Nashville Pride Is Many Things To Many People: A Celebration, A Break, A Call To Arms, A Good Day by Mariah Timms for The Tennessean
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by BriteHeart | 6.22.19
When 12-year-old Jacob McCoy and his fellow Rainbow Squad members look out from their Pride parade float over the crowd on Broadway this Saturday morning, they'll see thousands of fellow LGBTQ Nashvillians and their allies, each of whom have a different reason for being there.
Nashville Pride has hosted an event in various locations across the city for several years, but other groups host picnics, brunches and other gatherings this weekend, all in the spirit of remembering and looking to the future.
For Jacob, it will be a chance to find his place in the world.
Pride means community
"I didn't really expect there to be that many people," he said. "It means a lot. It means I know I have a safe place to be."
"There's a desperate desire for community and a lack of ability for people in the LBGTQ community to be completely honest with themselves," Phil Cobucci, community affairs director for Nashville Pride, said.
Last year was Jacob's first time at Pride, and he said it taught him something about how to be a good person.
"Love everybody. Accept everybody for who they are, no matter what their differences are, the color of their skin, their sexuality, their identity," he said.
Pride means being who you are
Ariana Perez, 22, left, and Braeden Abrahamsen, 20, pose during a Nashville Pride celebration in 2018. (Photo: Braeden Abrahamsen)
Shaun Pedro Arroyo also remembers his first Pride, in New York City when he was a teenager.
"I thought that was my favorite," he said. Arroyo, 53, is the chair of the Middle Tennessee Transgender Support Group.
Then he attended Nashville Pride in 2015, just after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the right of same-sex couples to marry with Obergefell v. Hodges.
"All the energy, the togetherness. I thought, 'OK, this is the best,'" he said.
Nashville's Pride celebrations have been around for decades, which Arroyo said is important to recognize as an achievement in an uncertain world.
"The support I've received from so many different people, from the 'L,' the 'G,' the 'B,' ... every other community, these allies fight for me, work with me, love mm. And I love them back just as much," he said.
Pride is about organization
Chris Sanders has worked as a lobbyist and organizer with what became the Tennessee Equality Project for decades. He focuses on finding voices in rural constituencies, helping to change the views lawmakers have of their districts, Wednesday, June 19, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn. (Photo: Larry McCormack / The Tennessean)
Chris Sanders has worked as an organizer and lobbyist with the Tennessee Equality Project for decades. Each year, he said, brings new challenges to those fighting to secure legal protections for LGBTQ people.
"We don't always get to choose what sequence to do things in. The people who are coming at you light several fires at once," Sanders, 49, said.
After Obergefell, he and others have speculated there was a loss of momentum around activism.
"There are far more needs and uses for (TEP) beyond marriage, which is why we have endured," he said. "It's important we have a strong community here and allies, but for people in Nashville to be truly safe, it's in the hands of people around the state."
Cobucci said that the organizing aspect of Pride, which has dozens of booths set up inside the festival grounds, is important.
"For us, people who become energized at Pride become fighters for the cause throughout the year. Even if they don't this year, people coming in from parts of Tennessee who feel like they can't be out every day may be encouraged to be down the road," Sanders said.
Pride is about history
"I remember Stonewall. I remember thinking, I wish I was older so I could be with them," Michael McDaniel said.
McDaniel, 64, was a young teen when riots outside New York City's Stonewall Inn were instrumental to the start of the modern LGBTQ rights movement, 50 years ago next week.
"Things like that, they help change perspectives, the force of something like that," he said. "It's unfortunate that it happened, but it makes a huge piece in our nation's history. It made the LGBTQ community stronger in its voice.
McDaniel works as the coordinator of the LGBTQ fund at the Community Foundation, a Nashville nonprofit that connects other nonprofits with funding in Middle Tennessee.
Braeden Abrahamson is only 20, but also said looking back is vital to any celebration of LGBTQ pride.
"We fought hard then, and we have continued to fight hard," Abrahamson said. "It's important to recognize how far we've come and to look ahead at how far we have to go, to celebrate the big and small victories that happen on a daily basis across the nation and across the world."
A junior at Vanderbilt University, Abrahamson is studying sociology and human and organizational development, and is on the bowling team.
Pride is a party
Activist Sam MacAlpine, 29, said that sometimes, Pride parties can slide from vital moments of visibility and togetherness to "celebrations of victories that haven't been won yet."
"This should be a time to rally and focus on what we need to do in the future, how we need to come together and unite to build that community," she said, "instead of just patting ourselves on the back while we’re being stripped of civil rights protections."
That criticism is often valid — Abrahamson commented on how some companies seem focused on "making bank off the rainbow" without real work toward acceptance.
If there is any consensus, though, among such a diverse group of people bound together as much by differences as similarities, it's that Pride, especially in Nashville, can be all of the above.
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"Being queer is hard," Ariana Perez, 22, said. "We should all be able to make Pride what we want to. For me, that means just loving myself for being different.”
Perez, who graduated from Vanderbilt University last year, said it's important to her to be able to celebrate and be around people who share at least some of her experiences.
"It's a party in the park, but it's also a time to see the people in the community who are doing this work day in, day out that we sometimes forget when there's no flag in the window," Cobucci said. "We're willing to have those hard conversations, and this is a chance for that."
Even long-time activist Sanders agrees Pride can be a break from the year-round fight.
"We're under so much pressure, it can be a huge release of shame," he said. "If the community feels that it wants to celebrate for a couple of days in June, it's hard for me to be critical of that."
Celebrating identity is inherent to all Pride celebrations, Arroyo said, and days of parades and festivals are unique chances to "live authentically."
"I'm always Latino. I'm always trans. Some days you might feel more one or the other, but it's part of how you walk out the door every day," he said. "When I walk out that door for Pride, I know it's gonna be a good day. You can't mess me up today."
NASHVILLE PRIDE 2019
LGBTQ community celebrates
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