When Giselle Ramirez, a California native, reached out to Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersexual organizations in Lubbock about organizing a gay pride festival, she was disappointed by an absence of optimism.
“People told her it was a small town and it would never be tolerated,” Bianca Molina, Ramirez’s girlfriend, said. “But, she still wanted to try, and I said, ‘All right. Let’s do it.’”
The couple knew it would be a challenge to organize and execute a gay pride event in what is, according to the Bay Area Center for Voting Research, the second most conservative city in the nation.
But, after months of preparation, the couple succeeded, and Lubbock’s first Pride Fest brought together more than 500 gay and straight individuals from around West Texas on Saturday at the Old Town Party House.
“It was a lot of drama, sleepless nights and nausea in two months, but it was well worth it,” Molina said. “There’s a quote by Harvey Milk (the first openly gay American politician elected to public office in California) that really pushed us. He said, ‘I never considered myself to be the movement. I consider myself to be a part of the movement,’ and that’s what it’s about.
“I’m grateful that people thanked us, but we were just doing our jobs as human beings. I’m happy not because we are getting recognition, but because we saw people so happy.”
Pride’s purpose was to inspire and motivate the community, especially in a time of publicized bullying toward GLBTQI individuals, she said. Therefore, the event’s activities, which began at 3 p.m. and lasted until 2 a.m., were aimed at empowering the audience.
One moment that elicited an emotional response from the audience was when Ramirez and Molina kissed on stage and instructed the crowd to kiss and hold their partners’ hands in the air to demonstrate that love is love.
“Seeing everyone holding their partners’ hands in public and watching the rainbow flags being hoisted in front of Old Town broke everyone down,” Molina said.
The event also provided a chance for participants to visit various information booths, such as Gays of Lubbock, Lesbians of Lubbock and Get Equal Texas, as well as vendors like Kindness Matters, Lady Aisha’s Emporium and Heart Sail.
Various GLBTQI individuals delivered speeches about their personal experiences and several bands played throughout the day as well. One speech in particular caught the attention of Kyle Elliott, a senior architecture major from Guatemala.
“My favorite part was a speech by this transvestite who talked about what they went through and their situation,” he said, “and how they were not feeling comfortable with their body and felt out of place. It was inspiring.”
The event was successful and showed the city may be becoming more open-minded, Elliott said, who, as a gay man, has never had any issues with harassment from the community. Elliott said he knows the significance of the event in the conservative town.
“It was significant because, unlike other events, the main event wasn’t a parade, a show or an act,” he said. “It wasn’t about just a party, but it was about really inspiring people and making them feel that it is OK to be who they are no matter their sexes, orientations or beliefs.”
Other participants, such as Jake Macon, a sophomore undeclared major, enjoyed the event’s music and party atmosphere as the evening progressed.
Macon said his friend was involved in the planning of Pride, and he was not overly surprised at the news of a gay-themed celebration in Lubbock.
“I had no idea it was the first one, and I thought it was great,” said the D’Hanis native. “I haven’t been in Lubbock very long, but it didn’t really shock me to know there was going to be a gay pride event.”
Plans for Lubbock’s next Pride are already in the works, Molina said, but not by Legalize Love — the organization she and Ramirez founded and operated under. Local groups like OutWest expressed interest in reviving the event next year, she said, and the couple hopes it continues for years to come.
“Everyone has a day of celebration,” Molina said. “There’s Black History Month and Women’s History Month and all these days where people celebrate who they are. The GLBTQI community needs that too, especially in Lubbock. People shouldn’t feel like they have to move to celebrate who they are.”