Breaking News
More () »

'We're going to get prouder': River City Pride takes on new meaning following wave of legislation

Organizers of River City Pride say they want to raise awareness, especially among young people, about what this moment means for LGBTQ+ communities.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — This Pride month may be more serious than celebratory, following a wave of legislation impacting LGBTQ+ communities.

Organizers of River City Pride say they want to raise awareness, especially among young people, about what the current moment means for gay and transgender communities.

"Pride is about visibility," said Manny Velasquez-Paredes, the LGBTQ Center director at the University of North Florida. "Visibility equals strength in numbers."

When you walk into the UNF LGBTQ Center, rainbows covering every corner, the pride is visible. But this Pride month comes during a so-called culture war over transgender rights.

Florida's governor is moving to ban transition care for transgender youth, book bans are targeting LGBTQ+ subjects. Legislation prohibiting teaching sexual orientation in K through third grade classrooms takes effect the day after Pride month ends. There is now similar legislation in dozens of states.

"They're targeting the LGBTQ+ community without a reason at all," Velasquez-Paredes said. "However, I think that has made it a point for us to be able to concentrate on and be able to rally against. We want to make sure that everybody in the community feels welcome, that everybody feels like they belong."

River City Pride's Karrissa Wade, a well-known drag queen in Jacksonville, didn't always feel like they belonged. 

"All my life I was told how horrible I was, how bad I was," Wade said. "It did lead to severe depression, to suicidal attempts, things along those lines. And I look at it now, younger people are allowed to express themselves; however, this new law is saying you can't express yourself. So we have to worry about the fact that if we're outing our children, if we're telling our children, 'You can't be who you are,' about them spiraling into depression, about suicide."

Wade especially looks forward to seeing young people this Pride month.

"I wished I could go back and talk to that little child and say, 'Baby, it's gonna be okay,'" Wade said. "'You're gonna grow into something incredible. You're gonna be able to express yourself and be able to help the lives of other people.' That's the biggest thing in the world is knowing that every little step I do by putting myself out here and being vulnerable is opening the door for someone behind me to come behind me and do it even better. And so hopefully I'll make the step but they'll make the mile."

Velasquez-Paredes says there's been an influx of people coming in and wanting to support UNF's LGBTQ center. He says since last year, their drag queen brunches have focused on transgender people's rights.

"We're going to get louder and we're going to get gayer and we're going to get prouder," he said. "So we're going to be continuing to celebrate the entire month of June and throughout the rest of the year."

Find a list of events for Pride month here.

Paid Advertisement