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PRIDENTON and OUTreach Denton makes safety a priority at Pride events

PRIDENTON and OUTreach Denton makes safety a priority at Pride events

PRIDENTON and OUTreach Denton makes safety a priority at Pride events
July 12
12:33 2019

Since the 1969 Stonewall riots, lively festivals and parades have become staples among the LGBTQ community when celebrating Pride Month. While Pride parades are notably exciting and fast-paced, these events are also meant to provide a safe space for attendees to unwind and celebrate unapologetically.

LGBTQ-based organizations including OUTreach Denton and PRIDENTON have played a large part in bringing Pride to Denton residents. Although Pride events in Denton are on a smaller scale compared to those in Dallas, members of PRIDENTON work toward keeping attendants comfortable and safe.

PRIDENTON founder Dr. Carmen Cruz said that as a gay Cuban woman, she recognizes how society places “less social value or power” on marginalized populations. The organization’s understanding of inclusivity is a big part of making their guests feel seen. Each year, PRIDENTON highlights different populations or aspects at their events. During its debut in 2017, PRIDENTON focused on the transgender community and for PRIDENTON 2018, they celebrated queer trans people of color.

“We’re trying to be something different in Denton,” Cruz said.

An anti-pride protestor challenges LGBTQ community supporters at A Night Out On The Square, an event hosted by PRIDENTON held on the Denton, Texas square on June 28, 2019. Photo by Bertha Smith

There have been multiple reports of violence against members of the LGBTQ community this month. Chaos broke out at the Capital Pride Parade in Washington, D.C. when event-goers heard a noise that they mistook as gunshots. Although there were no actual gunshots, the psychological impact the perceived threat had on the attendants proves that taking precautions to ensure safety at Pride events is necessary.

Possible threats against Pride celebrations can take the form of protests, disruptions or out-right violence. OUTreach Denton executive member and queer activist Anjelica Fraga said that the threats at Denton Pride events have been non-violent and consisted mainly of “banners and loud yelling.”

When planning a Pride event, the first thing that the members of PRIDENTON and OUTreach consider is the venue. Fraga said that it is important to distinguish between spaces that are LGBTQ-friendly and those that are “just trying to make money” at the expense of the community. One Denton venue that has openly welcomed the community is the Crossroads karaoke bar.

“They are not officially a gay bar, but queer folk run this place,” Fraga said. “It’s kind of a place that we as a community felt comfortable using because we know queer folk work here, queer folk run this place and that people would be affirm in their identity.”

Crossroads security Zack Bond, 30, can be found stationed by the door during events. He said he keeps a close eye on people who he feels will pose a threat.

“You kinda pull them to the side and let them know what kind of place this is,” Bond said. “If they got a problem with it, it’s best for them to just leave.”

When it comes to utilizing security guards or police officers that are appointed by the city of Denton, OUTreach and PRIDENTON members have a hard time trusting them. In recent years, LGBTQ activists are hoping to incite a ban on police officers at Pride events altogether. The presence of police has evoked fear at events that are meant to provide a safe space for the LGBTQ community.

“Our community has such a complicated relationship with law enforcement,” Fraga said. “So, if we can avoid having law enforcement at our events, we try to.”

Another way that members of PRIDENTON have put forth efforts to keep Denton Pride members safe is by incorporating various restroom options at their venues. According to their website, venues that host PRIDENTON events will offer single stall or all-use, multi-stall restrooms to ensure that guests can “use the restroom in peace.”

PRIDENTON’s efforts to keep their guests comfortable at various venues are reflected by the numerous accommodations they offer for different disabilities. Visitors can expect accommodations such as ASL interpreters to translate speeches and closed captioning at movie screenings at every event.

“We want to make sure that we are inclusive,” Cruz said. “When you say you are an inclusive association or organization, by definition you should really make attempts to include every human.”

Pride Month is a time for the LGBTQ community to freely celebrate their identities. Safety precautions made by Pride event organizers are vital when being sure to provide a space for that.

“I want people to feel a sense of affirmation of who they are and their full selves,” Cruz said. “Whatever that is, even if it sort of cuts through social norms.”

Featured Image: The PRIDENTON committee poses together after the Spiderweb Loves PRIDENTON showcase at the Denton County Brewing Company in Denton, Texas on June 26, 2019. Photo by Kara Dry

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