KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — June is Pride Month which is a time dedicated to celebrating the LGBTQ+ community.
It began after the Stonewall Riots which was a series of gay liberation protests in 1969.
There are several events scheduled throughout the month in Knoxville.
“We still have lots going on in June even though Pride Fest goes on the first weekend in October,” John Camp said who’s the Executive Director of Knox Pride and CEO of The East Tennessee Equality Council. “We have tomorrow night, Friday, June 2, we have the Zoo event. It’s our third annual Pride Night at the Zoo.”
“Saturday we are working with One Knoxville Sporting Club at Regal Stadium for a Pride Soccer match and then this Sunday we have our makers market the first Sunday of each month,” he added.
Camp said Pride Month celebrations have shifted over the past year due to legislation challenging LGBTQ+ rights.
“Pride month is important for visibility,” He stated. “Pride month is more important this year for solidarity and fighting for trans people in our community, nonbinary people, and drag artists. That’s been a very political season for the past few months.”
“I think that we are very proud people. We’re very strong and united. I think that this year especially we’ve really come together to work on fighting that fight that’s still there,” he said about the history of the LGBTQ+ community specifically in Knoxville. “A lot of people, once we had marriage equality felt like things are fine and we’re realizing this year that we’re under attack, our trans community is under attack, and what we’ve seen this year is unity and our community coming together to let people know that we aren’t trying to be different or better. We want the same equal rights as everybody else.”
Tennessee Governor Bill Lee recently signed two bills that have targeted LGBTQ+ community. SB0001 prohibits gender-affirming care for minors who are transgender, and SB0003 prohibits “adult cabaret entertainment” from being performed in public, which some have called the “anti-drag” bill.
“We’re more cautious. We’re more aware of our surroundings,” Camp said when asked how the legislation has affected them. “As Knox Pride, as a leader in our community we can’t stop doing what we’re doing. That’s just not an option. So we’re more aware, we’re safer, we’re more cautious, but we have to be here. We have to be available for folks.”
It’s a battle Knox Pride continues to fight on a daily basis and Pride Month helps them spread the word to a wider audience.
“I really do hope that people who are not queer and even people who have these negative opinions about us maybe come and experience Pride,” Assistant Director of Knox Pride Story VanNess said. “Come with an open heart, not to disrupt, not to cause problems, but come to Pride, come to a Pride event, come to observe, come to just be.”
Celebrating Pride is 365 days a year for Knox Pride.
“We have over 30 events a month that include life skill classes, community events, support groups, teen groups, and social work,” Camp said.
On top of their community involvement, they’re continuing to fight for change.
“We’re just trying to exist and just trying to be us, and I think if you do come to those spaces if you do see those moments you’ll just find a group of people who are warm and caring and love each other and want to love and be loved,” Story said.
You can find Knox Pride’s full list of events here.