Wrapped in rainbow paper with a giant glitter bow on top, October is here and really queer! As the executive director of Come Out With Pride, I’m constantly thinking about Pride — as a celebration, as an action, as a space, as a mission and vision, and as an organization.
As I’ve exclaimed countless times, “Pride is more than a party!” Actually it’s complex and complicated. Sometimes it’s a messy conversation, full of mixed emotions, historical events, current political obstacles, challenges, celebrations and calls to action. For many of us, Pride is part of our story.
Having moved to Orlando in the late 90s to attend UCF, my first exposure to real queerness was late night rave parties at the Historic Firestone. The bumping base of house music thumping throughout the night, keeping me awake until first light. I witnessed nonbinary bodies adorned in beautiful costumes, covered in glitter, balancing on platform shoes, while rhythmically moving to the beat. All were accepted and welcomed. This is where I found home. Embraced by the drag queens, glow sticks lit my path and JNCO jeans were my uniform. At the time, I didn’t know what I was, but I most definitely knew what I wasn’t. In those days, I found Pride when entering this inclusive space with a sense of belonging I had not found anywhere else.
Years later, I found Pride in a sea of red shirts at a magical place. There, I was witness to members of my new-found community, which puzzled me because they were not familiar faces at the local club. They broadened my perception of my possible future. I saw queer parents with their kids, and couples who appeared past their prime but still madly in love, holding hands while watching the fireworks.
In the early 2000s, I discovered Pride in an actual LGBTQIA+ parade down Orange Avenue. It was slightly disorganized, poorly attended and way too short, BUT it was my first taste of activism. I was energized being amongst my people, marching, chanting, holding signs and hands, we took over the street. My act of rebellion and resistance was being unapologetically me! That day, an activist was born. As a kid raised in the 80s, who witnessed the HIV/AIDS crisis and clearly remembers Ryan White, I could not quietly sit by as our positive numbers continued to climb. I found Pride in becoming a certified HIV tester, volunteering my time and educating our community. I dove deeper into community involvement.
Countless years later, I found Pride the day I legally married my wife in Massachusetts, before marriage equality. I discovered true love. As my best friend and my soulmate, we began building our life together. Our oldest kiddo was born in 2011 in October on the date of the Come Out With Pride parade that year. That day, Pride found me, making me a proud parent and forever changing my life. As a queer mom of color, I am committed to passing down our culture to my children. I want my kids to know that the LGBTQAI+ movement was conceived by a riot which turned into a revolution started by Black and Brown trans women who had enough. We must show respect and gratitude to our ancestors who paved the way and created the opportunities we have today. I want them to celebrate their authentic self, feel the power of protesting and the enthusiasm of marching, enjoy a drag show, understand why lesbians wear cargo shorts (because of all the pockets), feel loved by their gay uncles and know the symbolic importance of our chosen family.
Pride is more than a party. It’s more than the limited items sold in June. It’s more than the corporate attempt to capture our dollar. For me, Pride is the increasing visibility and representation of queer and people of color in mainstream media. It is growing recognition of our economic impact. It is hosting a Pride Prom every April for adults in our community to enjoy prom in their true form with the people of their choice and create new and positive memories.
Pride is that collective celebratory spirit and love that we feel on that steamy day in October, where hundreds of thousands of us take over Lake Eola, proudly and colorfully parade down Orange Avenue, enjoy all day fabulous entertainment and end the experience with a firework extravaganza.
Pride is a lot of different things for a lot of different people. Personally, Pride is not only my full-time job, it’s part of my story. It’s part of my core, my mission and passion. Pride is creating spaces where my people can feel belonging and acceptance as their authentic selves. To loosely quote the brilliant artist, Pink — sometimes, Pride is our party! “The universe is the DJ, life is the dance floor, love is the rhythm, and you are the music!” Come Out With Pride Orlando and see YOU on Oct. 21st at Pride!
Tatiana Quiroga is the executive director for Come Out With Pride. She is a proud mother, wife and LGBTQ advocate in Central Florida.