From 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, shades of red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple lit up Elm Street to celebrate Greensboro’s annual Greensboro Pride Festival.
Taking on a stationary quality, instead of the marching, chanting or parade floats one may usually associate with pride, the Greensboro Pride Festival was formatted like a street market. Booth after booth lined Elm, Washington and Market Streets, as colorful characters flooded the streets in hundreds to enjoy the sights, sounds and atmosphere of celebration and LGBT pride.
People from all over Greensboro and the Triad area walked around and occupied these booths. One of the most delightfully eclectic features of the Greensboro Pride Festival was the large array of booths found. Typical of many LGBT-oriented events, there were business sponsorships like BB&T bank and car dealerships, in tandem with the expected Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and Parents and Families of Lesbians and Gays (PFLG) booths.
At the same time, it was entirely unsurprising to see a booth selling BDSM leather merchandise next to these large organizations. One in particular that stood out to me, was a booth manned by a shirtless man in a kilt who also sold both kilts and leather jackets and accessories.
There were also booths which focused on LGBT sex education, many of which featured information about HIV and how to prevent the virus. Due to the AIDS crisis, the emphasis on encouraging young LGBT people to get tested for HIV and learn about prevention measures has always held a particularly significant place in the LGBT community. One booth featured hand-drawn pencil-art about HIV testing and prevention, while another passed out informative pamphlets about the Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis HIV prevention medication, known as PrEP.
There has always been a power in the various forms of sexual and romantic expression gay people display at pride; indeed there many facets to this expression. Among the most common and in my opinion, some of the sweetest forms of this expression are holding someone of the same gender’s hand or kissing. Then there are the classic, provocative pride-goers in raunchy clothing or lack thereof. And of course, there are also pride-goers who wear their specific gay sexual interests on their sleeves.
From many years of attending pride festivals, I believe these interests are becoming more varied and also a bit more exhibitionist. One of the more amusing examples I witnessed was a person wearing a full fur-suit, and one of the more unsettling examples was a person in a full-face leather dog muzzle.
Certainly, even by the simple act of holding hands with someone of the same gender, gay people have always been subject to a transparency into their sex lives, and I suppose this is perhaps an evolution of this act of expression, however unsettling it may seem, even to other gay people.
There were also more politically-aligned booths at Greensboro Pride Festival. While one may expect more liberal groups, there was also the LGBT libertarian group, “Outright Libertarians,” which featured the infamous “don’t tread on me” flag as their logo, adorned with a rainbow background, rather than yellow.
My favorite surprise at the Greensboro Pride Festival, however, was the pathetic show of only two homophobes coming to protest. One man who was wearing a orange t-shirt that read: “Jesus is Lord,” hoisted a large white cross in his arms, while the other, had a more overtly homophobic bright yellow sign that read: “They that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts,” and clutched pamphlets which read: “Fear God, there’s hope for forgiveness but you need Jesus.”
Of course, the protesters were vastly outnumbered by the protection group which stood over them, called the Queers of Anarchy. In speaking with a member of the Queers of Anarchy, I was told the group took on the name after a particularly nasty encounter with protesters several years ago. Protesters shouted at the group, “What are you, some queers of anarchy?” And ever since, the name stuck.
In addition to the wide array of people and pride paraphernalia at Greensboro Pride Festival, there was also a variety of food trucks and various different drag and music performances.
It was, as Greensboro Pride Festivals prior, an experience you have to see to believe. For more information about Greensboro Pride Festival, visit Greensboropride.org.