How Pride Provides Refuge in Trump’s America

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Posted Thu, Jun 21, 2018

DENVER—June 16, 2018, Courtesy Photo of Casey Hoover and Keith Rabin.

DENVER—Casey Hoover and his boyfriend, Keith Rabin, park and get out of their car on Saturday, June 16. It has been a few years since they went to Pride, and it’s their first time going as a couple. Excited, they walk down the street toward the festivities with their dog, Godric, when they pass a man who sneers and mutters, “Save America, kill a queer” under his breath.

“I’ve hardly ever experienced any of that firsthand,” Casey says, “and it was on Pride, too.”

Pride has been celebrated in Denver since 1976. It was originally founded in New York City in 1970 as a political march after the Stonewall Riots, which were six days of rioting in response to a police raid of a gay club (the Stonewall Inn).

According to the Human Rights Campaign, “Pride was [originally] solely a political demonstration to voice LGBT demands for equal rights and protections. It was not until 1991 that Pride began to resemble what it is today: a celebration of queer life and sexuality in addition to a political and social demonstration.”

In light of the gay couple who were refused a wedding cake here in Denver by a baker protesting his religious freedoms, it seems especially important this year to celebrate this community.

“Sometimes I have to read left-leaning comments just to feel supported. Like, we have had some victories but it’s not enough,” Keith says. “It’s hard because you see so much negativity. In the back of my mind, the end-game for the conservatives is repealing [the laws supporting] same-sex marriage. I feel like we’re backing up. We felt like [society] was progressing.” He shifts on the couch and leans forward, passionate about defending the rights he fought for.

Casey was younger when same-sex marriage became legal in Colorado, and has never lived in a world in which he had to fight just to feel heard. He nods to Keith’s comment, adding, “You see it all over, you hear people muttering at you and they’re getting a little bit braver now. Regardless of whether or not they’re the majority, there’s a startlingly large amount of people who are happy about all of the [bad] things that are happening. And that’s an awful thing to realize about our country.”

It seems that those who hold office in our country have a decidedly anti-gay stance, with Vice President Mike Pence having been a board member of the Indiana Family Institute (an anti-abortion, anti-gay organization that pronounced the protest movement that formed after the 1998 murder of gay teen Matthew Shepard to be homosexual-activist “propaganda.”) according to Rolling Stone Magazine. Furthermore, Trump has declined to acknowledge Pride Month- providing a stark contrast to the photographs released of former President Barack Obama and VP Joe Biden running through the halls of the White House with rainbow flags just last year.

DENVER— Photo by Stevie Crecelius of Wonderworks

Keith and Casey have also frequently discussed marriage and children. It’s been a dream of theirs since the Obama administration. “We definitely want to have kids,” Keith says. “But it’s crossed my mind, I don’t want to have a kid with two gay dads in this America. I don’t want to have a kid in America with all of these shootings.”

Casey and Keith sigh and hold each other’s’ gaze when explaining how they would explain the hatred and discrimination they’ve faced to their future children. It’s clear this is something they’ve discussed before. “Oh God. That’s what I’m most terrified for,” Keith says. He adds that he hopes his children will grow up to be like Casey, able to stay quiet, to stay safe when they need to.

“I actually think the opposite,” Casey says. “I think [Keith] is a lot more brave than I am. I’m this way because I’m scared. I don’t want my kids to be scared. I want them to be brave like him.”

Celebrating In the Face of Discrimination

The weekend wasn’t entirely about worrying about the future. As with previous Pride Fests (Denver’s being the fifth largest in the country), the weekend was about fun, food, and celebrating the freedom to express who you are and who you love.

In past years, Keith went to Pride as part of his theatre company. “It was a lot,” he laughs. “It was like, wake up, where’s the table, where’s the banner, we’re going to be late!” When asked if this year was a little less stressful, he laughs again. “Not really! This year was all about the parade.”

Casey performed as part of the Mile High Freedom Marching Band, a throwback to his days on Color Guard at Chatfield Senior High. “It was easy to get back into, like riding a bike!”

Their favorite part of the weekend? Writing their names on a sculpture alongside messages like “Love Trumps Hate”.

DENVER—Photo by Stevie Crecelius of Wonderworks

“We met this straight couple who was so kind and supportive. They felt like such allies, it was awesome. So now we have florists for whenever we get married!” says Keith, his face lighting up.

So what advice do Casey and Keith have for young kids coming out in an environment rife with controversy? “Just keep fighting,” Keith says after a pause, weariness mixed with determination etched on his face. “Don’t be complacent. Keep fighting to make it better. You will always have allies. The right thing to do is to be accepting of everybody.”

Casey nods and hesitates. “That’s a tough question. It’s tough knowing what to tell these kids…I mean obviously we all want to keep them safe. Wherever you fall on any spectrum, you have to learn to love and accept those parts that don’t hurt anybody and are just you expressing who you are. There is so much hate in the world for no reason so why would we add to this incredibly scary situation?”

They gaze at each other over their five dogs and it’s hard to imagine someone having a problem with them or their love. And if Pride is how we show them that they’re a loved and important part of the community, then I say….bust out the rainbows.

 

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3 Responses to “How Pride Provides Refuge in Trump’s America”

  1. Kyle Ziegler Says:

    I really enjoyed the flow of your story. It was very engaging and easy to follow along with. It seemed as if your questions were on point and the responses you were receiving helped give a lot of context to your story. Well done!

    Reply

  2. David Says:

    Interesting insight on the LGTB community in Colorado, especially for someone who knows nothing about struggles that people go through.

    Reply

  3. Lisa McIntyre Says:

    You seemed to capture the moment in its truest sense to include both high and low moments of the Denver Pride experience. I like that you added the history of Pride events in America.

    Reply

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