Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Richmond Virginia Gay Pride 2009

(Download audio piece here)

by Brad Kutner

Gay pride is celebrated in Richmond in a similar way as most other cities, with a festival and a drag queen dunk tank.

“Its dunk the drag queen, All the money (from the dunk tank) goes to charity; to Gay Pride Virginia and the Gay Community Center of Richmond.” Said Natasha Carrington. Drag queen and host of the dunk tank. “Last year I was in the tank and this year I decided ‘I’m too pretty for that!’”

But dunking drag queens is a small part of the festivities. Jay Squires, President of the Gay Community Center of Richmond, said Gay Pride Virginia is about the community being able to join up and express themselves. “It’s the signature opportunity each year for us to come together as a community, to show our pride in ourselves, pride in our community as lesbian, gay, bisexual, & transgender residents of metro Richmond, and pride in what we have been able to accomplish because we have accomplished so much.”

Some people have noticed changes to this year’s Gay Pride Virginia. Pat Stillman, a Parents and Friends of Lesbians And Gays volunteer who has been coming to Richmond Pride events for 15 years said, “The location has gotten bigger, and more young people seem to be showing up; It seems like there used to be more old people in the past.”

This was the second year it was held at the Gay Community Center of Richmond on Sherwood Avenue, a more industrial section of town with less people traffic. Fellow PFLAG member Joe Ellen Gains, remembers past Pride festivals and said “I think members of the community wouldn’t just be riding by and drop in because they saw something fun.”

And fun they would have seen. In addition to the dunk tank, tents were set up by local businesses such as Ellwood Thompson, giving food and support to the LGBT community.

Many national LGBT groups were represented at Richmond’s Pride fest showcasing their many causes. Equality Virginia, a non-partisan group seeking equality for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Virginians, was there informing people of a disturbing truth about our state.

“As it stands now, in Virginia you can be fired for being gay, lesbian, transgender. We are trying to get it written into law to stop that from being the case anymore.” Said Charles Dyson, Equality Virginia’s communications manager. They were there with petition in hand.

By far the largest table at Pride was devoted to the coming elections for the governor, house delegates and local constitutional officers. Roland Winston from the LGBT Stonewall Caucus of the Democratic Party of Virginia was at the head of the table.

“We wanted to have an organization within the party to represent the GLBT community, so the caucus was formed and works from within the democratic-party,” said Winston. “The caucus raises money to recruit and develop gay candidates across the state.”

The Stonewall caucus developed a questionnaire, which was then sent to democratic candidates in and around Richmond. The questions help determine if the candidate is a supporter of GLBT issues such as an end to the gay marriage ban. He has developed an interesting way to identify those who answered the questionnaire in support.

“One of my displays in the booth is photographs of the candidates, and I had printed circular disks like you would see at the meat department of a grocery story, and on them they say ‘100% GLBT certified.’”

The young GLBT community was also present and represented. Brooke Nancekivell, the 16-year-old president of the Maggie L Walker Governors School Gay Straight alliance, explained the activities her group has participated in. “We’ve started doing annual movie nights, we go to things through ROSMY, were going to the national equality march on October 11th. We here at Pride today, so we try to involve ourselves to all the community events,” said Nancekivell.

The goals for their GSA goes one step further though, says Nancekivell, “We’re trying to do an LGBT assembly to celebrate LGBT culture because we have an Asian assembly, and a Black History Month assembly. So we feel, as another important minority in the world and the Richmond community, we need to also celebrate and recognize the LGBT culture.”

The cloudy day and occasional rain wasn’t enough to stop the GLBT community from celebrating their Pride. Squires said, “The festival might not have been as big as last year when it was bright and sunny, it is still safe to say it was the 2nd largest Pride Festival Richmond has ever had.”

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