From Stonewall to Richmond PrideFest: the evolution of acceptance toward the LGBT+ community

Linh Dao
Attendees chat on the grass during PrideFest. Photo taken by Linh Dao.

On September 24, 2016, Richmond carried on the legacy of celebrating LGBT+ pride by hosting its annual PrideFest. The festival included food stands, games and live music. LGBT+ people and straight allies of all ages attended, many of whom were dressed in full drag attire and pride flag capes – with the festival falling on the same week as Bisexual Awareness Week, bisexual and pansexual flags were widespread.

One of the supporters, Hassan Fields, attended because, “It just shows that no matter what sexual preferences you have, you can always show support for your fellow human.”

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and queer couples openly and happily displayed their love. Furthermore, the event allowed LGBT+ people to come together and be proud of their identity and the history of the community without fear of public disapproval.

In the waking hours of June 28, 1969, street demonstrations and protests by LGBT youth overcame the streets of New York after police raided the Stonewall Inn, a refuge for LGBT patrons. Recognized as the Stonewall Riots, the rebellion marked what many consider to be the beginning of the modern gay rights movement.

One year later, the nation’s first pride parade honored the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots through the “Christopher Street Gay Liberation Day” march in upper Manhattan. Many participants walked in fear of the public reaction as the rampant homophobia present in the 1970’s was made painfully clear. The march unexpectedly gained momentum with thousands of supporters joining in, shouting “Say it clear, say it loud. Gay is good, gay is proud.”

The surprising success of the pride parade acted as a catalyst for LGBT+ groups across the U.S. and throughout the globe to host their own pride events. As a result, Virginia Pride was birthed in the mid-70’s. According to the Virginia Pride organization, “The goal was to bring awareness of the community and to promote diversity while enabling unity among the Richmond LGBT community members.”

With the increase in pride events since the 1970’s, the acceptance from the public toward the LGBT+ community, and therefore the self-acceptance of each LGBT+ person, has amplified. Each pride event is a part of the ongoing movement to change societal views on LGBT+ people and to alleviate the oppression the community faces.

According to Fields, “As a black male, I feel like I can sympathize with any oppressed people and having things like PrideFest shows that everyone has a voice.”

On September 24, 2016, Stonewall continued to live, but much of the fear of those first marchers did not.


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