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LGBT student supporters gathered around Baker Center to protest anti-LGBT Christian evangelists on Sept. 14, 2015. (FILE)

Athens Pride Fest to provide opportunity for LGBT population to express themselves

To Amy White, there has never been a more important time in her life to celebrate pride than now.

“We live in a climate that has been harsher to the LGBT community than it has in the past,” White, a co-executive director for the Southeast Ohio LGBTQ+ Center said. “The support people get and the affirmation that tells them they’re OK for being who they are is more important than ever now.”

Pride Month is celebrated in the month of June to honor the 1969 Stonewall riots in Manhattan. Today, people celebrate the LGBT population all around the world with events such as parades, picnics and rallies. 

Athens will celebrate Pride Month with a week of events that are open to everyone in hopes to bring more awareness to the LGBT population, White said.

“Education has always been a part of pride,” White said. “So many times, the LGBT community has to hide who we are, but this fest is to show people that we’re here and we’re queer.”

Athens Pride Fest will feature entirely new events this year, including a comedy show on Friday night at The Union Bar and Grill featuring Brooke Cartus, Whitney Chitwood, Scott Duff and Brittany Meyer, along with a pride parade followed by a rally on Saturday.

“I think the comedy show will be just as, if not more popular than the drag show we had last year,” White said. “The parade, on the other hand, is something the people of Athens asked for, so hopefully if the people asked for it, they’ll show up.”

The pride fest will also include more family-friendly events, such a drag queen story time for all ages, especially younger children, on Wednesday.

“It’s definitely one of the events that has received a lot of attention,” delfin bautista, director of the Ohio University LGBT Center said. “We’ve made it known that you don’t have to be a kid to come and enjoy, but a lot of parents with children have appreciated this child-friendly event.”

Last year the organizers received feedback that kids wanted to meet drag performers,

so this year they wanted to create an opportunity to make that happen, bautista said.

Organizers hope the Athens Pride Fest reaches not only the residents of Athens, but brings surrounding rural counties together as well.

“Athens is a great place for pride,” White said. “But the coalition serves 20 other counties, and we’re trying to spread out to these rural areas to people that need our help there.”

Zanesville will be having its first pride night June 11, and the OU LGBT Center along with the Southeast Ohio LGBTQ+ Center has been promoting it so people are aware that there are events where they can celebrate who they are, bautista said.

“We may be in different parts of Southeast Ohio, but we’re all in this together,” bautista said.

Athens Pride Fest is only one of the many events that are taking place this month to help individuals come out and be proud of who they are, bautista said.

“We have to constantly fight for our identities to be recognized,” bautista said. “But in my mind, pride is an opportunity for folks to be bold about who they are, along with just being together and celebrating the LGBT community.”


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