Pride festival organizers, speakers aim to inspire youth

By Haley Robertson | The Cape Cod Times

In December, a man came up to the Cape Cod PRIDE booth at the Hyannis Christmas Stroll and was almost in tears when he talked to president Sue Wilson. He told her he had never seen a rainbow flag on Main Street after living there for years.

“Just by seeing a rainbow flag – it’s a symbol to our community that you are welcome here,” Wilson says.

In the past year, Cape Cod PRIDE, dedicated to celebrating the Cape’s LGBTQ community, has expanded its community visibility by participating for the first time in events like Christmas strolls and St. Patrick’s Day parades, Wilson says.

Joining national Pride celebrations throughout June, this year’s Cape Cod PRIDE festival has the theme of “Honoring Our Past, Uniting for Our Future” in light of three historic milestones: the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots in New York City that ignited the LGBTQ civil rights movement; the 30th anniversary of the passage of the Massachusetts gay rights law; and the 15th anniversary of marriage equality in Massachusetts.

Festival organizers and speakers say the “future” in their theme is the young people they want to inspire and educate. State Sen. Julian Cyr, D-Truro, says he also aims to stay connected to that history to honor those who came before him.

“I really feel that I have an obligation to continue this work, to pay that forward to future generations,” Cyr says.

While there’s been significant progress toward equal rights for LGBTQ people in Massachusetts in recent years, Cyr says the work isn’t done. Many transgender, non-binary and LGBTQ people of color still face significant discrimination, he says.

Janson Wu, executive director of the Boston-based GLAD (GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders), echoes this, saying the festival is an opportunity to think ahead. Over the past year, GLAD has worked to protect transgender voting rights and advocate for LGBTQ youth in foster systems.

If you go

What: Cape Cod PRIDE Festival

When: Noon to 5 p.m. Saturday

Where: Hyannis Village Green, Main Street

Admission: Free



What: PRIDE dance party

When: 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday

Where: Cape Cod Beer, 1336 Phinneys Lane, Hyannis

Admission: Free, plus cash bar

Cyr and Wu are two of several featured speakers at the festival, including keynote speaker Rev. Irene Monroe, a religion columnist who has studied the nature of discrimination against LGBTQ people; David Bermudez, a Stonewall veteran and Yarmouth Port resident; Paula Degree, a transgender rights activist; and other LGBTQ activists.

Bermudez was the first Stonewall veteran to be legally married in a state with marriage equality. He married his husband, Bob Isadore, in Massachusetts on the 35th anniversary of the Stonewall riots.

At the time, Bermudez says, he had no idea what happened at Stonewall – demonstrations by the LGBTQ community against a police raid – would spark a movement.

“We just wanted people to keep their hands off us, leave us alone, stop beating us up, arresting us for no reason at all,” Bermudez says. “We (didn’t) do this because we thought we were going to have a great movement.”

Cape Cod is home to more than 10,000 LGBTQ people, according to a 2018 study by the Equality Fund at the Boston Foundation. Through year-round programs and events, Cape Cod PRIDE aims to support the region’s LGBTQ communities.

Around 200 people attended the Cape Cod PRIDE Festival in 2016, which took place after a mass shooting that killed 49 people and wounded 53 others at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Florida. The 2016 festival was born, according to organizers, from a collaboration between No Place For Hate in Falmouth and PFLAG of Cape Cod, which are both receiving a “Making a Difference Award” at this year’s festival.

The PRIDE festival attendance grew to 400, then 600 in the years following. This year, organizers expect up to 1,000 people.

“There’s not enough connecting us. So the goal of Cape Cod PRIDE, in time, is to connect this community,” Wilson says.

In addition to the guest speakers, the Cape Cod PRIDE Festival will feature entertainment by Funktapuss, DJ Sheri Lynne, poet Kim Baker and emcees Crimson Glittah and Sandy Dunes. Dozens of vendors will be on site and some local shops will be offering discounts on the day of the festival.