Twin Cities celebrate 35 years of gay pride

Jake Grovum

Taking part in the third-largest Pride celebration in the United States, an estimated 315,000 people poured into Loring Park last weekend for the 35th Annual Gay-Lesbian-Bisexual-Transgender Pride Festival.

The event, hosted by GLBT Pride/Twin Cities, takes place during the last weekend in June each year to commemorate the Stonewall Riots of 1969 in New York City. The riots are seen as the first time the GLBT community acted together to resist unfair treatment.

The riots are also credited for starting the modern-day GLBT movement.

Chris Taykalo, public relations director for GLBT Pride/Twin Cities, said although the atmosphere in the park was festive, it’s also important to mark the advances made by the GLBT community.

“It’s a celebration of community, but it’s important to put it on to remember how far we’ve come in terms of the gay rights movement,” he said.

Taykalo said the fact the festival has progressed from its meager beginnings is a reflection of the work put in by volunteers and Minnesota’s generally accepting nature.

“When the festival started 35 years ago it was a handful of people, and now we’ve grown into one of the largest festivals in the country,” he said. “I think that says something about Minnesota and Minnesota’s commitment to human rights.”

Cheryl Maloney, executive director for GLBT Pride/Twin Cities, said the festival is important for those who are having trouble with themselves.

“Behind the scenes there are individuals who are struggling with their identity and struggling with how to handle the process of coming out,” she said.

Owen Marciano, assistant director at the University’s Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Ally Programs Office said the event is a great place for the University to reach out to alumni as well as to perspective students.

Following the event, Marciano was somewhat critical of the corporate influence at the festival.

“I get frustrated by the overwhelming presence of corporate America at the Pride festival, when Pride is basically an anniversary of the Stonewall Riots,” he said.

While issues like poverty and racism might not be seen as primary concerns of the GLBT movement, Marciano said they should be.

“In large part the GLBT rights movement as a whole has largely ignored the needs of people of color, poor people and transgender people – the very people who made today’s festival possible (not Target),” Marciano said in a statement.

Despite Marciano’s sentiment, some, like Taykalo, said the presence of corporate sponsors is another way to show the advances the GLBT community has made.

“Isn’t it a good thing that large corporations are embracing our community rather than shunning our community, which a lot of them did 35 years ago?” he said.

Many different student groups were also present at the event. Delta Lambda Phi, a social fraternity for gay, bisexual and progressive men, had a booth to recruit new members.

Eric James, University alumnus and Delta Lambda Phi secretary, said the festival is about celebrating the community.

“In the end it’s really just us, celebrating life and celebrating who we are,” he said. “You know, in Minnesota we have festivals for everything. We’re about celebrating life and different values and different cultures.”

Justin Jagoe, French studies senior and treasurer of the Queer Student Cultural Center, said groups like Would Jesus Discriminate? offer a different look at Pride.

“It’s bringing out what’s probably perceived by the mainstream as a very minority group of people,” he said. “They are trying to reconcile faith and sexuality, or what’s at least seen as deviant sexuality.”

Becky Saltzman, child psychology senior and former co-chair of the Queer Student Cultural Center, said the openness of the event is what matters to her.

“This whole weekend you can be who you are Ö you can be as flamboyant as you want, as much as you want, as stereotypical as you want to be without getting yelled at by somebody,” she said. “It’s great to see the whole community come out, figuratively and literally, to show support.”