Pride Month honors the 1969 Stonewall Uprising in Manhattan. The Stonewall Uprising was a tipping point for the Gay Liberation Movement in the United States. In Knoxville, those who identify with the LGBTQ+ community said they have had their challenges, but the community has made a lot of progress.
“Pride in Knoxville has been something that has taken time to gain traction and acceptance,” said Nathan Higdon with Knox Pride.
“The essential spirit of pride is acknowledging the people who came before us,” said Pumpkin Starr, The Bottom’s Program Director.
The Bottom is a nonprofit community center that celebrates the culture and history of Black people in Knoxville, including those who identify with the LGBTQ+ community.
Knox Pride has been around for over 20 years. Just in the past year, they opened a community outreach center that has been booked with LGBTQ+ friendly events for all ages. They also organize some of the largest pride events in East Tennessee every year, but members said advocating for the LGBTQ+ community takes place year around.
“Folks who identify as LGBTQ+ aren’t just that one day of the year in a parade or a festival. They’re that 365 days a year,” said Higdon.
One way Higdon said people can support is to follow anti-LGBTIQ legislation, reach out to legislators, and ask them to make Tennessee more inclusive, “Speak up and speak out when you can about injustices that are trying to be passed in Nashville.”
Although Knoxville has come a long way, Starr said there’s still a long way to go.
“I’ve lived off and on about 20 years in Knoxville and it’s very oriented to the white queer community, but Black folks are here. That’s part of what The Bottom’s about is acknowledging that the Black community is a brilliant community here in Knoxville and I think pride month in Knoxville should also do more to acknowledge that as well.”
Higdon with Knox Pride agrees.
“One of the biggest things to keep in mind with the growth of the LGBTQ+ community is so often folks will focus on how white cisgender(ed) individuals blend in and we still have a lot of work to do with acceptance for our folks of color who are LGBTQ+.”
Knox Pride has over 40 events scheduled at their community outreach center just this month. You can find their event calendar here.
They’re planning on having their Pride Festival, which includes their Pride Parade down Gay Street from September 30 through October 2.
The City of Knoxville also employs an LGBT Liaison in the mayor’s office who works with LGBTQ+ groups and individuals to address concerns and share outreach information as well as resources.
The Bottom also has several events happening for Pride Month. You can visit their website here.