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Kansas City PrideFest: A guide to staying safe during parades and festivals

Kansas City’s LGBTQ Commission alongside the Kansas City Pride Community Alliance unveiled a new pride flag crosswalk on June 1 at Westport Road and Broadway Boulevard.
Zach Bauman
Kansas City Beacon
Kansas City’s LGBTQ Commission alongside the Kansas City Pride Community Alliance unveiled a new pride flag crosswalk on June 1 at Westport Road and Broadway Boulevard.

Organizers expect that Kansas City’s 2023 PrideFest and parade should draw about 50,000 people this weekend. But recent anti-LGBTQ policies, plus an attack last weekend at Fountain Haus in Westport, have stoked safety concerns for many event-goers.

When Lea Hopkins organized Kansas City’s first Pride parade in 1977, the threat of being exposed as LGBTQ+ kept many people from marching with her.

“You could lose your job or get taken out of your apartment,” Hopkins said. Only about 20 people participated, she said, because the stigma around queer identity was so strong.

Fast-forward 46 years, and Kansas City Pride events have burgeoned into citywide celebrations of queer resilience and joy that many residents look forward to.

Organizers for Kansas City’s 2023 PrideFest and Pride parade expect the events, which are happening this weekend, to draw about 50,000 people to Theis Park. The growth in popularity of Pride celebrations has happened despite hate-fueled protests and attacks at LGBTQ+ events, both locally and nationally, that make safety a concern for many event goers.

At around 1 a.m. on Sunday, someone shot a pellet gun at people waiting in line outside Fountain Haus, an LGBTQ+-friendly nightclub in Westport, according to KMBC News. No one was injured, the station reported, but the event did stoke fear. And for transgender women of color, the threat of gun violence has been a longtime issue.

But it’s important to not let fear of violence or other threats scare anyone from celebrating, Hopkins said.

“We have to stand firm,” she said. “This is our community’s time to unite as a massive group to send out our message that you can pass your laws, ban whatever bathrooms, and do whatever you want to do. We are not going anywhere, we have been here since the beginning of time.”

Hopkins said she wasn’t worried about gun violence when she planned the 1977 parade. Things are different now.

“It’s prevalent now that a lot of people are climbing out from rocks they’ve been hiding under for a long time,” she said.

There are simple things people can do to prioritize safety while also celebrating Pride.

Stay in groups at Kansas City PrideFest and other Pride events

Hopkins advises attendees to avoid going to the Pride parade alone. Make sure you know where everyone in your group is,” she said, and “don’t stop somewhere and leave one person there.”

Decide on an emergency meeting place

Before the event, pick a place where your group will gather if there is an emergency.

“You may not be able to use the phone or text because lines will be busy,” said Robert Fischer, the director of communications at PROMO, a statewide LGBTQ+ advocacy and lobbying organization. The organization has had to address threats of violence against families of transgender youth who traveled to Jefferson City to protest legislative bills that ban gender-affirming care for minors.

Carry identification and contact information

Be sure to have identification or a piece of paper that includes your phone number and an emergency contact.

“If something happens to you and the police get there they will know immediately who you are and who to contact for you,” Hopkins said.

Leave a trail of your locations

Let a trusted individual such as a parent, family member or friend know that you’re attending a Pride event, Hopkins said.

Keep up-to-date on parade and festival details

Ask event organizers for extra details on security measures, police presence and safety tips, Fischer said.

Fischer also encourages everyone celebrating Pride month to keep their heads held high and focus on the importance of celebration.

“It’s so important for us to recognize and uplift joy within our community because we have seen so much hate from the state legislature,” he said. “Showing up in community and being proud of who we are is a sign of resistance in itself. We’re stronger when we come together to act as one.”

Kansas City PrideFest events include the Kansas City 10K Pride Ball on Friday at Uptown Theater starting at 8 p.m.; the KC Pride Parade on Saturday, starting at 11 a.m., from Westport Road and Broadway Boulevard, and family-friendly entertainmentactivities on Sunday, including food vendors, education, arts and crafts and much more.

This story was originally published on theKansas City Beacon, a fellow member of theKC Media Collective.

Mili Mansaray is the housing and labor reporter at The Kansas City Beacon. Previously, she was a freelance reporter and Summer 2020 intern.
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