Metro Weekly

The Secret of Pride: Find out this year’s Pride theme here!

As Capital Pride prepares to reveal this year's theme, we asked the city's seven LGBTQ Prides why celebrating our diverse community matters now more than ever.

Ryan Bos, Capital Pride Alliance — Photo: Julian Vankim

Pride has a secret.

Regrettably, it’s not one we’re allowed to tell you… just yet. (Update: Scroll down to see the 2019 logo now!) That’s the job of the Capital Pride Alliance, who tonight, January 31, at the organization’s annual “Pride Reveal” at City Winery DC, will unveil this year’s secret theme. Trust us, it’s one that will have you shouting your Pride from the rooftops.

“This year is a marker of an important milestone in our movement, commemorating the 50 years since the Stonewall Riots in New York City,” says Ryan Bos, Executive Director of the Capital Pride Alliance, offering a sly hint about the theme. “When you look at our history prior to Stonewall, there are forces in our community that continue to want to silence our community, as well as continue to keep people in the closet. This year is about looking at our past and hoping to give folks strength to be out and proud and to speak up. That is how progress occurs, and how we can continue to strive toward equality and respect for everybody.”

Image: Capital Pride Alliance

Washington, D.C. is lucky — our city is absolutely awash in LGBTQ Pride celebrations. In addition to Capital Pride, there’s DC Black Pride, Trans Pride, Youth Pride, Latinx Pride, Asian Pacific Islander Pride, and Silver Pride. The Capital Pride Alliance, which helps to produce Trans and API Pride, is working to establish itself as a support hub for all the Prides.

“Each Pride is different, with unique opportunities to educate, engage, empower, and celebrate who we are as an LGBTQ+ community,” says Bos. “I see all of the city’s Prides complementing each other and providing the national capital region a unique experience to reach more people. I am excited to work more closely together, so we can continue to connect more people to support services, opportunities, and to each other.

“Ultimately, our goal is for all the Prides to feel a sense of belonging within the Alliance and a willingness to seek out the opportunities in supporting each other and working together,” he continues. “We want to find the best ways to support all of the Prides.”

“I think the respective Prides actually can grow all of us together,” says Ashley Smith, President of the Capital Pride Alliance. “We can all share between the Pride events and truly have learning take place across all parts of our community and across our multiple identities.”

Diversity is key, says API’s Ryan Velandria McCarthy, who joined CPA’s board last year. “Capital Pride has made great strides in the past couple of years to foster diversity. Their leadership has taken a proactive approach to ensuring that the organization’s Board of Directors reflects the rich diversity of our community.”

“I am excited to see the collaborative efforts of the different Pride organizations,” adds Nikisha Carpenter, President of Youth Pride. “It will only strengthen and diversify our community. There are also other organizations that service the LGBTQ community — not just Pride organizations. And fostering relationships and doing events with organizations that are providing day-to-day services will increase diversity in our community.”

For this special Metro Weekly Forum, we asked members from the seven Prides to weigh in on why their events are so vital to the LGBTQ community, and to speak frankly about the challenges they face as they grow. It’s hard not to take enormous pride in the work that these people — many of them volunteers — do to ensure our community has a voice that remains out, loud, and proud.

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Tell us about your very first Pride experience, and how it influenced the way you now plan for Pride.

Ashley Smith, 43, President of the Board of Directors, Capital Pride: My first pride was in Atlanta, Georgia where I lived at the time. I did not know for sure how I identified or what this whole gay pride thing was about. I was totally shocked at what I saw and the overwhelming feeling of inclusion for the first time in my life to be free in this environment. Each year, as I have become more and more engaged with Pride events, I think of creating an environment that is welcoming for each person coming for the first time, and what their potential experience will be.

Ben de Guzman, 46, Advisor, Asian Pacific Islander (API) Pride: My first Pride was in Washington, D.C., during my summer internship. I was still a newbie to the LGBTQ community, and the idea that I would end up marching [in the parade] was inconceivable, much less organizing the Mayor’s contingent. My clear memory of that first Pride was seeing an Asian group marching and I have always been mindful of the need to make sure that Pride reflects the diversity in our communities.

Ian Brown, 38, Executive Producer of Workshops for Capital Trans Pride: 2016 was the first time I attended Pride as a transgender-identified person. I was overcome with so many emotions from seeing myself reflected in many of the parade contingents. I want to help to create that same experience for someone else. I want everyone that comes to Capital Trans Pride 2019 to leave with something meaningful, whether it be the experience of being able to self-identify in a safe space, insight into their transition, information about community resources, or, maybe best of all, a friend or ally.

Kenya Hutton, 40, Director, DC Black Pride: My very first time at DC Black Pride was with my gay mentor. He packed up all of his mentees, didn’t tell us where we were going and hit the road. I was so young and naive. It wasn’t until many years later I realized that we had come to DC Black Pride. It was my first time seeing a community of Black and Brown people enjoying each other. As I’ve gotten more involved in DC Black Pride, I’ve held on to that sense of community celebration. Times may have changed what DC Pride looks like, but at the core it is and will always be a time and space for the community to come together and celebrate one another.

Joseph Izzo, 70, Planning Committee Member, Silver Pride: My first Pride Festival was in June, 1980. I had been out as a gay man since June, 1979. The festival was held at P Street Beach near the Francis School & Recreation Pool. The parade and festival has always been my way of experiencing the diversity of our community and to connect with organizations of interest to me.

Nikisha Carpenter, 40, Board President, Youth Pride: My first Youth Pride was in 2005. I was a DC Drag King and my friend Sara Mindel, a board member at the time, recruited me to perform. When I arrived, Sara informed me they had enough performers, but I stayed to enjoy the event. I was moved and inspired by all young people gathered, the talented performances, and the heartfelt testimonials. I knew then it was something I wanted to be a part of and support.

Nancy Cañas, 38, President, Latinx Pride: My first experience was at the 2011 Capital Pride Parade. I joined a local Latinx nightclub group the day of the parade. I saw Latino GLBT History Project’s group at the parade and I knew at that moment I wanted to help organize future DC Latinx Pride events.

Ryan Bos, 44, Executive Director, Capital Pride Alliance: While experiencing my coming out, I couldn’t understand the power or purpose in Pride, specifically marching and waving a flag to tell everyone you were “gay” — until my first Pride experience in Baltimore in 1999. I had moved to the area the previous year from college in Indiana, had begun to meet a strong group of gay friends, and Pride was something you just did. I am so thankful for that experience, because I was able to witness and feel the power in gathering with people who have shared similar, though maybe not the same, experiences as me. I was not alone. It also showed me the richness of our diversity, and gave me the confidence to wear the colors of the rainbow with Pride. The experience at my first Pride reminds me to ensure we can continue to push to be the most inclusive we can be to give as many people their first, second, third or 100th Pride experience.

Ryan Velandria McCarthy, API Pride — Photo: Julian Vankim

How has your organization’s Pride evolved over the years?

Ben, API Pride: I have taken part in many capacities, as an innocent bystander, a not-so-innocent bystander, a contingent organizer, and as a representative of the Mayor. What’s been fun is seeing how more straight friends and colleagues are joining in as the years have gone by.

Kenya, DC Black Pride: DC Black Pride has grown to be a space to showcase inclusiveness and to love and celebrate each other. DC Black Pride is a space where many people come to escape the realities of their homes and to be immersed in a celebration unlike any other.

Nancy, Latinx Pride: It’s evolved tremendously. The Latino GLBT History Project (LHP) reaches over 1,000 Latinx queers and allies during the span of a week during Pride month. LHP provides the opportunity to foster community and network with people, organizations, and businesses in the DMV.

Ryan B., Capital Pride: When I got involved as Executive Director back in 2012, there was a desire to expand the thinking of what it means to have and experience Pride. In the beginning, Pride was a place that for many was the only time of year they were in a physical space with other people who were “OUT” as LGBTQ+. Today, many people are fortunate to be able to be out in the various facets of their life, all year long. We began a campaign #HAVEPRIDE365 to support, encourage, acknowledge, and recognize this change in our culture and communities. In addition, we organized more events, developed new partnerships, and debated the role we can and should play as an organization to support our LGBTQ+ community all year long, not simply in June.

Ryan Velandria McCarthy, 37, Capital Pride Board Member, API Pride: Asian Pacific Islander Pride has yet to be institutionalized here in Washington. From what I understand, API Pride events in the past have been ad hoc and relatively infrequent. This year, we’re trying to build a coalition of activists in the community to together take ownership of API Pride, with the hope of making the event a permanent fixture in the Capital Pride line up. So far, we have had excellent collaboration with a number of Washington’s API groups, including AQUA, APIQS, Khush DC, and KQTDC. We are thrilled about the partnerships!

What are some of your biggest challenges when planning your Pride?

Ashley, Capital Pride: The biggest challenge is wanting to make the experience greater for each member of our community year over year. Also to make sure we are increasingly focused on how to be inclusive of all of our community members. In addition, creating new and memorable experiences for all attendees — we review what worked and did not work from years past, and engage with many people of our community to get ideas to keep the celebration fresh and rewarding each year.

Ben, API Pride: We want to make sure that more immigrant communities can feel involved in Pride. Many of them aren’t proficient in English, so we want to push the envelope and see about translating materials into other languages.

D Magrini, 63, Silver Pride: I think our challenge for the first year was to think big enough. We learned the elder community is there and ready to come together to learn, dance and plan for the future. I enjoyed meeting our community partners and attendees. We truly had fun!

Kenya, DC Black Pride: Funding. Many large organizations either don’t know about smaller, localized Pride celebrations or simply don’t understand their significance. When it comes to funding, this means they often show financial support to only one Pride, assuming it supports all of their constituents. In reality, many of their constituents are attending Pride celebrations that better reflect their own communities and backgrounds, but are not receiving said funding.

Nikisha, Youth Pride: The YPA board has been planning Youth Pride for many years — the logistics of planning the event we can do in our sleep. The challenges come with spreading the word, marketing, social media, and website updating and reaching out to schools and other organizations. If we could find a few dedicated volunteers that have a few hours a week to assist with those tasks, I believe we would increase our impact.

Ryan B., Capital Pride: Managing the increased costs associated with maintaining safe, inclusive, and empowering events that are able to respect the unique responsibility we have here in the Nation’s Capital to honor and support our local community, while at the same point using our national platform to tell the stories of our diverse community and foster positive change.

Elle Michelle, Washington, Youth Pride — Photo: Julian Vankim

Do you ever feel like you’re in competition against your fellow D.C. Prides? Do you feel any pressure to outdo other Pride celebrations in other major cities?

D, Silver Pride: No. Each Pride event has meaning and importance. My first Dyke March meant as much as my first Silver Pride. I felt celebrated. I felt in community. I felt Pride!

Ian, Capital Trans Pride: I don’t feel any pressure to outdo Pride celebrations in other major cities. On the contrary, I like to look to other major cities for ideas to improve our event.

Joe, Silver Pride: Silver Pride is “just getting on our feet” this second year of organizing to support older LGBTQ Seniors and to enlist their participation. We’re a “work in progress,” and definitely not trying to compete with any of the other Prides.

Kenya, DC Black Pride: No. The wonderful thing about having different pride celebrations is representation. No single Pride can showcase the LGBTQ experience of the Latino, transgender men and women, API, etc., communities. We all have a right to be represented and to share our narratives. We all have a right to be celebrated. Each Pride, both local and across the nation, is unique. There’s no need to try to outdo one another. When we make this a competition instead of a celebration, we have truly lost the essence of Pride celebrations.

Ryan B., Capital Pride: Not at all. We are called an alliance for a reason, increasingly so. Each Pride provides different opportunities for people to gather, learn, and celebrate. As for other cities, there is some healthy and motivating competition, but we take advantage of the opportunities to learn from and support each other.

Steph Niaupari, 26, Vice-President, Latinx Pride: I think there is a perception that there is competition between the events. However, I don’t believe there is. I think the community is big enough for us to embrace multiple events. It would be incredibly difficult for any one event to cater to all of the needs of the community and multiple identities.

Joseph Izzo, Silver Pride — Photo: Julian Vankim

How do you respond when people ask why there is a need for segmented Pride celebrations?

Ashley, Capital Pride: The LGBTQ+ Community is not just made up of one group of people. It is comprised of so many unique people, cultures, experiences, socioeconomic makeup, races, and accessibility. All of these members should have a space to celebrate Pride within the community that speaks to them, as well as be able to celebrate Pride as one large group. There is a need to learn from those who have gone before us and share with those who want to learn more and many times that can be done in those events which may speak to the individual in their respective community. Through the partnership growing between all Prides, we can create those safe spaces in all of our celebrations and share knowledge which will allow for us to grow further as we work together.

Ian, Capital Trans Pride: Our community is so rich and diverse that I don’t believe any one event can address the unique needs of every member. The more the merrier. It’s all for the betterment of our collective community.

Kenya, DC Black Pride: Again, representation. We are all different. Though there may be some common threads, it is that uniqueness of our individuality that is important to showcase. Equally important, those unique narratives should be shared from our own communities. Having community Pride celebrations allows each of us to be celebrated in a fashion that is authentic to our culture and our community.

Nancy, Latinx Pride: We want to celebrate our differences, our uniqueness. My pride as a queer Latinx mother is not the same as a non Latinx gay man. Representation is important, and one group or demographic cannot and will not represent us all.

Ryan M., API Pride: The different Prides provide spaces where more voices can be heard. They represent an additional conduit to bring more people into Pride. Also, importantly, the Prides are an opportunity to showcase and give visibility to the the vibrant and diverse elements of our community!

Steph, Latinx Pride: Each Pride is unique, and represents a community that is often forgotten throughout the year. The population didn’t feel represented by the mainstream LGBTQ movement, so they created their own. I see it as survival. The work of solidarity begins with supporting each Pride with resources and shifting the focus from building corporations to building sustainable communities.

Nancy Cañas, Latinx Pride — Photo: Julian Vankim

Why should the LGBTQ community care about your particular Pride?

Ben, API Pride: Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have a unique role in the LGBTQ community in many ways. The modern marriage equality movement started in Hawaii a decade before Massachusetts. Many leading voices in many social justice movements are openly LGBTQ Asian Americans — including undocumented activist Jose Antonio Vargas (Filipino American), Rep. Mark Takano (Japanese American) as the first LGBTQ person of color in Congress, and even writer and trans activist Janet Mock (native Hawaiian).

D, Silver Pride: We are all aging. I find it really powerful to be with my Silver peers, we’ve seen so much and have so much to share. It’s also really wonderful to share space with our younger comrades and find ways to continue to be in community across differences in age.

Elle Michelle Washington, 28, Spokesperson, Youth Pride: I believe that any kid who has the courage to come out should be celebrated and loved. Kids always have the hardest time coming to terms with who they are and no one should make them feel as if who they are is invalid. Youth are our future and they deserve to be celebrated.

Ian, Capital Trans Pride: I think it’s safe to say that the transgender community is currently under attack. As trans-folx, we need the support and allyship of the broader queer community. I believe it’s only a matter of time before they come for another marginalized group. Stand with us today so that we can continue standing with you tomorrow.

Joe, Silver Pride: Senior Pride celebrates the ground breaking work of our Elders, living and dead, who created the modern LGBTQ Civil Rights movement from the decades before Stonewall (1969) and have supported the movement with “blood, sweat, tears” and money for decades. Without our work, we wouldn’t be celebrating the anniversary of a half-century of progress since the Stonewall uprising.

Kenya, DC Black Pride: Our Pride is a pride for the entire community. All are welcomed to experience the energy and history of DC Black Pride. Even though our Pride showcases the experiences and culture of the Black and brown LGBTQ community, all are welcome. Each pride can be used as a time for learning, understanding, and conversations to heal a greater community.

Nikisha, Youth Pride: If you can remember what it was like growing up and coming out, that feeling of being different or having someone you care about go through it, then you should care about Youth Pride. These times in D.C. are particulary hard for LBGTQ youth with political tension and gentrification; the LGBTQ high school drop-out rates due to harrassment and bullying, youth employment discrimination impacting youth development and growth, and housing prices continuing to rise as does youth homelessness. It’s important for youth to know what resources are available to them, what their rights are, and to connect with other youth that have similar and different life experiences and backgrounds. Youth Pride Day provides an opportunity for young people to do all of these in a safe and supportive environment designed with and for them.

Ryan B., Capital Pride: Because it’s not “my” pride. The Capital Pride Celebration is our community’s Pride, and through the Capital Pride Alliance and our partnerships, our community has the opportunity to shape, create, and empower our diverse community. We are in the Nation’s Capital, which gives us the unique responsibility to honor, recognize, and uplift our local community, while ensuring we use the platform and voice we have on the national stage, to ensure we as a community are heard, seen, and respected.

Kenya Hutton, DC Black Pride — Photo: Julian Vankim

Do you view Pride as more of a political event, a community gathering, or entertainment event? Why?

Ashley, Capital Pride: The Pride Experience is a piece of all of these activities. We need each part to create the Pride Experience for each member of our community. There are different parts which will speak to each member of our community and we hope that it does just this — provide a political engagement, community awareness and bonding experience, while providing a diverse, entertaining experience.

Ben, API Pride: It’s all three because the personal is political and part of changing hearts and minds means changing culture.

D, Silver Pride: I tend to still long for the more political marches. But nothing beats being in the parade and sharing all that love and pride as a community.

Ian, Capital Trans Pride: I view CTP19 as a community gathering that, in its very existence, has become a political statement. Audre Lorde thought of self-care as an “act of political warfare.” Standing in our authenticity and truth is a form of self-care, and is now up for political debate. I refuse to be erased and I demand to be recognized.

Kenya, DC Black Pride: I think Pride is all of those things at once. All of those parts move together to create something very powerful. Pride is a time and space where our community gathers in support of something to show our political power and influence changes to ensure our community’s future.

Nancy, Latinx Pride: LHP views it as all three. During Pride month there is more visibility and we capitalize on the opportunity to bring attention to our political climate. It fosters new and existing Latinx communities that party like only the Latinx folks know how to do.

Ryan M., API Pride: Pride celebrations mean different things to different people. Through our diverse programming, we aim to provide many ways for people to participate — from smaller events to the larger Parade and Festival weekend, from political discussions to parties, there is something for everyone. Our community is diverse in every way, and while it is always a political act to simply gather to be out and proud, we recognize the need for balance and to respect the wide array of interests we all have.

Ian Brown, Capital Trans Pride — Photo: Julian Vankim

What does Pride mean to you personally?

Ashley, Capital Pride: Pride is an experience, a feeling, a celebration, a learning experience, and a time to unite with members of my community. I have lived in the closet for many years of my life, and to now be able to celebrate who I am with a great group of people while learning about all the aspects of our community represents Pride to me. Being in a safe place to live out freely and proudly is just a small part of the Pride experience and what it means to me. Being part of the creation of the Pride experience is another great part of why the work we do in creating Pride Celebrations is so important, to see that first time attendee to Pride share their experience and how Pride has changed their life forever.

Ben, API Pride: Pride means living in my truth out loud and in all my communities.

D, Silver Pride: Pride to me? It means I define me. I am wonderfully, fearfully made. And so are you!

Elle, Youth Pride: Pride to me is having the chance to celebrate who you are. Living authentically and boldly in your truth without any hesitation or fear.

Kenya, DC Black Pride: Pride means community. It is a time that, as a community, we can come together as one to celebrate each other in the face of opposition. Pride means we have been resilient through all we have endured. We’re still here and not going anywhere!

Ryan B., Capital Pride: Pride to me is the acknowledgement of accepting oneself, in all the complexity, layers, and imperfections that each of us are. We then extend our sense of Pride by providing space and opportunity for others to acknowledge and accept the same in themselves.

Ryan M., API Pride: Unfortunately, we are surrounded by prejudice and homophobia — from the media, political leaders, passing strangers, even our own families. It becomes all too easy for LGBTQ+ folks to internalize this homophobia and hate. Pride is an outlet for individuals in our community to turn what was once a source of shame into something to celebrate, something to be proud of.

Youth Pride Day is Saturday, May 4. For more information on volunteering, visit www.youthpridealliance.org.

Silver Pride is Friday, May 10. For more information on volunteering, email jizzo4102@gmail.com or Dmagrini@whitman-walker.org.

Capital Trans Pride is Friday, May 17. For more information on volunteering, visit www.capitalpride.org/volunteer.

DC Black Pride is Friday, May 24-26. For more information on volunteering, visit www.dcblackpride.org.

DC Latinx Pride is Saturday, June 1 through Thursday, June 6. For more information on volunteering, visit www.bit.ly/LHPVOLUNTEER.

The Capital Pride Celebration is scheduled to start on Friday, May 31, and concludes with the parade on Saturday, June 8 and the festival on Sunday, June 9. For more information on volunteering, visit www.capitalpride.org/volunteer.

API Pride has yet to set a date, but for more information on volunteering, visit www.capitalpride.org/volunteer.

Randy Shulman is Metro Weekly's Publisher and Editor-in-Chief. He can be reached at rshulman@metroweekly.com.

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