Small Town Pride

Big City Pride is for Wimps – Try Being Out & Proud in a Conservative Small Town

About 70 miles north of West Hollywood, California, is the conservative high-desert Antelope Valley. And while it’s far from a queer travel destination, this traditionalist township over the past few years (probably due to the passage of Proposition 8) has been experiencing a significant burst of queer pride.

Saturday, June 18th marked its 3rd annual pride festival and compared to its neighboring Los Angeles or Long Beach, the Antelope Valley Pride is, for lack of a better word, small. Over the course of six hours it probably saw no more than 500 participants. But its size is hardly the remarkable thing about the Antelope Valley Pride festival.

Craig Cincis, a 22-year-old volunteer, said that it’s important to have a pride festival at home. Last year he attended AV Pride for the first time. “I didn’t know anyone,” he told Queerty. “I was so nervous. I met some really cool people and a year later, I’m now helping out. When it’s home, you can relate to it and you have something to be proud of.” Brings you back to the original definition of PRIDE, doesn’t it?

The event itself took place in Palmdale’s Poncitlan Square. There were about 15 pop-up tents representing various local LGBT organizations, some familiar national organizations (HRC and Marriage Equality USA), and a few corporate booths including Walgreens and Starbucks. On the central gazebo, a handful of DJs, live bands, and drag performers entertained the crowd throughout the day.

The diversity was palpable. There were old and young, every shade of color, from black to white, including men, women, trans, and everything in between. There were families and singles and everyone was enjoying themselves and each other. Oh and hold on to your butts for this one… people had a blast even though no alcohol served. (There was free iced coffee and iced tea.)

The organizing power behind the festival is the local Center in the Antelope Valley known by its new name, the OUTReach Center. The Center has no physical building, a completely volunteer staff and board, and runs on an annual budget of about $8,000. And yet despite all the obstacles of organizing and connecting in a small town, it continues to grow. Sanie Anders, the new president of the OUTReach Center, says that “it’s a very conservative and religious area. We want to be able to be a part of the community and to let them know that we are family members; we are professionals… and we aren’t ashamed.”

In many small towns across the country, LGBT individuals have to struggle just to get by. That makes the support of local leadership and organizations all the more critical. The OUTReach Center is one such essential group.

We asked Coco Lecreme, a resident drag queen, how she would feel if there were no longer a PRIDE in the Antelope Valley and she said, straight up: “I would be pissed.”

Wanna show of your hometown pride–or wherever you visit? Check out the GayCities Pride Photo Challenge and submit your pics…