City holds first pride festival
The City of Charlottesville hosted its first ever gay pride festival Saturday afternoon in Lee Park to show support for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer communities.
The festival, which was held at the site of last year’s Occupy Charlottesville protests, drew hundreds of individuals and featured live entertainment, food from local vendors and activities for children. Most significantly, however, the event allowed members of the LGBTQ communities to express themselves in a safe environment.
“It’s about time,” said Amy Marshall, president of Cville Pride, a community network that organized the festival and other events to promote awareness of LGBTQ communities. “Charlottesville presents itself as the liberal capital of Virginia but it’s just not visible.”
Cville Pride organized the event to allow members of the LGBTQ communities to celebrate their identities and to challenge social norms.
“It’s an expression of who we are. It’s about time that people know that we are here and we are just like everyone else,” said Don Davenport, vice chair for outreach and membership for LGBT Democrats of Virginia Caucus,
Even though Charlottesville has a vibrant gay community, there is still a stigma to declaring publicly your sexual or gender orientation, Marshall said. Same-sex marriage is constitutionally banned in Virginia, and it is also legal for employers to terminate employees based on their orientation.
“You don’t know the reaction you receive when you come out” Marshall said. “The community here was okay with being underground about their orientation which makes it harder for people to come out.”