Pridenton Night OUT On the Square (June 17th, 2022) Event Recap

[Preface/caveat: This article was meant to be written and posted in June of 2022, but due to being busy with work, executive dysfunction, depression, and a pisspoor living situation I never got it done! Now that I have moved to a safe and healthy environment I have been able to start catching up with recaps for events I went to in 2022. Thanks for your patience with me! Enjoy this stream of consciousness sort of writing style for this too!]

Around 6pm on the nice Summer evening of June 17th, 2022, I took the trip down to the Denton downtown square for Pridenton’s (Pride Denton) “Night OUT on the Square” event. It was my first pride event to attend since before the pandemic and my first one in Denton, TX to go to. I was in attendance with lots of excitement as I walked down from the free parking lot that passes by Eastside Denton. The bar windows decorated with beautiful hand-written messages of support and love.

A little further down the way there were plenty more bars and businesses decorated for everyone making their way into the square itself for the event. Notably, the progress pride flag designed by Daniel Quasar in 2020, was on display. It was nice to see the updated flag featured so heavily everywhere. The design in particular is a successful way to implement the trans stripes and the black and brown lives stripes in an elevated manner, bringing emphasis to the message of inclusion. Read more about the Progress Pride Flag’s message on Quasar’s website.

The same bar also featured a nicely made banner that read “Love has no gender,” a beautiful message that helps welcome anyone who came down to the event.

Arrival at the square itself was a beautiful sight with lots of people, flags adorning the nature filled square we all know and love here in Denton, TX. Booths were opened up featuring many artists who were trans and/or queer themselves selling pride merch or featuring events, activities, history, or more. It was time to explore!

Upon making my way into the crowd (masked, of course! & I tested negative after – the power of masking helps!) I caught sight of beautiful decorations everywhere, including a friendly unicorn! People were preparing for the rally upcoming in thirty minutes.

The Chosen Family was the major theme of Pride 2022 for Pridenton’s events, so many booths featured Chosen Family Trees themselves. One such booth built an entire tree you could add your chosen family to! It was awesome to participate.

The vendors themselves were great too! I encountered my first artist’s hut with @VeeVeeViolet (instagram) (etsy: 400nmART) and her stunning art that blended vibrant colours in unique ways. I appreciate how well she manipulates the paint, looking planetary and ethereal.

A notable part of the Night OUT was the presence of the UNT Libraries, where they featured important parts of their Special Collection of Texas / USA based LGBTQ history. These are parts of history that are commonly forgotten or lost and UNT Libraries work hard to keep things updated, safe and able to be securely accessed with ease.

Historical moments in the DFW Texas area’s LGBTQ community are showcased with large, quality prints and newspaper excerpts. The first gay wedding officiated, the first pride in Dallas, TX, and multiple groups who worked hard to improve things for our community through past and present.

UNT Libraries are commended for their efforts and organization of the Trans Accessible Libraries Initiative. This groundbreaking initiative helps connect transgender and/or nonbinary individuals connect with resources and information that the library offers, and lessen the barriers faced by our community. It also works to feature books by transgender authors or books about transgender individuals in-library.

For those not sure what we mean by “barriers,” transgender people face unique challenges in public space often if we for example are still in the process of getting legal documentation to change our driver’s licenses, we might go by a name that is not our legal one (yet, and the cost of name changes is another barrier for most people) that would be used for checking out materials.

Bathroom access is a huge barrier for many trans people — we just want to be comfortable, and be able to use the correct bathroom for OUR gender identit(y)/(ies) and/or lack thereof. It is not uncommon for transgender people to go for too long without using a restroom in public because of inaccessible restrooms that might cause them to receive hate, or worse, become targets of a hate crime in the bathroom depending on how other patrons treat them. Many transgender people also suffer physical injury from having to avoid bathroom use for sometimes up to 8 hours or more if in an unsafe place. In the 2015 US Transgender Survey, 8% report having a kidney or urinary tract infection, or another kidney-related medical issue, from avoiding restrooms in the last year.

Bathrooms are a hot topic since 2017 when the first “bathroom bills” hit the Texas legislative session. Transphobic, bigoted people want to limit the access transgender people have to restrooms of their comfortable choice because of false fear-mongering myths about what we “want to do in a restroom.” Trans people just want to pee in peace. It is important and nothing short of amazing that UNT Libraries is standing firm in protecting our access to a basic need in a public space. When a community is not afforded that in other settings, there is a present lack of rights and common dignity problem going on.

The Trans Accessible Libraries Initiative also offers information For Librarians on how they can expand these protections and better ways to help their local LGBTQ community in their own libraries.

The next stop on my journey through the Night OUT on the Square was with Old Bear Vintage’s shop. Featuring an eclectic mixture of clothing, jewelry, and accessories, Old Bear was a delight to rummage through. Their mascot is very well designed too! Whimsical and friendly!

Another fun Chosen Family Tree on display at a booth, many people created their own to symbolize the most cherished part of most queer peoples’ lives. Often, blood does not mean a damn thing when you might be treated terribly by bigoted family members who don’t mean well for you as a LGBTQ person. It is a sacred thing to me personally to be able to find family in others who know the real you and lift that up. Chosen Families protect each other and see us to our greatest versions of our authentic selves. This tree in particular featured celebrities that are part of the LGBTQ community in one big chosen family tree.

The Rally

After a good amount of time to explore everyone gathered under the well lit Courthouse on the Square.

The Rally and the organization of Pridenton was introduced by a lovely group of people and the first person speaking was rocking a very cool blue tutu skirt! Everyone was adorned in T-shirts representing the strong message of “PROTECT TRANS YOUTH.” This is the core reason we keep fighting. Trans youth need us as we have been seeing an onslaught of transphobic legislation directed at them and attempting to limit trans youth’s access to their HRT, puberty blockers, and accepting communities, sports teams, or even their own families.

The next speaker who came up after being introduced as a the mother of a trans kid here with her today. She spoke about the experiences of being an accepting mother of her son and the fight against anti-trans legislation in Texas.

She also wore a shirt with the names of notably important trans and/or gender nonconforming queer folks in LGBTQ history: Marsha (P. Johnson), Sylvia (Rivera), (Miss) Major, and Stormé (DeLarverie.) I found this a wonderful detail of the day, putting history first and remembering who fought for us is important for a community to remember.

The third speaker is the son of the mother who just spoke, he is a trans youth who shared a lot about his experiences and how it felt to be a target of Greg Abbott’s vicious attacks against our community’s most vulnerable. “Never Give Up” emblazoned on his t-shirt, a fitting message for the continued fight for our rights.

Lastly a cowboy hatted person took the stage and fired everyone up for helping the community we love and are a part of. Their energy was impressive and helped everyone feel a sense of compassionate will to fight and defend those we love from bigotry and calculated attacks against trans youth legislatively.

2022 saw the transgender community targeted so fiercely it is unarguably a genocidal move by the state of Texas and its leaders.

Feb 22nd, Governor Greg Abbott (at the suggestion of AG Ken Paxton) issued a letter to the Department of Family and Protective Services directing the agents in the state to investigate the parents of trans children for “child abuse. It has been relentless hell since February as multiple cases continued with investigations, many families left to states providing refuge from anti-trans states like TX. CA notably is a safe place to move to with SB 107, in effect since January 1st 2023, providing refuge and protections from previously left states.

Dec 13th, Ken Paxton attempted to compile a database of all transgender residents in the state who had changed their gender markers. They say it is “unknown” what this database will be used for, but we all know and can gather from what is already presently happening what his intentions are with our information. Things have escalated to this point over the course of 2022.

As I finally finish writing this article at this current stage in the legislative cycle, we sit upon the precipice of Texas being the state with THE most amount of anti-trans bills out of any other state proposing such filth. This includes…

And Texas has seen Nazis and anti-trans militants protest every drag event under the sun, especially forefronted by the hate group “Protect Texas Kids,” spearheaded by Kelly Neidert, right-wing agitator hailing from Denton, TX. These people travel all over the state to harm the LGBTQ community and targeting our events.

Thankfully, I did not notice anyone or heard of anyone who “protested” the Night OUT on the Square. However, “Protect Texas Kids Kelly Neidert did show up at the first event of the month at the Univeralist Unitarian church; a Pride Storytime ran by Pridenton. Silently she sat with us, welcome of course to anyone this event wat – but she took my picture with others and posted it as a scare tactic online, calling for people to “protest” the church for hosting the event.

Needless to say, the rally I saw in June of 2022 was nothing short of something greatly needed to continue to light my fire during a hard year of my life. I was trying to not let the bigots ruin Pride Month for me in 2022, but it was hard to fight back against the feelings of anger they brought up. I have been on a really tiring year with graduation from college and finding work, I have had activism on the back burner as I haven’t had the spoons to accomplish much with it. This rally re-lit my fire and helped me feel safe and at home in my community. We cannot give up against this seemingly unending insurmountable evil from the Texas legislature and the aggressive right wing.

Although things seem bleak, there is still hope. During the event Night OUT on the Square, there were various displays dedicated to being “floats” inspired by pride parade floats with their decoration to empower the community with. They all competed and people could vote for their favorite floats with winners announced later than I intended staying at the event. One such float I took an interest in was this one from a local church:

God’s Doors Are Open To All. Something is always very healing for me to see churches embrace my community with open arms, many of us have mixed experiences with the church as an often queerphobic aspect of society – one that our bigoted enemies use to justify their treatment of us. To see a church break the mold and embrace us with open arms is completely welcomed with a smile.

A heartwarming treat to see were the Proud Parents of Pride who were out on the square hanging out on the sidewalk. They encouraged people to feel proud, and reminded them that they were proud of them for coming out or being out already. I felt this was a nice way to almost be “chosen family” in a way to the community – and to provide something that many queer folks do not have the privilege of having from their own blood parents. This was another healing aspect of the Night OUT On the Square.

I quickly made my way back around to the last few vendor stops, there being two more notable ones I liked a lot —

SunSpell Dice was a wonderful booth to visit, they have all sorts of tabletop RPG goodies available!

ArtVibez69 was the last vendor I spent some time with, who was a really friendly person who had a beaming personality with significantly awesome work commonly featuring an erotic and queer subject matter.

Overall the trip visiting the vendors on the square was a nice adventure and seeing everyone’s work was inspiring!

On the way out of the event I stopped by on last booth – Terra Bites vegan bakery based in Denton, TX! They made really delicious sugar cookies decorated to be the transgender flag for sale. Really made the day feel complete with a treat to take home!

The sun began to set as I said goodbye to Pride Night OUT on the Square. The sky looked VERY transgender, so of course I had to snap a pic.

Thank you and congratulations to Pridenton for their successful series of events over the month that felt more than welcoming and safe for myself and my fellow LGBTQ community and our beloved allies to be at. I leave you with one last parting message left on the concrete, symbolizing the strength of our love and our tenacity to keep moving forward – together. Love CAN win, I feel, as long as we never give up.

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