Celebrate Alexandria Pride in June

Have you ever attended an LGBTQ+ Pride event? For many in the LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, non-binary, genderqueer, intersex, asexual, pansexual, etc.) community, a Pride event was the first place they saw other people like them. It may have been the first place they could witness and partake in the joy of coming together and being “out” as a community.

Members of the Alexandria LGBTQ Task Force have fond memories of Pride events: glitter, huge crowds, fabulous outfits, dancing (choreographed and impromptu!), connecting with family and friends who just came out as well as celebrating in D.C. or Amsterdam or even Alexandria’s first Pride Fair four years ago. But this was not always the norm.

On June 28, 1969, police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in Lower Manhattan, New York City. It was a time when people could be arrested for “dressing in drag.” Raids were common. On that night, however, the Stonewall Inn patrons fought back. The resistance was led by women, primarily transgender women of color like Marsha P. Johnson. She led Stonewall and other pivotal resistance movements but has rarely received the recognition she deserved.

Stonewall is now viewed by many as the beginning of the modern LGBTQ Rights Movement in the United States. Pride events commemorate that uprising as well as other protests across the country for LGBTQ+ rights.

In 2018, the Alexandria LGBTQ Task Force and the Alexandria Library joined with community partners to present the first Alexandria Pride Fair. This year marks the fourth Pride and the second virtual Pride offering. The hope is that 2022 will see the return of in-person festivities and workshops.

The Alexandria LGBTQ Task Force, housed in the City of Alexandria Department of Community and Human Services but developed in the Sexual Assault Center and Domestic Violence Program in 2007, is a safe space where LGBTQ+ people and their allies gather quarterly to network, share ideas, and plan trainings and community events. The Task Force’s goal is to create safe and inclusive services for the  LGBTQ+ community in Alexandria.

The Alexandria LGBTQ Task Force celebrates the achievements of the LGBTQ+ community and recognizes the long journey ahead to realize full equity and inclusion of all people. While the LGBTQ+ community, in general, experiences poverty, discrimination, and violence at greater rates than the general population, Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) who also identify as LGBTQ+ face significantly higher rates of discrimination, poverty, and violence.

The work for an inclusive Alexandria community for LGBTQ+ people necessarily includes racial and social equity efforts because the two are inextricably linked. The Black, lesbian, feminist writer Audre Lorde said, “There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives.”

In 2019, the city council added gender identity and transgender status to the Alexandria Human Rights Code, providing protection from discrimination to transgender and gender non-conforming people.  This year the council adopted the ALL Alexandria Resolution: Committing to Race and Social Equity.  This resolution is the first in Alexandria to acknowledge the city’s history, recognize the need for equitable outcomes, and resolve to implement practices and policies that will create racial and social equity.

These are two significant and inspiring steps recognizing each person’s humanity and constituting the groundwork for forming a city where every person can be their authentic self. That is something to celebrate!

If you are a member of the LGBTQ+ community, if you are a loved one or ally, or if you are just someone who enjoys learning, celebrating, and working toward equity, join the Alexandria LGBTQ Task Force, the Alexandria Library, and community partners for Alexandria Pride, June 3-5, 2021. Participate in live, online workshops on a range of topics to include LGBTQ+ Mental Health during the COVID-19 Pandemic, Transgender Stories, LGBTQ+ Media, and much more. The workshops will highlight racial and social equity partnerships as well as transgender community members. For more information or to register, please visit:alexandriava.gov/LGBTQ.