Proud to be at Long Beach for Pride weekend

It is not a typical Sunday afternoon in Long Beach when you find shirtless, shaven, oiled up men in their underpants wheeling wagons full of condoms down Ocean Avenue. But one weekend a year, the Long Beach Lesbian and Gay Pride Festival gives onlookers that and so much more. ?

The gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex and ally (LGBTQQIA) community came together at the Long Beach Grand Prix Racing Grounds in downtown Long Beach on May 15 and 16. It was two days of blasting music, non-stop drinking, dirty dancing and informative tabling by a wide variety of organizations. Free merchandise, celebrity sightings and art exhibits offered diverse diversions to the partying and good times.

Of the organizations in attendance were the usual suspects, such as the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center, AIDS Research Alliance, and Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG). Accompanying these expected, but appreciated, groups were other organizations usually on the outskirts of typical gay activist groups. ?

Found nestled between the tents of groups like the Human Rights Campaign and Condom Revolution were LGBTQQIA-inclusive religious organizations such as Temple Israel, law enforcement agencies such as the FBI, and even a group of out-and-proud Republicans. ?

Although Pride organizers have invited groups from all walks of gay life to be a part of the event for 27 years, they only recently developed a specific area of the festival for the transgender and queer community. One group that was instrumental in putting together a portion of the "Trans Awareness" section of Pride was AMP. ?

AMP is an organization that hosts concerts, art shows, and community events in safe spaces for the do-it-yourself queer community to showcase their talents. ?

AMP Executive Director Annie Parkhurst and AMP Program Director Sylvia Rodemeyer think that their attendance at Pride was necessary to provide an outlet for those whose interests are often overlooked at lesbian and gay events. ?

"It's all main stream gay stuff out there," said Parkhurst. "Amp is about the subculture, the artists, the bands that want to get out there and do stuff away from the typical feather boa, West Hollywood kind of stuff. That doesn't speak to everybody. That doesn't speak to me."?

The Log Cabin Republicans are a group of gay and lesbian equal rights advocates that not only play for the other team but also are on the opposite side of the fence politically than many in the LGBTQQIA population. ?

Representing this small group were gay rights activists and married couple Kevin Norte, a California Supreme Court Research Attorney, and Don Norte, a West Hollywood Department of Transportation and Public Works employee.

They find that regardless of how inclusive the general LGBTQQI community demands outsiders to be of their practices, many forget that within the rainbow there is a wide spectrum of beliefs that may not always be liberal. ?

"We all talk about the rainbow flag, but the people who are at the end of the rainbow flag have the same right as the people in the center of the rainbow flag," said Kevin Norte.?

Regardless of what faction members of the LGBTQQI community people may identify with, the festival opened its gates to a wide range of people interested in simply celebrating gay rights, lifestyles and the acceptance of diversity within the gay community. ?

Pride's attendees and volunteers broke many stereotypes and misconceptions about who makes up the gay community. ?

"I think there's a real change that's happening in the gay community," said Parkhurst. "The older, whiter, richer people are phasing out and I think there's a new brand of gay that's coming out, and that's queer. It's inclusive. And it's about street people, and gay people, and bi people, and colors and genders of all sorts."?