While many cities celebrate LGBT Pride week in June, community members in Burlington, Vermont, are doing so this week with a series of events leading up to the popular Pride Vermont parade and festival this weekend.
“Why should people come out to Pride,” entertainer Nikki Champagne asked, repeating a question posed by necn. “Because it’s our time of year to celebrate our authenticity, and being proud of our identities, and visibility for folks who don’t have the opportunity or safety to be out.”
While the most visible events sure look like a big party, The Pride Center of Vermont insists there’s a serious side, too.
“There’s a lot of work to do,” Mike Bensel, the group’s executive director, said Thursday.
Bensel said the observance reminds community members to strive for greater LGBT equality in the workplace, in obtaining housing, and accessing medical care—especially for transgender people.
Additionally, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has tracked several years of increases in bias-motivated crimes.
“Hate is a little bit more visible on a national level,” Bensel observed.
Locally, in February, posters targeted a pair of Burlington nonprofits serving LGBT Vermonters—promoting a group investigators describe as spouting white supremacist views.
Then in June, someone was seen on grainy surveillance video torching a gay couple’s rainbow pride flag. The Burlington Police Department said at the time that the arsonist put the home at risk of serious fire damage.
Until there’s an end to those kind of reports, the Pride Center said there’s an important message to annual get-togethers like this week’s.
“We’ve got each other’s backs, we’re here to support each other, and we can’t have a future unless we march there together,” Bensel said.
The Pride parade heads up the Church Street Marketplace in downtown Burlington at 12:30 p.m. Sunday, with the activities then moving to Battery Park for the annual Pride festival.