Gay Festival News
The start of June marks the beginning of Pride month around the world, a season intended to celebrate LGBT communities and protest against attacks on hard-won civil rights gains. This year, gay festival news comes against a backdrop of a rise in hate speech and new restrictions that impact the community.
Orlando’s Gay Days
For many LGBT people, Gay Days is more than just a party. It’s a tradition, and it’s one that goes back decades. Thousands of gay men, lesbians and their friends travel to Orlando every year for the multi-day event that begins on the first weekend in June. Many attend Disney theme parks for a day or two and other local attractions, but attendees also host pool parties, Drag Bingo and expos at their hotel hosts.
While the three-decade-old event started small, organizers have seen it grow to a major attraction in central Florida. The yearly celebration now features events for the community at well-known landmarks and clubs, as well as in unique, one-of-a-kind settings.
This year, the event had to shift gears due to state legislation perceived as anti-LGBTQ. Company sponsors dialed back their support, but the event went on as planned. Some attendees expressed angst and anxiety, but most stayed to have fun and show their support for the community.
Joseph Clark, CEO and co-founder of Gay Days, said he wishes civil rights groups would have given his organization a heads up before releasing their travel advisories. Clark says that out-of-town guests who contact him to cancel are expressing more concerns about safety and security in Florida than he has ever heard before. He invites Gov. Ron DeSantis to come to a Drag Show to see for himself that the people of Florida are not what the media portrays.
Philadelphia’s Pride Month
While Philadelphia’s Pride parade and festival are a big draw, the city’s gayborhood is filled with events all month long. This year, organizers are focusing on “peeling back” to the roots of what Pride is about. “Really peeling things back to what Pride was in 1972, and before that,” says PHL Pride Collective Organizer Tyrell Brown. “That’s really where we want to focus our attention.”
A giant, 200 feet-long record-breaking Pride flag will be unveiled at a ceremony in Rittenhouse Square, followed by a parade, food trucks and wellness events along Walnut and Cypress streets. A free screening of the documentary “Love, Lies & Drag” will follow.
The Franklin Institute celebrates LGBTQ History Month with science demonstrations, performances curated by drag queen Eric Jaffe, ballroom and voguing with Kemar Jewel, and screenprinting. All activities are included with museum admission.
This month, the Sofitel Philadelphia hotel will display its LGBTQ Hall of Flags with a new exhibit dedicated to lesbian pride flags, transgender pride flags, bisexual pride flags and pan sexual pride flags.
A safe space for poets to share their sexy, queer writing is offered at Tattooed Mom, a queen village bar. This June, social-justice kids’ band Ants on a Log hosts a musical celebration of queer kids, families and allies at the Fishtown Community Library. And tweens and teens can join Drag Queen Story Time at the Free Library of Philadelphia.
Connecticut’s Ulysses Grant Dietz Lecture
All across the state, Pride Month activities and celebrations are taking place. Out Film CT, which has produced the Constitution State’s longest-running film festival for 35 seasons, is kicking off Pride month with its PRIDE MiniFest at Trinity College’s Cinestudio in Hartford.
The event is a precursor to the LGBTQ Film Festival in October and will feature an array of short films from renowned directors, including a film about a transgender musician and drag queen. The series will also include a panel discussion and Q&A.
In the summer of 1988, gay Wethersfield man Richard Reihl was killed by two teenagers in a homophobic hate crime, which helped galvanize the state’s LGBT community and led to the creation of the Connecticut Coalition for Lesbian and Gay Civil Rights. The group would later monitor anti-gay hate crimes and arranged sensitivity sessions for police departments.
During the same year, a four-day conference at the Metropolitan A.M.E. Zion Church in Hartford sought to expand black churches’ role in confronting AIDS, with Reverend Hopeton A. Scott arguing that homophobia contributed to a lack of faith-based responses to the disease. AIDS became one of the most devastating public health crises in history, with homosexual men accounting for more than half of the infection rate.
New York City’s Stonewall Uprising
Despite progressive winds sweeping the country, New York City’s gay community struggled to gain legal rights. Homosexual acts remained illegal in most states and bars and restaurants could be shut down for employing or serving gay patrons. Despite these risks, many men and women sought out places like the Stonewall Inn, a Mafia-run bar in Greenwich Village.
When police raided the Stonewall on a hot New York night in June of 1969, they were met with defiance and violence. The uprising lasted for weeks and inspired LGBTQ activists to march, protest and fight to reclaim their lives and dignity.
Mark Segal wasn’t at Stonewall that night, but he wanted to be part of the movement that would change his life and the lives of millions of others. “It was a turning point,” he recalls, and it sparked a burst of organizing that changed the tone and volume of LGBTQ activism.
Before Stonewall, activists had staged demonstrations and fought with police. But those events either faded from local memory, failed to inspire commemorations that lasted or did not motivate activists in other cities. Sociologists Elizabeth A. Armstrong and Suzanna M. Crage note that while previous gay police raids prompted activist responses and led to local gains, they did not inspire movements that gained momentum and scale. The Stonewall riots changed all that.