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No Need to Hide When You’re at Pride

Annual Austin Pride Parade Creates a Safe, Supportive Environment for LGBTQ+, Allies

The+Pride+Parade+was+held+Sept.+30+in+Austin.
The Pride Parade was held Sept. 30 in Austin.

The Pride Parade was held Sept. 30 in Austin.

Deana Trautz

Deana Trautz

The Pride Parade was held Sept. 30 in Austin.

Deana Trautz, Reporter

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With windows rolled down, our 99 cent Party City rainbow flags waved in the wind. We were searching for a last minute parking spot in the crowded streets of Austin, when I made eye contact with a woman crossing the street. She looked down at my flag and back at me, a look that makes me assume a few seconds of judgement. That was until she gave me a big smile, showing her support. I felt a sense of relief rush through me, like I found home; I was at the Austin Pride Parade.

Despite it being called the LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning) community, I often feel an absence of the community side of it. The first time I did feel that was at this year’s homecoming dance, where I saw two kids- one wearing a rainbow flag and the other a transgender flag as a cape. In reality there are many students that are in the LGBTQ+ community, however they rarely are out and proud of it. I found the caped students and their group of friends and I had an instant connection. It isn’t normal to have that connection with just anyone you meet, except it is for the fact that we have a strong sense of mutual understanding like no one else. Even knowing nothing about you, the LGBTQ+ community understands you have gone through similar obstacles and deserve each other’s support. It’s like you all have something to offer each other, just by being there.

As you might imagine, having thousands of allies and people part of the community surrounding you, the feeling of support was overwhelming. The thing I love about the LGBTQ community is that everyone has their own story. Being at the parade I felt like for the first time, my experiences weren’t entirely unique, and that was good.

Minutes before the parade starts, junior Kaitlin Cantwell gets excited to see her first Pride parade. For her, the support from city officials was the most surprising part. “Shaking the mayors hand as he walked down the Pride parade was a surreal experience,” Cantwell said. “It made me feel safe, like we have people looking out for us.”

I have always loved the concept of Austin: the weirder you are, the better. You may have to worry what you wear and how you present yourself anywhere else, however in Austin, whatever you decide to do can be seen as art and expression. You won’t find a more diverse and accepting group than in the city waiting just a half hour away.

Seeing the crowds of people dance through the parade, their flags in hand, it gave me a sense of community that I (and I’m guessing many others) had not experienced in such a pure form. There was more representation in the Pride parade than anywhere I’ve seen before. Some groups that often get little representation, such as bisexuals, showed up with groups of around 20 people. It was heartwarming to see their pink, purple and blue flags in the hands of many proud individuals, unafraid to be themselves.

I believe that everyone can use some words of encouragement, regardless of how confident they seem. Yelling “happy pride” “you’re all beautiful” and “you’re doing amazing” from the sidelines, I watched as someone would pause when they heard our chants. They met eyes with us and gave a smile made of a million words. Whether it may be accepting themselves, coming out, or maintaining a relationship with those who oppose their orientation/gender identity, LGBTQ+ people face many challenges throughout their life. They put on a layer of confidence, but in reality need others to tell them it’s okay and that they are doing just great.

The atmosphere held no social stigmas. We stood behind the barricade with a woman police officer standing on the other side. In most situations, being that close to police may make for a tense room. As person after person asked her if they could climb under and cross to the other side of the parade (for whatever excuse), she refused them only to ensure their safety and suggested streets where they could cross at. We laughed with the cop at how frequent she would have to repeat the same words, not letting them pass. Once the parade started, someone riding a bike with an arm wrapped in bracelets took one off and gave to the officer. Saying how she could not wear jewelry on duty, she kindly gave the bracelet to a man behind her, who was overjoyed. Sharing this connection with a cop, as well as seeing other police officers run with flags through the parade, gave me a new respect for them.

As the Austin Fire Department’s group walked past us in the parade, I noticed a gay couple holding hands, walking with their fellow firefighters. Minutes later a woman on top of a fire truck held a sign reading, “Say hi your newest lesbian firefighter.” Being out and proud in the workplace is not always easy, but seeing that these individuals had so many quality allies at their side still gives me an indescribable feeling. I think one of the worst things is having to hide who you are to protect relationships or job positions that are meaningful to you. Because firefighters and police officers are typically symbols of power versus the stereotypical easy-going supporter, I felt like I finally saw change happening in the world as they smiled to their friend.

Being my first pride parade, I didn’t know what was in store. Having lived in our little suburbia my whole life, I sometimes feel like I live with blinders, missing out on the good things happening for the LGBTQ+ community. Austin Pride gave me a sense of that. I wouldn’t say that September 30 was just a ‘night to remember,’ or a simple memory. Instead, it that gave me community, support and most importantly, hope, that I hadn’t had before.

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No Need to Hide When You’re at Pride