When I traveled to Kentucky with my boss, I wasn’t sure that the south would be the most accepting place. I am happy to say that, as far as Lexington is concerned, I was very wrong. We had the booth set up for about twelve hours that day so I was on my feet for about ten and it happened to be our busiest day ever so I was able to interact with a lot of people.
At Lexington’s Pride Festival, I was able to witness something I had never seen before in real life: Christian extremists protesting. They had the classic “HOMO SEX IS SIN” sign, some other ones about how we were all going to hell, and even an anti-Islam sign (for good measure I guess? I don’t know how they think. It was not super pertinent to the day’s events other than they fact that they had intersectional hatred.) They gathered around the entrance and for at least seven hours in the blazing heat held these signs and said horrible, hateful things at the crowd through bullhorns.
What I also witnessed that day for the first time was how much love the LGBTQ+ community has. Our table was fairly near to these protestors so we overheard them all day. I was not super bothered by it after awhile (apparently after being told you’re going to hell repeatedly eventually the edge wears off) but some people, especially young kids, were. Throughout the day, people stood in front of the protestors and made noise to drown them out. From students for the rights of trans students with pride flag capes and signs of their own, drag queens, a big gay marching band, and large groups with noisemakers, there was constantly a group who refused to let the message of hate from the protestors be heard. It was comforting to know that we (specifically here I mean queer youth and others who were bothered by it) were so loved by this community that people would sacrifice their time and energy to make us feel safe. It was powerful stuff.
I know this might not be the best way to try to get protestors to leave, but it wasn’t necessarily about that. We knew they wouldn’t leave. Instead, the community took it upon themselves to make sure that everyone who was there knew that we had each other’s backs. It was beautiful. To be around such a tangible symbol of how much love we have and how dead-set we are on combating hate was amazing. While I wish there had not been protestors, I am glad that the day progressed the way it did. At LexPride, the queer community made a powerful statement about the overwhelming love we have and how we believe that can and should be first and foremost in combating this type of hatred. Not necessarily fighting back or retaliation, but love and support for the rest of us.