For more than 30 years, the Phoenix Pride Festival has provided local gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender folks with parades and entertainment. This year's festival, scheduled to take place Saturday and Sunday, April 16 and 17 at Steele Indian School Park, will provide the usual perks: it's the largest gathering of the GLBT community all year, there's lots of free swag from the vendor booths, and people can learn a lot about many different GLBT groups in the Valley.
That said, I've been an out lesbian for the past 17 years, and I haven't been to Pride since 2006. I have my reasons (which I'll enumerate below), but I also think there are many other (and maybe better) ways to support the local gay community.
One reason I skip Pride is the only beer for sale is Budweiser, longtime sponsor of the event. Kudos to Budweiser for being one of the biggest gay-friendly booze companies in the world (along with Absolut Vodka), but honestly, some of us would rather drink Pabst Blue Ribbon.
Another quibble I have is with the music. Every year, the stages at Pride are saturated with dance and pop acts. This year's entertainment includes '80s teen idol Tiffany, Blake Lewis (runner up on the sixth season of American Idol), and one exciting act, indie band Shiny Toy Guns. But if you're into metal, punk, or hip-hop, you'll get no such thing at Phoenix Pride.
Some people in the GLBT community complain about stereotypes, and pop culture images of gays and gay characters in neon spandex, feather boas, rainbow T-shirts, and g-strings with pink triangles on them. Chances are good you'll see all those things and more at Phoenix Pride Festival. I do believe people should be able to express themselves however they like, but I don't particularly want to pay $15 to $25 to see a drunk leather daddy hump a pink pool noodle while singing karaoke to Madonna (I've seen it before).
I'd rather put that money to other uses, which brings me to my final point: other ways besides attending Pride to support the GLBT community in Phoenix.
Donate money or volunteer time for a local non-profit organization that serves the gay community, like One Voice Community Center; Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians & Gays (PFLAG); AGAPE Network; the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN); the Southwest Center for HIV/AIDS; or Equality Arizona. There are dozens more local GLBT organizations that could use a hand, too.
Learn who the gay-friendly politicians are in your city, county, and districts, and what they're doing to work toward equality. If you find local politicos with platforms and track records you like, vote for them and support them.
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Patronize local gay-owned or gay-friendly businesses. There are tons of them in town, including doctors, law offices, art galleries, tanning salons, clothing stores, restaurants, florists, churches, and couriers. Free guides full of local business listings are available from the Greater Phoenix Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce.
Of course, many of the aforementioned organizations will have booths at Phoenix Pride Festival, so maybe it is worth it -- if we stash a cooler of PBR in the trunk and bring an iPod.
For more information on Pride, call 602-277-7433 or visit www.phoenixpride.org.