‘Celebrating the beautiful spectrum of your souls’: Hundreds march for pride in Salt Lake City
SALT LAKE CITY – The State Capitol was transformed into a sea of rainbows on Sunday as hundreds gathered to march, celebrate and commemorate Pride Month.
The event, organized by the Utah Pride Center, began with a rally on the steps of the State Capitol before participants marched through the streets of downtown Salt Lake City.
Dozens of attendees carried a 60-meter-high flag of pride through the streets as they marched under rainbow-colored balloon arches along State Street. When the march ended in Liberty Park, the balloon arches were assembled into a massive arch with over 1,000 balloons.
“We’re celebrating the beautiful spectrum of your souls,” Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall told the crowd before the march began. She said Pride Month is a time when “we celebrate the diversity and beauty that make us who we are”.
Mendenhall also said that without its members of the LGBTQ community, Salt Lake City would not have its identity as leaders in the state and region in progressive communities, love and diversity.
After a year of separation due to the pandemic, getting together to celebrate was particularly important for many participants.
“I started asking last year when COVID appeared, so I really didn’t have anyone I could barely talk to about it,” said participant Hallie Allan, who wore a yellow and purple flag that denoted the non-binary community around Neck represented. “Last year I couldn’t be so proud, so I’m glad I can do it this year.”
“I just moved up here and I’m here with my lovely partner to show support,” added Aidan Funai, Allan’s partner.
“We love to come out and support the community. It’s been so tough lately, “said participant Jerek Clark, referring to COVID-19 and the 2020 elections.
“I feel like the political situation is still bad, but I believe a lot more that things can change,” said Clark. “I’ve been in the queer community for a decade and … it’s like home.”
Ann Clark, the mother of Jerek Clark, who accompanied him, noted that she had volunteered at the Utah Pride Center for seven years and often brought her child with her.
“Here are all of our friends,” she said.
Individuals will hold signs in Liberty Park in Salt Lake City during the Rainbow March along State Street and 900 South on Sunday, June 6, 2021. (Photo: Annie Barker, Deseret News)
“What brought me here is inclusion,” said Love Richardson, a participant and indigenous tribal leader for the Nipmuc Nation. “I also came here because I wanted to be happy and I knew I would be when I got here.”
Richardson came as an ally of the Native American Indians who identify as “two-spirits,” which is an umbrella term for an ancient identity of indigenous peoples who identify as both male and female spirits.
Participants carry balloons with the word “Pride” on them during the Rainbow March and rally that began at the State Capitol before heading to Liberty Park in Salt Lake City on Sunday, June 6, 2021. The event was part of Pride Week activities in support of Utah’s LGBTQ community. (Photo: Annie Barker, Deseret News)
Richardson wore a traditional skirt with the symbol of her tribe on the front and colored stitching of two dancing figures that she said represented Richardson and her bisexual daughter.
“As an indigenous person, the two spirits always had a place in our indigenous society. They were special, they were powerful, the two spirits.” said Maurice “Mo” Smith, executive director of the Urban Indian Center of Salt Lake and speaker at the event.
Current Utah politics also became a focus as various speakers discussed recent changes in transgender politics.
Citing the announcement earlier this week that transgender sex reassignment surgery and health insurance will be rolled out to all employees in the city, Mendenhall called it “a proud moment”.
Looking at recent state legislation banning sports for transgender girls, openly gay Senator Derek Kitchen, Salt Lake City, D, said in his speech, “We belong at work, church, the grocery store, and yes, even sports . “
The first iteration of the bill was approved by the Utah legislature in early 2021 but not supported by Governor Spencer Cox, who argued that the legislation was needed to address the concerns of the LGBTQ community and the mental health of transgender students.
“On August 17, 2016, I was denied my application for a gender marker change – and a few months later, my dear friend Angie Rice, too.” Said Sean Childers-Gray, President of Ogden Pride, in his speech. “On May 6, 2021, just 30 days ago, the answer came that all of us, all of Utah – we have won!”
Childers-Gray and Angie Rice took their cases to the Utah Supreme Court, where they succeeded in their petition to allow transgender Utahians to change their birth certificates, driver’s licenses, and other state records to reflect the gender they are with identify yourself.
Many attendees wore blue, pink, and white striped flags to show their support for the transgender community while others painted the colors on their bodies.
The speakers also reflected on the past, present and future of the LGBTQ community.
Two fathers are walking their child to Liberty Park in Salt Lake City during Rainbow March along State Street and 900 South on Sunday, June 6, 2021. (Photo: Annie Barker, Deseret News)
Smith started the rally with a statement recognizing Utah as the ancestral home of eight indigenous nations.
“Now we must acknowledge that the government, academia and institutions on which we are based continue to impose exclusions, eradicating the traditional homelands of indigenous peoples and equality for the LGBTQ community,” said Smith.
Childers-Gray reflected on the 1969 Stonewall Riots – a stalemate between police and gay rights activists outside a gay bar in New York City, which is considered to be the birth of the international gay rights movement.
“While our community continues to be under attack, trans women and trans women of color have always thrown the stones of revolution,” said Childers-Gray.
Two people take a short break to snap a selfie during the Rainbow March and rally that began at the State Capitol before heading to Liberty Park in Salt Lake City on Sunday, June 6, 2021. The event was part of Pride Week activities in support of the LGBTQ community in Utah. (Photo: Annie Barker, Deseret News)
“We stand on broad, powerful shoulders from queer people who came before us and did the hard work,” added Kitchen. “Let’s not forget that’s why we’re here today.”
Activists from Northern Utah’s Black Lives Matter and the Asian-American and Pacific Islander community also discussed the importance of pride in relation to the Juneteenth – when African Americans celebrate freedom from slavery – and amid the recent surge in hate crimes against Asian Americans .
“We will not stop marching until each of us is granted justice, equality and belonging!” Kitchen said.
Mendenhall concluded: “Hate has no place in the city, it has no place in this community, it has no place in this state.”