Pride is a Protest
Dcs. Lindsay Fertig-Johnson

Dcs. Lindsay Fertig-Johnson

Director of Development & Public Relations

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While living in New York, my wife, Sarah, and I went to the Stonewall Inn for a drink. Like others before us, we sat at the bar, held hands publicly (something we rarely do), and enjoyed each other’s company. I reflected on how I was and am grateful for the work of the queer and trans siblings before me and discussed the work that still needs to be done.

In the early morning of June 28, 1969, police raided the Stonewall Inn because it was an establishment that welcomed queer and trans folks. The gay community responded in protest. Protest for our rights to gather with our loved ones. Protest against the homophobic legal system. Protest to be seen, heard, and belong. Pride began in this sacred place. The gay liberation movement started here, leading to the modern fight for LGBTQIA+ rights in the United States.

While sitting in the place that began it all, I remember feeling an overwhelming sense of belonging and hope.

Feeling a sense of authentic belonging is rare for me. I feel it among family and close friends. I feel it among my queer and trans siblings, who understand the pain, struggle, and rejection that I have gone through. I feel this sense of authentic belonging at the Festival Center.

At the beginning of this month, I worked to change the Festival Center’s logo to reflect the colors of the pride flag. I was a little nervous doing it as I have never worked at a place that valued and fought for LGBTQIA+ rights the way the Festival Center does. To my surprise, this change was met with overwhelming support. Bill, the Festival Center’s Executive Director, responded by ordering the staff shirts with our pride logo on them and asked us each to wear these shirts for our Grand Opening, which took place on June 17th.

I had tears in my eyes when Bill handed me my shirt. “This means the world to me,” I explained, telling him how supported I feel by him and our Festival Center community.

“It’s really not that hard to show support,” he said, and he’s right. It really shouldn’t be that hard to stand in solidarity with our queer and trans siblings.

Yet, things that can seem so insignificant to some create spaces of belongings for others. It’s like the way the Festival Center ensured that, during construction, all our bathrooms be converted to all-gendered restrooms and put a safe space sticker on our front door. For me, it’s the way I can talk about my spouse at work without worrying about who will be concerned about my ability to do my job or serve in my place of employment.

Belonging, for me, is about safety. Am I safe to be my authentic self in this place or among these people? Sometimes this has to do with my sexuality, while other times, it has to do with how comfortable I am simply bringing my unapologetic self to the table. I walk into a room and constantly ask myself, “Are these my people?” and, at the Festival Center, the answer has been an enthusiastic yes.

At the Festival Center, we strive to be a place of hospitality and belonging for all. We say, yes, bring your unapologetic self here. Yes, this place belonging wouldn’t be the same without you. Yes, we will march alongside you and fight in solidarity with you.

Pride started as a protest, and this fight for liberation is only beginning. Being grateful for the people who fought before us, like our queer siblings at Stonewall, we vow to continue to fight until all are safe and experience true belonging.

 

 

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