Tremendous progress has been made in recent years toward advancing the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) rights movement. Marriage equality is now a reality, and June is national LGBT Pride Month.
But the recent mass shooting in Orlando demonstrates the level of hatred and intolerance that the LGBT community still faces.
These are the circumstances surrounding the second annual Portsmouth Pride event and parade, which takes place on Saturday, June 25. Part of the national Pride Month celebration, the event is dedicated to honoring and celebrating the LGBT identity.
The event is organized by Seacoast Outright, a nonprofit group dedicated to providing support and services to the LGBT community, especially its youth, for the last 23 years. Featuring speakers, live music, a parade, and more, Portsmouth Pride highlights the city’s open, cooperative nature. Local businesses have joined with area nonprofits to ensure Portsmouth Pride is a fun, expressive day for everyone.
Participants in the Pride March will gather on the lawn of Portsmouth Public Library at 1 p.m., where they will be assembled into six groups, the members of each wearing a particular color of the rainbow. The groups will then march to Market Square, each one taking a different route so as to cover more ground. They will all come together at the end to form a human LGBT flag. About 2,000 marchers took part in the inaugural parade last year; Seacoast Outright is hoping to surpass that number on Saturday.
Organizers feel good about the upcoming event. Despite the continued presence of anti-LGBT feelings in the country, they doubt there will be any trouble. There were no protesters at Portsmouth Pride last year, and Seacoast Outright has no reason to believe there will be any opposition this year.
“The community has been so supportive, we’re not expecting any trouble,” said Rebecca Sanborn, a member of Seacoast Outright’s board of directors. “I’ve been with Outright for five months, but it feels like longer because I love the people here. It’s a very close-knit team. I attended the first Portsmouth Pride last year and got connected with its members. I was honored to be asked to join as a member.”
After the march, a program of speakers and entertainers will commence at 2 p.m. Featured acts include DJ Jodie and the band As We Know It, who also performed at last year’s event. The Leftist Marching Band also will be on hand, and representatives from the city will issue a proclamation.
The keynote speaker will be Roberta “Bobbie” Barry, who was instrumental in founding another LGBT advocacy group, the Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. There will also be a youth speaker and a couple of surprises.
Nonprofits that serve as resources for the LGBT community will have booths open during the event, as will some businesses. Refreshments will be available for sale, and Inner Truth Massages will offer free chair massages.
After the main event wraps up, participants can take part in the Out and About Program from 4 to 10 p.m. Restaurants and other businesses in the Portsmouth area who are sponsors of the Pride event will be featured in a directory and online map. A number of restaurants will offer a special appetizer or drink with a Pride theme.
In addition, two Pride after-parties will take place from 6-8 p.m.: a 21-plus event at Birdseye Lounge, and an all-ages party at Seacoast Repertory Theatre.
Portsmouth Pride takes place two weeks after the Orlando shooting, in which a gunman opened fire in a gay nightclub, killing 49 people and wounding dozens of others. To honor the victims, Seacoast Outright and South Church held a candlelight vigil on June 14, drawing about 1,000 people. Attendants took turns speaking and then walked around town with candles before congregating in the church once again for a reading of the victims’ names.
The Orlando attack left the local LGBT community reeling, and the Portsmouth Pride event will honor the victims further.
“It’s different from last year. Those victims will be in our hearts and minds,” said Sanborn. “We will keep moving forward.”
Seacoast Outright continues with its work, showing LGBT youths and adults that they have the support of the greater community. They hope the Portsmouth Pride event will again demonstrate how extensive that support is.
People can sign up to participate in the Pride March, get tickets to the after-parties, and find more information at seacoastoutright.org.