Different pride, different experience

Talisman writer Adam Murphy reflects on the inaugural Bowling Green Pride Festival as a gay man and an active member of Louisville’s LGBT community. 

Growing up gay in Louisville, I always had a community of people in whom I could find support. I’ve always had pride in who I am.

I came out when I was in the seventh grade. Though I went to a Catholic school, I still had the support system of a large queer community around me. It was easy to take this support and the ability to see people like me for granted.

Pride means a lot to me. It shows that there’s a community who understands our history while continuing to work toward progress and equality. It provides a space for acceptance and friendship. Pride is important because it shows those of all ages that there’s a community that supports each other, always in new and challenging ways.

I have participated in various pride events over the past three years. I have run tables, contributed to promotional materials and even spoken on stage. In short, I have plenty of experience with pride in our old Kentucky home, but Bowling Green’s pride was an experience all its own.

I was not surprised to arrive upon a small crowd — especially compared to Louisville’s two annual pride festivals. Bowling Green is, after all, a much smaller town with a smaller queer community. I was surprised, however, when the protestors arrived.

The community reacted completely differently than anything I’d seen at Louisville pride. Instead of ignoring the protestors and giving them a platform, the attendees of the festival assembled to form a counter-protest. These festival-goers initially drowned out the protestors with bullhorns and sirens and eventually amplified music from a DJ station nearby. Soon enough, the protestors were surrounded by a dance party.

From college students to drag queens, all members of the community came together to push against bigotry and hate. As a veteran of these festivals, I thought I understood pride, but the Bowling Green LGBT community showed me the importance of collective action and uniting against hatred — not just ignoring it.

The community was engaged as a family acting together and supporting one another. Bowling Green showed that hate isn’t welcome here. Bowling Green showed that its LGBT community is loud, proud and unapologetically queer.

My cousin, Chris Hartman of the Fairness Campaign, asked if I thought Bowling Green was queer. That is, did I think the LGBT community was prominent enough to host a pride festival? I think that no matter how big or how small, the festival allowed the Bowling Green LGBT and ally communities to join together in a way that was necessary, proud and uniquely BG.