Pride season is here, and that means it’s time to show some love to some groups within the community that might get overlooked through all the madness at Civic Center Park.
Every June since 1976, queer individuals have flocked to downtown Denver to sport rainbow colors, leather, and glitter. In the midst of this two-day celebration there’s partying, performances, and the seventh-largest parade within the United States. While inclusion is meant to be at the epicenter of the rally, after nearly five decades since the first festival in New York, festivals have become more and more profitable for big-name sponsors. This year Denver PrideFest’s benefactors include Coors Light, Xfinity, Walmart, and Wells Fargo—among many others.
And this speaks to other Pride festivities that will take place across the nation throughout the upcoming months, such as New York City’s Pride, which hosts more than two million people, and has corporations like Target, Nordstrom, and Macy’s funding various events. With huge companies such as these, there comes inevitable competition for smaller, less-known organizations to cater to their community during Pride.
Denver’s festival has included some advantages for non-profit organizations to compete with national sponsors. For the Coors Light Parade, the corporate entry costs are nearly double compared to the non-profit organizations, with for-profit organizations landing in between these prices.
Despite this, local groups within the community still have faced difficulties participating in this year’s events. This includes Colorado Ace Space, a Denver group for anyone who identifies along the asexuality spectrum (asexual, grey-asexual, demisexual, etc.) and friends and allies.
“The parade, as well as any materials, require a sizeable fee, so we won’t be participating in either of those,” Ace told OUT FRONT. “We would love to be able to do a booth, but it’s too expensive, unfortunately.”
Additionally, on top of the entry payment, the parade charges another distribution fee. And as these different payments continue to accumulate, local groups are burdened with having to raise money to create supplies and then pay extra for involvement. The festival’s site redirects protest or demonstration activities to the free-speech zone near Broadway Street and 14th Avenue, but for groups unable to afford spaces within the festival, this means leaving the grounds in order to highlight their visibility.
Another Denver-based organization, PAVES, was founded after becoming frustrated with PrideFest in 2015. Through outreach and awareness campaigns, the group ensures individuals that they are not forgotten by adding visibility and support for polysexual (bisexual, pansexual, etc.) people.
The president, Codi Coday, said, “There was absolutely no representation of bisexual colors, no floats representing bisexuality, and nothing being sold for bisexual awareness… I asked a vendor if they had bisexual shirts because all I saw were lesbian, gay, and trans pride shirts. The vendor actually got angry and cursed at me for asking.”
In a lot of ways, Pride has become mainstream—and unfortunately this has worked to erase some groups within the process. The movement behind Pride began as an incitement to action on behalf of the LGBTQ community: for equal rights and for an end to the violence after the Stonewall Riots. But today, the PrideFest that so many queer Coloradans have held dear to their hearts has become less of a political statement and more of a space for overpriced queer memorabilia.
“There was more representation for straight allies then there was bisexuality. Even communities who are not fighting for rights or exclusive to the LGBT community were represented, like the leather or BDSM community. The only acknowledgment of bisexual existence in Denver Pride was the “B” in LGBT,” Coday said.
What does it say that a festival that was meant to be about getting people’s voices heard now excludes some communities from participation through financial barriers? And how can we show love for all queers at PrideFest if there’s little to no representation for local groups that are vital to the Colorado LGBTQ framework?
Luckily, admission to the festival is still free—but as the events continue to gather corporate sponsors it may become difficult for people within the LGBTQ community and their allies to be an active part of.
This year, among the craziness of the celebration, make sure to give attention and support to the groups that may seem at the fringe of the festival, or find a way to support your community by hand-making t-shirts and signs, or just interacting with everyone at the event. Corporate sponsors may not scream inclusivity, but we can.