. “It is a chance for us to really celebrate as a community how far we’ve come and as a political statement. There is a rich history and people with so many stories that not many know.”
Pride Month originates from the Stonewall Riots of June 1969. As the first true protest for LGBT rights, it birthed the Pride movement and served as a catalyst for the first Pride parade the following year. Pride has grown from humble beginnings and now includes 6 million people in 115 parades around the U.S. The emphasis has always been on appealing to the growing community.
“Pride is a larger place not only for LGBT people, but also colored LGBT and feminist LGBT to come together and voice issues and opinions,” Swiger said.
Eric Skains, executive director of St Pete Pride, agrees Pride has had a positive impact and has helped broadcast people’s voices.
“It’s important to highlight the LGBT community because it has been in the shadows for a very long time,” Skains said. “Particularly in the current political climate, it’s important to help change this message and Pride Month allows us to have these conversations.”
LGBT youth have had a markedly strong influence on awareness of their community.
“Especially with social media,” Swiger said. “They have been a lot more involved, with so many great successes, such as marriage equality.”
While older activists have tended to stick with picketing, in recent years the youth have become more comfortable directly confronting disfavor toward the Pride community.
“For example, the younger generation did a twerking party in front of (Vice President Mike) Pence’s home,” Skains said. “They have different needs. So, the messages given by the generations have changed.”
After 15 years, attendance at St. Pete Pride events and support from St. Pete citizens and businesses for the LGBT community is growing.
“Businesses in Grand Central started raising rainbow flags in the month of June as soon as two years after St Pete Pride started, and sometimes they keep them up year around,” Skains said. “Pride has played a big role in evolving the city of St. Pete to where it is today."
St. Pete Pride Weekend is from June 23- 25, and many events are scheduled to take place.
The weekend will include the main St. Pete Pride Parade Saturday, a TransPride March and the St. Pete Pride Festival. The event has proven to be a key staple to St. Pete culture as one of the largest celebrations of Pride in Florida.
“There is nothing else like that pouring out of energy and happiness,” Swiger said.
Like previous years, Pride promises to deliver the same open-minded acceptance it has always proudly upheld.
“No matter who are, you should feel comfortable going to a Pride event. It just celebrates diversity,” Skains said.