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Pride Started With a Protest- New York to Appleton

On June 28th, 1969, there was a riot at the Stonewall Inn- a protest of police brutality that was aimed at LGBTQIA+ individuals in New York City. These laws were called “masquerade” laws which meant a “man” or “woman” was forced to wear clothing items that matched the gender on their ID’s. The police would use these laws to raid small pocketed establishments that were created as “safe havens” for LGBTQIA+ individuals. Many of these establishments were nightclubs that made it possible for LGBTQIA+ individuals to be together in community and not feel abnormal, not feel excluded, and was a place of comradery. There was a long history of police brutality when raiding these establishments and shortly after midnight, the community fought back to protect the only place they felt they belonged. They had watched friends be dragged out to the street and beaten for not conforming to the laws.

This was the origin of Pride. Many people think Pride means being prideful of ones self as a negative connotation- one of the seven deadly sins. The first pride was a protest of having to hide in nightclubs at night to exist authentically. The LGBTQIA+ community marched in protest, together, bravely to claim their existence in the world regardless of the laws and how others viewed them. In April of 2021, a local business owner in Appleton, Wi who owned an electric sign had a homophobic slur written on it and the LGBTQIA+ community came together, once again, to claim our existence in the world. I, along with a few others, rallied the community and allies together to peacefully protest the sign. We lined two sides of Richmond Street and peacefully came together to tell our community that we exist, we belong in our community, and we are not going anywhere.

Shortly after the protest, as we were watching the comments flood the media coverage- both in support of the community, but also hatefully against- we realized that we didn’t have a Pride event. In the summer of 2022, we quickly put together a small pride event in Appleton. What we saw was incredible. It was a torrential downpour, it was muggy, but we had about 100 people in the community still show up to celebrate one other, be in community together, and share our stories. What started as 100 people hunkered under the Jones Park stage in the rain, has grown in it’s 3rd year to full entertainment, a full park with 40+ vendors, food trucks, great music, drag story time, and sponsorships. Next year, we will be growing into “Fox Valley Pride.” We started out last year with 2 ELCA booths- one from First English Lutheran Church, and the other with a handful of ELCA pastors from around the Synod. This year we’ve grown with 3 more denominations with affirming booths, and several more ELCA churches. As Christians, we are called to love one another and Psalm 139 reminds us that God created us all as we are, just as we are, with no need to conform or change to what society wants. God loves all and knew us before our parents knew us, our friends, and the rest of the world. We are called to Social Justice in the ELCA social statements and for me, as a founder of Pride here in the Valley, that was my call to action because of my faith, not in spite of it. We are called to action in our community to serve others and love others. I invite you to join us for Appleton Pride 2023 at Jones Park in Appleton, from 1 pm-8 pm on June 24th. All are welcome to Pride as all are welcome to God’s table at Christ the King. Come and support our community, and enjoy some great entertainment, food, and the opportunity to show love to those who need it the most.

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