Fear won’t deter PRIDE participants, says LGBTQ community

Tensions have risen over PRIDE Houston since the Orlando shooting earlier this month.

The week-long celebration of the city’s LGBTQ residents will come to a climax Saturday evening at the annual parade downtown. And while the deadliest shooting in modern U.S. history may drive some away from the festival, members of the community and their allies believe that fear will not deter students from participating.

“If I let this fear about the threats consume me, I would never leave my dorm room,” said William Chandler, a chemical engineering sophomore.

Chandler came out to an unaccepting family when he was 14, and since then he still feels out of place. Even on campus, he’s received dirty looks or stares by passersby who notice his women’s shirt and rainbow-colored bracelets, he said.

But at the Pride celebration, Chandler found a community of acceptance and inclusion. The shooting hasn’t affected his decision about whether to attend.

“If you’re queer, you’re going to go,” Chandler said.

Last year, PRIDE Houston hit record numbers after the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage nationwide, striking down bans in Texas and other states. The event, which has been lauded as the largest in the nation, was forced to move from its traditional location in Montrose to downtown in order to accommodate the crowds.

Some UH students are choosing not to attend the festival or parade in response to this month’s tragedy, in which Omar Mateen killed 49 people and injured 53 at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, said LGBTQ Resource Center Director Lorraine Schroeder.

Schroeder lamented this as a delay in the “coming-out process,” especially for those who have been bullied because of or aren’t open about their sexuality.

“The truth is that we live in a much less violent world than years and centuries ago. Unfortunately, we’re not completely out of the violent stage. There are misunderstandings and ignorance. People feel that we are separate as opposed to being all one humankind,” Shroeder said. “What affects me the most is coming in contact with so many LGBTQ people and hearing how this has impacted them. And it can be really sad—all the things that it triggers.”

In a solemn moment of the parade, UH-affiliated volunteers will front the line bearing a massive rainbow flag with hopeful messages to be presented at Orlando’s own Pride festival later this year.

South Beach, one of Houston’s popular gay clubs, plans to host the official after party Saturday night with increased security, said Jose Apodaca, director of operations for Charles Armstrong Investments, the umbrella company of the nightclub.

“We don’t feel what’s happened in Orlando is going to trickle down into attendance.” Apodaca said. “People may come out a little more in force just to show that they’re not hiding in their living rooms.”

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