Virginia is all about love, and we work every day to become a more inclusive place where all people feel welcome, seek to better understand each other, and embrace diversity. When it comes to Pride and Pride Month, you can find an outpouring of love and support for the ever-growing LGBTQ+ community through festivals and city-wide celebrations that extend throughout the state. These celebrations not only show love and support but highlight the amazing contributions our LGBTQ+ community makes to Virginia throughout the year.
Photo Credit: Joey Wharton, @joey_wharton
The fight for equal rights and overall acceptance is an ongoing effort, but we are starting to see a real shift here in Virginia. Places like Richmond, Northern Virginia, and Norfolk have been loud and proud in the pride arena for decades, holding parties and festivals uplifting the community since the late 70’s. But over the past few years, pride has also sprung up throughout smaller towns and more unexpected places, in communities like Suffolk and Bristol.
Photo Credit: Tray Hasty
Suffolk held its inaugural pride celebration in June 2021 at Bennett’s Creek Park, kicking off with an energetic Zumba class followed by a march for HIV/AIDS awareness, plus an all-day celebration with live music, art and food vendors, performers and more. The event went off without a hitch, drawing crowds of all ages and raising money and awareness for a new LGBTQ+ center in Suffolk. Organizers hope the celebration will be the start of growing acceptance in the area and also lead to more local safe spaces for the LGBTQ+ community within Suffolk. To top it off, the City of Suffolk and Mayor Michael Duman officially recognized June as "LGBTQ Pride Month'' shortly ahead of the festival, further legitimizing the event and the city's efforts to become a safe and welcoming space for all.
On the opposite side of the state, Bristol had their first-ever pride event, TriPride, planned for 2020. Unfortunately due to Covid-19, the event was cancelled, moved to October 2021 and cancelled again due to the pandemic's resurgence. Luckily, Bristol is committed to their effort. This funky small town is rescheduling the event yet again for summer 2022 with the hope of finally bringing the joy of Pride to Bristol and southwest Virginia. Because Bristol is located on state lines, its location in Tennessee and Virginia makes this event the first Pride parade to ever occur in two states at once, as well as the first ever Pride event in the birthplace of country music. Pretty cool, right? Not to mention Bristol's Pride festivities are expected to bring in over 10,000 people!
The work is never done but these kinds of positive changes are taking us in the right direction, and we can't wait to see where we go from here. To learn more about Pride events happening all around the state and support the LGBTQ+ community, visit Virginia.org/LGBT.