CARBONDALE — Carbondale hosted the first Pride celebration in the far southern area of Illinois this past weekend, becoming the latest in the state to celebrate LGBTQ rights. Other Pride parades and festivals take place in Chicago, Springfield, Metro East, Joliet and Peoria.
The Southern Illinoisan reported that hundreds turned out for a walk and festival at the Carbondale Pavilion. A local church, Church of the Good Shepherd, hosts an annual Pride Picnic, but this is the first time that a month of activities has been planned for the area.
Before the march, Carbondale City Council member Jessica Bradshaw told the crowd that the city’s inclusivity was one of its strengths.
“I hope you’ll all join me in making this the most radically inclusive community in the region, if not the Midwest. … Why not make Carbondale a little enclave of radical diversity?” Bradshaw said.
Sparkles La Fae, a Carbondale resident who identifies as pansexual, attended the event with her gay stepson.
“He’s coming out in a totally different world,” she said. “He didn’t have to come out to us. We just knew, and it was like, ‘OK, cool.’”
La Fae said she often feels like she can’t be who she is when she’s at work, or when she’s with some family members.
“But at Pride I can be,” she said. “ … (It’s about) being who you are, loving who you want.”
Anna Madura, of Anna, said it was her first time attending a Pride event. She said she chose to come as a show of solidarity with the LGBT community — her brother and her best friend are gay.
“I don’t want people to hurt because of who they are. They need to know that they’re accepted no matter what,” Madura said.
Events throughout the weekend included art exhibits, a Pride Walk, parties, Drag Queen Bingo and church services.
Photos courtesy of Amanda Hancock.by