Pride Portland! revises its vision, funding

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PORTLAND — A new steering committee hopes to widen the perspective of this year’s Pride Portland!.

“This is not a sea change, but I don’t want to downplay what we are trying to do,” fundraising coordinator Meagan Lauer said Monday about planning the events that will run from June 8-17.

As in years past, the week is capped with the annual Pride parade and festival in Deering Oaks Park, but Lauer and other steering committee members, including Joey Brunelle and Quinn Gormley, said they want to ensure more people are seen and more voices heard in the celebration of equality and diversity.

The theme for this year’s events is “RISE UP!,” according to a Pride Portland! press release, with RISE an acronym for racial equity, intersectionality, solidarity and mutual empowerment.

In Portland and in other cities, there was a growing feeling that Pride festivals and parades have not recognized the struggles of the transgender community or people of color.

“We are never an afterthought now, (so) including needs is now a starting point,” Gormley said Tuesday about the new steering committee.”We are putting a lot of emphasis on making sure the voices are being heard.”

As executive director of MaineTransNet, Gormley said there has been more recognition of the transgender community, but it is not always good.

“It has put a target on the backs of our community,” Gormley said. “I think people who are directly opposed to us have permission to be loud and violent about it.”

Brunelle, who ran unsuccessfully in 2017 for the City Council seat held by Councilor Jill Duson, is coordinating the marketing for Pride Portland!.

“Every year, there has been a diverse array of opinions about how Pride should happen,” Brunelle said March 8. “We’ve really tried to reach out to groups who felt Pride did not reach out to them.”

As a nonprofit, Pride Portland! cannot take political stances, but Brunelle said inclusion is the watchword as they approach the community and plan events. This includes revising how and where political groups or candidates will march in the parade and changing the fundraising so it is less dependent on corporate sponsors.

The steering committee has evolved since Pride Portland! formed in 2014, but has never had a complete turnover. In a first, the steering committee now lists its members and the pronouns they prefer to use in their identities.

“I’m not sure if that is a step forward, or people in the room are just used to doing it,” Gormley said.

Lauer said fundraising this year has been split into tiers so smaller contributions can be accepted. As part of this, Pride Portland! has hosted “pay what you can” fundraisers at Blackstones on Pine Street and at Happy Wheels on Warren Avenue.

“We are trying to make it so small nonprofits and local businesses can maybe be more a part than in the past,” Lauer said.

The sliding scale admissions also are a way to welcome people who might not have taken part, steering committee members said.

Some Pride Week events themselves will take on new approaches. Brunelle said a “senior prom” held to welcome older members of the LGBTQ+ community is a possibility. Other events will be more welcoming to people in recovery from substance use disorders.

“There will be parties, but also educational events, a film in Congress Square Park, panel discussions at Space Gallery,” Lauer said. “We hope to give a voice to more marginalized people in the community.”

Lauer and Brunelle said the current political climate needs to be better recognized as part of Pride Week, which is observed throughout the nation in part to honor the 1969 Stonewall Inn riots in New York City, where the gay community fought back against police mistreatment.

“It is safer than it has ever been to be out, but it still is not cool with everyone,” Lauer said.

Living across the street from Deering Oaks Park, Lauer said she felt welcomed seeing the parade and festival a couple of years ago. She wants that shared feeling to be shared.

“I want to emphasize to everyone inclusion does not mean exclusion, making things available to some does not mean others are getting pushed out,” Lauer said. “All of the classics are still going to be there, we are just making more room.”

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

The Pride Portland! parade leading to the annual festival at Deering Oaks Park. A new steering committee is making some changes to the structure and outlook of  Pride Week events.

Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.