As Out Boulder County hosted its annual Pridefest on Sunday at Boulder’s Central Park, local LGBTQ activists reflected on the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots and how to continue moving forward.
Pridefest kicked off with a visibility march on Pearl Street Mall and a Rainbow 5K. Back at Central Park, highlights included a diverse lineup of music, booths, food trucks and a beer garden featuring Boulder Beer’s GenderFluid beer.
Vendors sold Pride gear and jewelry, while young people had their own area that included hula hoops, photo booths and a flower crown making station.
As in years past, the well-attended event offered a mix of advocacy and fun.
“It’s more than your average street festival,” Josie Nixon said. “Pride has become a symbol of resistance. Coming together as a community is how we continue to exist and how we continue to push more and more people to join our movement. We’ve wanted the same thing forever. We want equality.”
Nixon, who waved a large pink and blue trans flag as she helped direct traffic during the march, is the chair of Out Boulder County’s trans steering and events committee. Out Boulder in the last few years has focused on becoming more inclusive, she said, noting the gay rights movement historically often excluded the trans community.
“Some of the most oppressed people in the community are trans people of color,” she said. “When you’re not supporting the most oppressed people, how inclusive is your movement?”
On Sunday, leading this year’s Boulder Pride march were Elizabeth Chavez and Miranda Encina. Encina, the chair of Out Boulder County’s recently created Queer and Trans People of Color leadership group, said learning about Stonewall “helped me know that I’m not alone.”
The Stonewall uprising happened June 28, 1969, when patrons at the Stonewall Inn gay bar in New York City, tired of being harassed, fought back against police trying to arrest them.
The riots would become a flash point in the contemporary gay rights movement, inspiring others across the country to push for equal rights in their communities. The first pride parade occurred a few years after Stonewall in New York City.
“With the 50th anniversary of Stonewall, which was started by trans women of color, it’s important to reconnect with the intersectional experiences that started these movements,” said Encina, who is indigenous and identifies as two spirit. “We need to reconnect with our past, to those who have worked so hard for us to exist.”
Joining Encina at the front of the march were members of Out Boulder County’s Queer and Trans People of Color youth group.
“It’s important for them to see representation,” Encina said. “It’s really for survival. The suicide rates are really high. We want to show them they matter. It’s about creating a better world for our youth.”
Bella Russell, a 14-year-old freshman at Longmont High School, described the youth group as “a really special community.” Pride, Bella added, gives young people a safe place to express themselves.
“Pride is a much more accepting and welcoming space,” Bella said. “We share the same struggles.”
Lu Lo Coco, who is non-binary, said they joined the march to provide representation and support.
“I like showing up for my community and showing people there’s no wrong way to be,” said Lo Coco, of Louisville. “I can’t really hide who I am, and I’m proud of who I am. I march for people who can’t.”
Glenda Russell, a psychologist who teaches a women and gender studies class at the University of Colorado Boulder, said the Pride marches inspired by Stonewall marked the point when members of LGBTQ community said “we’re not going to keep hiding any more.”
“For queer people, who could hide, to come together to march visibly and publicly represented a major shift,” she said.
Under the current presidential administration, she said, the LGBTQ community is seeing that “progress is not this linear movement from bad to good. You can move forward and then experience backlashes.”
She added that the current backlash is making Pride events more important.
“Community is very important,” she said. “Support of allies is very important. Not allowing fear to run your life is very important. Pride is one way to refuse to give in to the backlash.”
The Denver Post contributed to this report.