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State College’s First Pride Parade And Festival To Celebrate LGBTQ Community In June

Lexi Shimkonis

Penn State annually holds events celebrating the LGBTQ community for Campus Pride Month in April, but State College has never before had a major event for national Pride Month in June.

That will change this year with the Centre LGBTQA Support Network organizing the borough’s first Pride parade and festival on Saturday, June 13.

“We have a lot of activities obviously centered on LGBTQ advocacy, education and just social interactions,” Centre LGBTQA Support Network Co-Chair Tamar London said. “People have been asking us for a few years now why we don’t have a Pride event in State College. This past year we’ve gotten more and more requests.”

Last fall, on National Coming Out Day, Altoona held its first Pride parade, and that provided a final nudge toward organizing an parade and festival in State College.

“We were like, if our neighbor Altoona can do it, if they can put on a Pride parade, then we should really be having a Pride parade as well,” London said. “That was really the final impetus, I would say. They were a good influence on us and gave us the little push we needed.”

The festival is tentatively scheduled for 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Sidney Friedman Park and at Welch Plaza of the State College Municipal Building, where a number of businesses and nonprofit organizations will be on hand to show support and talk about services and resources.

A parade will take place between 11 a.m.-1 p.m., leaving from Friedman Park and traveling south on Fraser Street to east on West Fairmount Avenue to north on South Allen Street to west on West Foster Avenue and returning to the park.

State College Borough Council approved the street closures and use of the park and plaza at its meeting on Monday night.

But the parade and events in the park aren’t all that’s in the works for the day. Centre LGBTQA Support Network is working in conjunction with the Central PA Theatre and Dance Fest, which is being held the same weekend in downtown State College.

“We’re collaborating a lot with them and trying to make it an event that would feed into one another,” London said.

While planning is still ongoing, London said the organizers of the Pride events are looking at having a drag queen story hour at Schlow Library, a public training forum on LGBTQ issues, drag bingo in the afternoon and a Pride at Night party. The network’s clothing closet, which offers free gender-neutral clothing at Webster’s Bookstore Cafe, also will be open.

“We’re hoping to have something for everybody, from definitely family-friendly to kind of a party for the 21-and-up crowd in the evening,” London said.

As LGBTQ people have made greater gains, some might ask why Pride events are still needed, London said. But she noted that same-sex marriage faces legal challenges with bills proposed in some states. Anti-LGBTQ hate crimes have been on the rise nationally, according to the FBI. In 29 states, including Pennsylvania, there are no laws protecting LGBTQ people from discrimination. While State College has its own nondiscrimination ordinance and policies, and Penn State has LGBTQ protections as well, our neighbors are vulnerable.

“While somebody could be legally married to their spouse, they could, in parts of Pennsylvania, be fired if that came to light. There’s a lot of progress that needs to be made,” London said. “State College Borough and Penn Sate have made it that LGBTQ people are protected, but that’s not the case in the larger area of Centre County so it does affect people in our community, potentially.”

Last year State College received a perfect score in the nationwide Municipal Equality Index, an annual assessment produced by the Human Rights Campaign that evaluates inclusiveness for LGBTQ protections in municipal laws, policies and services.

State College has issued proclamations in the past declaring Pride Month in the borough, and in June 2018 began painting the crosswalks on the 100 block of South Allen Street a rainbow pattern for the month. London said that from her perspective, State College has been supportive of the LGBTQ community.

“I feel like with our organization, we’ve kind of brought more of a presence to light of the existence of the LGBTQ community in town,” she said. “That said, I feel like State College, the borough in particular, has always felt like a relatively safe and welcoming place… I can only say in terms of our events and things we have done that we’ve felt quite a bit of support from the community. Allies make up a huge portion of who shows up to our events.”

She also hopes that State College’s Pride events will draw people from outside the State College area to be a supportive environment for individuals from throughout Centre County and beyond. In the past, the Support Network’s youth summit has drawn students from not only from throughout Centre County, but also places like Slippery Rock and Altoona.

And just as Altoona provided some inspiration for State College, perhaps State College could motivate another community.

“We feel like everything we do, we always welcome our neighbors and hope that they attend,” London said. “We were inspired by Altoona to do this, so by no means are we feeling like we’re the beacon and everybody can follow us. We learn from one another and there’s a contagion effect. We have Gayla, which is our annual fundraiser, and last year a group from Northeastern Pennsylvania was inspired by it to have [Gayla NEPA] to raise money for a scholarship for an LGBTQ student. I feel like we all can learn from one another and influence one another in the area.

“We are absolutely hoping that everybody in the region feels welcome and wants to participate in our Pride event.”

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About the Author

Geoff Rushton (StateCollege.com)

Geoff Rushton is managing editor for StateCollege.com. Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.

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