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Friday, June 2, 2023


Tough act to follow: Pride Houston moves downtown

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2014 Pride Houston celebration.  |  Cara Smith/The Cougar

Annually at the end of June, Montrose becomes the site for Houston’s LGBT Pride Festival and Parade. The streets become overrun with musicians and celebrations consisting of many different people, some of whom dress in drag attire and others who wear the bright colors of a rainbow, but all of whom are fearlessly proud to be themselves.

For the last 36 years, this electric event was held along the Westheimer strip. On Oct. 1, Pride Houston’s board of directors announced that the Houston LGBT Pride Celebration will relocate to downtown Houston for the June 2015 festival and parade.

According to, the reason for this move was to “create new and exciting activities for attendees while providing opportunities to leverage other events to commemorate the history of Montrose.” reported that Pride Houston President and CEO Frankie Quijano said the move from Montrose is about evolution, and it will “help break additional barriers of inclusion and integration.”

Hotel and restaurant management and anthropology junior Ryan Foley stressed the work and planning that goes into creating and removing the Pride Celebration, and said the uncertainty concerning parking and shutting down the downtown area makes him uncomfortable.

“A lot of the queer community in Houston is centered around the Montrose area and the Heights area, so it being in Montrose (makes sense) — especially since they’ve already figured everything out,” Foley said. “They’ve been doing Pride in Montrose for years now, they already have a system; they know where to block off traffic, they know how everything is going to work.”

The Daily Kos published an article about the origin of the gay community in Houston, lending to the significance of many people wanting Pride Houston to remain in Montrose. This celebration first came to Houston in 1979, a decade after the historic 1969 raid at Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village in New York City.

The six-day Stonewall riots are seen as a definitive stance in defiance of police discrimination against the LGBT community. During that time, police sought out lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people to arrest them for “indecencies” such as touching someone of the same sex or being banned from establishments for being “disorderly.”

A huge step towards LGBT solidarity in Houston was made when Anita Bryant, an anti-homosexuality speaker and singer, was invited to sing at the Texas State Bar Association’s meeting on June 16, 1977. Strongly parading forth in its own Stonewall moment, approximately 3,000 gay and lesbian Houstonians protested Bryant’s show.

Following this act of togetherness, Montrose became the boiling pot for LGBT activism. The Daily Kos said Montrose originally attracted the gay community because of cheap housing options, and as more single gay men took up residence in this community, gay bars, organizations and establishments appeared.

English senior Brandon Wilke said he believes the Pride Celebration should remain in Montrose because of its strong roots in the community.

“Montrose is the epicenter of so many movements in the LGBT community. It is where we were pushed out to in the ’60s and ’70s and where we claimed our place in the city,” Wilke said.

Modern day Montrose still has a strong presence of musicians, artistic types and members of the LGBT community, but an article by the Houston Press reported that gentrification plaguing the rest of Houston is seeping into Montrose, calling for new townhomes, bars and other businesses that seem to be taking away the charm and quirkiness that Montrose held.

Director of the LGBT Resource Center Lorraine Schroeder said she believes that the move to downtown Houston will ultimately be beneficial, as it will provide more room for the parade participants and spectators.

“I think Montrose has changed a lot and it still is the LGBT community, but it’s not like that is the only place that LGBT people live; LGBT people live all over the city and beyond,” Schroeder said.

“I think it will be exciting, and I think that in this day and age we are so much more visible that (the place the parade needs to be is) not just in a little corner of Houston in Montrose down Westheimer … I think moving downtown symbolizes that we are a vibrant part of this whole community.”

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Cara Smith/The Cougar

Foley described his experiences at Pride Houston as a “incredibly welcoming” experience where beads, necklaces and cold water were offered in abundance by friendly and accepting Montrose residents.

“I do agree that the queer community having more visibility is never a bad issue, but at the same time, it is a trial run. And if it goes that badly they may not be open to doing it again,” Foley said.

Physics freshman Richard Kemp also said that he worries about acceptance of this celebration in a part of town that isn’t Montrose.

“It’s taking that major event away from the queer community and placing it somewhere else,” Kemp said. “On top of that, Montrose is a very queer-friendly area. It has quite a bit more queer individuals than the rest of the city, so when you move downtown … it’s more likely that there will be people there that aren’t queer-friendly.”

Adding the gentrification of a once-predominantly gay neighborhood to the relocation of Pride Houston, some members of the LGBT community feel segregated, despite the intention of Pride Houston board members to integrate this culture into greater parts of the Houston area.

Wilke is a consistent attendee of the Pride Parade at Montrose and a resident of Montrose for the past eight years. Witnessing the gentrification firsthand, Wilke said that seeing the shift in community is “really sad.”

“Those that once condemned Montrose as a dirty and unsafe place now feel justified in moving into it and changing it to their own level of comfort and familiarity, with blazon disregard for the community or the history found in it,” Wilke said. “Growth is inevitable and can be a good thing, but growth in an area at the expense of those that originally made the area great is atrocious.”

Additionally, the parties after the Pride Festival and Parade help give back to remaining establishments in the Montrose community that donate time and money to prepare for Pride Houston every year. Foley said that by moving Pride Houston from Montrose, it’s taking potential fiscal gains away from these businesses.

Years ago, Montrose was able to accommodate and accept the gay community in a way Houston was not yet fully able to. Houston is now attempting to barrel forward — without much warning — to bring celebration of the LGBT community to center stage.

There are definitive pros and cons for moving Pride Houston from Montrose to downtown. While Pride Houston should listen to the multitude of voices of the community and allies they are trying to relocate to the center of the city, which are proving to be unfavorable of the move, bringing awareness to the LGBT community on a wider scope is beneficial and worth stepping out the comfort-zone for.

Although the relocation of the celebration from Montrose may be taking away from the classic Montrose community residing there, having the festival — no matter the location — is the main goal.

At his first Pride Festival, Kemp said he was blown away by the overwhelming unity shown during the celebration.

“It was wonderful to see everyone come together,” Kemp said. “I was like, ‘Wow, people are OK being themselves here.’ ”

Opinion editor Kelly Schafler is a print journalism junior and may be reached at [email protected]


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