“I remember being in high school and walking up to see the Pride parade for the first time and being so afraid that my family would see me on the news, or people would know that I was queer,” Clapp said. “I remember how afraid I was. And, it’s so wonderful to see all that fear goes away when you realize you’re among thousands of people and you’re surrounded by all these people who love you without ever having met you.”
Cora Martin, a first-year UNC student, has also been attending with Pride in Durham for a number of years.
“I’ve been going to Durham Pride since I was eight years old with my moms,” Martin said. “It used to be very scary to go. There were a lot of Pit Preacher-esque people there who would yell at you, even if you were 8 years old. And, it’s really cool to go there now, as an adult, and not see so much of that anymore.”
Martin said she believes Pride in the Triangle area is a unique experience that could act as a learning opportunity for many UNC students.
“UNC gathers people from across the country and from really different backgrounds and ideologies about how you might view queer people,” Martin said. “So, to go to Durham Pride, I think it provides a really good look at what that life can be like. I think it can be really eye-opening and mind-opening to go and see all of those very different people.”
While Durham has been celebrating Pride events every year for over three decades, Raleigh's earliest Pride parade occurred in 1988. The city wouldn't see a consistent annual Pride event until 2017.
April Norris, vice chairperson of NC Pride at Night, explained the event in 1981 that kickstarted Pride in Raleigh.
“A man was beaten to death at Little River because they thought he was gay,” Norris said. “In 1986, demonstrations protesting the attack began in Durham. By 1988, they were trying to figure out a way to get a non-discrimination ordinance passed. They thought by marching through the capital, they’d be able to get the ordinance passed. So, that was Raleigh’s first Pride parade.”
The murder of Ronald Antonevitch, the man who was killed in the 1981 attack, highlighted the discriminatory nature of the area, sparking the community to publicly protest and lead the way in the fight for LGBTQ+ rights for the next three decades, Norris said.
Clapp does not believe the LGBTQ+ community's fight for rights is over. They mentioned how the community has typically focused on the struggles of those who identify as gay, while other members of the community have been left behind.
“We know that Oct. 8, 2019 is super important for our trans community members,” Clapp said. “We know our rights are on the line come Oct. 8. We need to turn ourselves to the trans community this year and say: We see you. We stand behind you. You will no longer be left behind by the LGBTQ community.”
On Oct. 8, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes Inc. v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The case will determine whether Title VII protects people on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
“I believe that we have also started to fail our lesbian elders, the people who kept the queer community alive during the HIV/AIDS crisis which, by the way, is not over,” Clapp said. "We need to start looking to the elders who kept us alive for a little bit of guidance. We can’t forget that community, as well.”
Jo Snow, a sophomore UNC student, said they view this fight as a very personal one.
“In a place like North Carolina that is outwardly anti-LGBTQ, it so vital that we as a community make ourselves visible and stand our ground,” Snow said. “It was only three years ago that HB2 was passed, which directly targeted and blatantly discriminated against trans individuals like me and so many others.”
Snow agreed with Clapp’s sentiment regarding the trans community. They said that transgender and genderqueer individuals were the spark of the gay rights movement at the Stonewall riots, and that the LGBTQ+ community owes them in their current time of need.
“There’s a huge gap in education and knowledge on what the trans experience is and how to understand it, even within the LGBTQ community itself,” Snow said. “It’s very important for Pride 2019 to concentrate on trans issues when discrimination and sheer lack of understanding exist most for trans individuals, in most cases.”
Clapp said that while Pride is a political event, they do not want people to forget that it is also fun and entertaining.
“I want to make sure people know about the fun part of it,” Clapp exclaimed. “I want to make sure folks know that we have a free concert at Durham Central Park this year with all queer artists, trans artists or artists of color.”
Norris agreed, fondly sharing memories of all the dance parties, performances and communal activities which encompassed the lively atmosphere of last year's Pride.
“My favorite part of Pride is when we called everyone to the stage last year for a dance-off,” Norris said. “Everyone got up there. There was old. There was young. There was gay, straight, trans, everyone. Everyone was there and being human. That’s the whole point of this, right? That we’re human and we’re all a community.”