LGBT Pride Month is a commemoration of the Stonewall riots, which (by most estimations) was the start of the gay rights movement. After enduring seemingly endless police brutality, a group of New York City residents gathering at the Stonewall Inn finally decided to fight back. It was the start of huge sea change in 1969, and that same struggle for rights has now spread to cities and towns all over the world. Many LGBT communities celebrate Pride through a parade and festival, most during the month of June.
And last weekend for the first time in city history, the Pride tradition came to the town of Longview in Northeast Texas. Long regarded as a region that frowns upon the LGBT community, this town sought to prove that their community could have a safe and successful parade. From the Glenn Evans of the Longview News Journal, here was the result…
The rainbow’s end rested Saturday on downtown Longview as members of a minority and their supporters celebrated pride in the gay and lesbian community.
Actually, they celebrated the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community, evidenced by the “Hey there!” a man in a white dress and fishnet stockings had for folks arriving at Heritage Plaza.
“We were hoping to get 50 or 60 people,” organizer Mallory Waugh said, 30 minutes into the festival as the crowd approached 200. “And look at this. There’s people here from Shreveport, Dallas, all over.”
Waugh is secretary for the local chapter of PFFLAG, formerly Parents, Friends and Family of Lesbians and Gays. She said organizers hope to make the festival an annual event.
“This is important for Longview,” she said. “Because Longview wants to be a thriving and inclusive community.”
The event was important enough for Mayor Jay Dean to pen a letter commending its spirit. Councilwoman Kasha Williams read the mayoral missive after embracing the crowd.
“This is such a commemorative event here in Longview,” she said, noting people had come from near and far. “That is a message that this is a much-needed event. I am a Christian, but in the same vein I have to add we can no longer afford to hide behind the veil of Christianity. So, to you today, I say I love you.”
The organizers, originally concerned about a larger crowd of protesters than celebrants, were met by a miniscule group of 4 men with a couple of signs. It’s sufficient to say that even in Deep East Texas, the Longview Pride Festival was a rousing success.
As communities all over the world celebrate the LGBT liberation, it’s especially wonderful to see a community starting a new tradition, and shattering old misconceptions in its wake.
Congrats to Longview PFLAG, the city of Longview and all of your supporters! Cities all over the nation are definitely proud of you.