North Texas Daily

A Night OUT on the Square celebrates community-wide pride

A Night OUT on the Square celebrates community-wide pride

A Night OUT on the Square celebrates community-wide pride
June 23
14:00 2022

Tents draped in colorful pride flags form around the courthouse on the Denton Square. Attendees wander across the space in matching attire, painting the downtown area into a bright rainbow. Upbeat music plays as Denton joins together for its own “reverse pride parade.”

“Instead of standing on the square and watching floats pass you by, we want [vendors] to engage with the community at a higher level by asking them to be the ‘floats,’” said George Ferrie, Pridenton executive board member and local activist. “On the Square, there are over 60 different businesses, organizations and nonprofits, and we have 21 brick-and-mortar businesses that are dressed up as floats.”

Pridenton hosted A Night OUT on the Square on June 17. At the organization’s first fully in-person event since 2019, attendees mingled with vendors in festive attire. The nonprofit hosts pride events to promote queer culture in Denton.

Pridenton executive board member and co-founder Enedelia Sauceda first formed the group in 2017. She wanted a space where her local LGBTQ+ community could celebrate one another “Denton style.”

“The Denton community is very fortunate to have some incredible queer and trans elders who have been paving the way to really have a concrete sense of support for the queer and trans folks in Denton,” Sauceda said. “Denton is a unique community in that it’s very tight-knit in that way.”

A Night OUT is Pridenton’s centered event because it involves a big part of the community that is not LGBTQ+. Anjelica Fraga, Pridenton executive board member and coordinator, said it is special to see others come together to support community pride.

“It’s heartwarming, honestly, when there’s that genuine effort to be better, to do better, to create better spaces for everybody,” Fraga said.

Fraga believes that the interaction among others across the community is what makes A Night OUT unique. They said support from others, like A Night OUT vendors, affirms Denton’s queer and transgender folk.

“When we were approached by Pridenton and asked if we wanted to print merch for them, we gladly accepted,” said Brady Moore, event coordinator for Pan Ector Industries, 34. “It gives us a great opportunity to raise money for Pridenton every year. We’ve worked with them since they started.”

Every year the group centers its focus on different marginalized or historically oppressed groups within the LGBTQ+ community. This year’s centered community is “chosen families,” which emphasizes queer youth and the people who support them.

Recent tensions in Texas over LGBTQ+ issues have impacted North Texas youth. Former state house candidate Jeff Younger spoke at the university in March at a Young Conservatives of Texas event regarding “criminalizing child transitions.” A protest against a “family-friendly” drag event took place in Dallas in early June, and Texas’ Rep. Bryan Slaton proposed legislation that would ban children from drag events.

In face of such issues, Pridenton holds rallies and marches to remember the roots of pride.

“As a community who’s facing danger, death, murder, violence, we still have a lot of work to do,” Sauceda said. “To me, a big part of making sure that we don’t forget that we need change. […] The takeaway, I hope, is people understand the gravity of that and do something.”

At A Night OUT, speeches were delivered by organizers and Pridenton board members to address these issues facing the LGBTQ+ community. A short march was also set up around the sidewalk in front of the courthouse where attendees led chants showing their support for each other as a queer community.

“I came out here to connect with the LGBTQ+ community and show my support,” Pamela Kent, A Night OUT attendee, 56, said. “I really liked the rally […] I liked being a part of something that was a big group of people showing their solidarity.”

At A Night OUT, Pridenton also distributed resources and support for queer identities. As they continue their work, the group aims to establish an LGBTQ+ community center in Denton and offer resources vital to supporting the queer community.

“I want affirmation,” Fraga said. “I want our folks to step into their power [and] to really understand how beautiful it is to be queer and trans. How beautiful it is to explore your own identity and come to this truth and share it with people. […] I don’t think that’s talked about enough – how beautiful it is to know yourself and to be true to yourself.”

Sauceda said she attended UNT in the early 2000s as a “closeted, ashamed kid” and has since seen Denton grow to be a more accepting, yet imperfect, space. She said even in the face of setbacks, Denton has shown her that LGBTQ+ success is worth fighting for.

“When we grow and we see the same faces returning or new faces, it’s like, ‘Oh, like we’re winning,’” Sauceda said. “We’re doing something good, we’re doing something right. […] It gives me a kind of fuel and energy to keep going.”

Featured Image: Volunteers hold a Pridenton flag on June 17, 2022. Photo by Matt Iaia

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