OKC Pride gets proud and loud with 35th celebration

Revelers march in OKC Pride’s parade on June 5. (The Vista/Kendall Walton)

OKC Pride, Inc. held its 35th annual Oklahoma City LGBTQ+ Pride festival and parade June 3-5 in northwest Oklahoma City,  celebrating the diversity and culture of the Oklahoma City LGBTQ+ community. 

Cornhole tournaments and live local music kicked off the festival Friday, June 3 and ended with the anticipated Sunday Pride Parade featuring over 50+ local organizations, food vendors and businesses like the Oklahoma Democratic Party, Boeing, and Dell Technologies. 

Over 20,000 people were expected to attend, according to  OKC Pride, Inc. 

Local transgender activist and community member Jayde Chase said they believe pride festivals are significant during civil unrest. 

“It is essential to show the Oklahoma government that, despite the recent anti-LGBT+ and anti-abortion bills, we still celebrate our individuality and personal freedoms,” Chase said. “We must show them that we aren’t going away and aren’t scared of them.”

June is established as LGBTQ+ Pride month nationwide, because it celebrates the anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall Riots in New York City. The Stonewall Riots occurred when identifying as queer was illegal and police brutality against the community was at one of its highest moments, causing queer nightlife to circulate underground as a subculture. 

After a confrontation between the New York Police Department and Stonewall bar patrons, people took to the streets of Greenwich Village and protested for three days straight, fighting for equality. After Stonewall, riots and activists gathered nationwide to fight for gay liberation, only to have equal marriage rights pass 46 years later in 2015. 

According to the self-proclaimed “OKC Gay Mayor” Floyd Martin, Oklahoma City started its first pride during the mid-80s. 

“A few people got together and decided to celebrate being LGBT+ by dancing all night in the alleyway on 39th street behind the Wreck Room with only a disco ball and a boombox,” Martin said. 

The festival has continued to grow as more people identify each day as LGBTQ+. A recent Gallup poll shows that 7.1% of the US population now identifies as one part or another of the LGBTQ+ community. Gallup predicts that with younger generations coming out more and more, that number will soon rise to 10%. 

After years of self-reflection and discovery, Julia Curliss came to terms with her new identity and attended her first Pride celebration this year in hopes of finding a community. 

“It’s so different than what I was expecting it to be,” Curliss said. “I have never felt more seen as an individual or felt more pride by seeing every one of all ages celebrate their authenticity.” 

As of 2021, Oklahoma City has shifted into two June pride festivals, one downtown and the other in the 39th Street District. Many local Oklahoma towns and cities like Edmond, Norman and Enid have recently started celebrating their pride festivals in the summer and early fall months. 

Edmond’s “Rightfully Proud” LGBT+ celebration will be “resting” this year, according to a statement, with the hope of making the 2023 festival bigger than the first in 2021.

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