Editors note: This month is the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising, a historic demonstration against a police raid that targeted the Stonewall Inn, a New York LGBT club. Christine Hawes, head of community outreach for Iowa City Pride, reflects on the highlights of planning this year’s Pride events.
Memories of an especially touching Pride season, preparing for the widely recognized 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising:
• The outpouring of support from family-related groups wanting to have a presence at Iowa City Pride this year, such as the Iowa Moms Blog, Free Mom Hugs-Iowa, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense, the I.C. Bruisers youth roller derby, the Iowa City Public Library’s Drag Storytime as well as a comprehensive list of helpful LGBTQ-affirming reading resources for every age group and interest.
• Sa’More Divine, in 4-inch heels, fishnet stockings and makeup to rival Lizzo, brushing away tears of self-acceptance while local foodies at nearby downtown restaurants watched in awe of their beauty. Sa’More was sharing with a local TV reporter their three phases of “coming out:” as a young gay man, a drag queen and a nonbinary person. All of which, they reminded us, are especially difficult for people of color like herself.
• Adoptive father and “transplant from California” Paul Clark tearing up not once but twice as he shared the joy of raising his family of four here in Iowa City, and the welcomeness he and his husband Chad feel from the community.
• A distinguished return of what are broadly known as “kink” interests to Iowa City Pride — safe explorations of consensual fetishes and shared experiences often involving role-playing are making a comeback at this year’s Pride, in a safe way that conveys respect.
• Seeing more bisexual members of our LGBTQ community have a greater voice, especially important considering bisexual people actually are the largest portion of LGBTQ communities and often face greater challenges of depression.
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• Cheering on other LGBTQ groups that embrace the “super-rainbow,” or “Philly flag” rainbow, that adds even more colors to the traditional six colors of the LGBTQ rainbow, which was created decades ago by Gilbert Baker. Our additional colors have, for two years, included additional colors for transgender, bisexual and people of color.
• Seeing all of these groups and more rally without even being asked, to always mention “our transgender and brothers and sisters of color.” This natural recognition of the most marginalized among us is driven largely by the amazing leadership role of so many people of color in Iowa City’s thriving drag community, and the agonizing news of black transgender women being killed or attacked nationwide and especially in Texas, at frightening rates. These ongoing recognitions of race and gender, beyond sexual orientation, help drive home the broader spirit of Stonewall, which is offering a haven for the disenfranchised and marginalized of all kinds, not just the gender-bending kind.
• A wider swath of rainbows coating much of Iowa City than I have seen before, as government entities join with private businesses and nonprofit groups both local and national with rainbow-adorned logos refashioned just for this Pride season.
• The somber but comforting task of offering up an online “thank you” to all of the hundreds and hundreds of people sharing a post on our Facebook page honoring the 49 victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting June 12, 2016. It was a mass shooting that took the need for gun sense to a new level, and the heart-wrenching analogy that grew out of the delayed police response — fighting to be recognized and receive the help so desperately needed — became a new rallying cry for LGBTQ rights in many ways.
It used to be that LGBTQ people and Pride celebrations were a great model to the rest of the world about how to accept yourself and proudly “stand out.”
Today, they still are models of uniqueness. But as we’ve all been reminded during the monthslong lead-up to Stonewall’s 50th anniversary, the LGBTQ community also is a great role model in how to stand together. For everyone.
• Christine Hawes is head of community outreach for Iowa City Pride and a professional writer based in Iowa City.