Now More Than Ever, How to Be Proud in East Texas

On June 28, 1969, the New York City Police Department conducted a raid on the Stonewall Inn located in Greenwich Village. Although raids on gay bars were common during that time, the raid on the Stonewall quickly became violent. Over the next several nights, spontaneous riots broke out protesting the treatment of members of the gay community by the police department. Ultimately, the Stonewall Riots brought the gay (LGBTQ) community in New York together, and on the one year anniversary of the raid, the first ever Gay Pride marches took place in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Chicago. Now, 47 years later, LGBTQ Pride is celebrated in June all over the world. Pride celebrations here in East Texas are still quite new and there are very few of them. However, both Tyler and Longview have Pride events during the month of June and they are growing each year.

This year marked the third annual Longview Pride Festival sponsored by the local chapter of PFLAG. Held on June 11, the festival attracted local business sponsors and a wide variety of vendors, entertainment, and food. The event was held in Heritage Plaza in Downtown Longview and was attended by hundreds from all over the State of Texas. The City of Longview also proclaimed June 11 as LGBT Pride Day and members of the organization were presented with the proclamation signed by Mayor Andy Mack.

On Saturday, June 26, Tyler Area Gays (TAG) will host its annual Pride Picnic at Southside Park in Tyler. The Tyler Pride Picnic will be an opportunity for members of the LGBTQ community and their allies to come together and celebrate the incredible diversity and talent present in East Texas. Like the Longview celebration, there will be entertainment, games, food, vendors, and more. The picnic begins at 11am and lasts until 4pm. More information about the event can be found on the TAG Facebook page or web site.

Fortunately for East Texans who wish to celebrate Pride, there are many events happening all over the state all summer long which are within easy travelling distances from just about anywhere. Here is a list of upcoming Pride celebrations in Texas arranged according to the dates on which they occur:

Houston Pride Week - June 19 - June 26. Events include Pride Superstar, Rock the Runway, Eden celebrating women of the LGBTQ community, and the Pride Festival and Parade. Dates and locations for Houston Pride events can be found on the Houston Pride web site.

San Antonio Pride "Bigger Than Texas" - Saturday July 2. The Pride Festival begins at 11am and lasts until 7pm with a parade following at 9pm. The San Antonio Pride Festival is located in Crockett Park in San Antonio. More information can be found on the San Antonio Pride web site.

Austin Pride Week - August 20 - August 27. Pride week activities begin on August 20 with the WERK Fashion Show and continue through the festival and parade on August 27. Information about other Pride Week events can be found on the Austin Pride website.

Dallas Pride - Sunday, September 18. Dallas Pride events include Voice of Pride (preliminary rounds happening all summer), Festival in the Park from 11am to 7pm, and the Alan Ross Freedom Parade at 2pm. More information about specific event locations and times can be found on the Dallas Pride website.

Tarrant County Pride Weeks - September 28 - October 2. Events include the Pride Kickoff with Mayor Betsy Price on September 28, Pride parade on October 1, and Pride Picnic at Trinity Park on October 2. More information about event locations and times can be found on the Tarrant County Pride website.

With the recent tragedy which took place at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, FL, it is more important now than ever for members of the local LGBTQ community to show our pride. The time to be silent has passed, and the time to speak up and speak out is here. While the vast majority of cities and towns in East Texas still do not recognize LGBTQ Pride, we must, nevertheless, strive to show our families, friends, and neighbors that we are valuable, contributing members of our communities who deserve to be recognized and celebrated for those contributions without feeling the need to hide who we are out of fear.

As you travel to celebrate Pride this summer, bring the spirit of those celebrations back home with you. Be honest and open, but most importantly, be PROUD. East Texas is a beautiful place with wonderful people. Let's work together to make that true for all East Texans.

Jason Walker is a freelance writer, blogger, local historian, and English teacher. He is a lifelong resident of East Texas.