Updated on September 29, 2021: Pride Houston’s block party was originally scheduled for October 2, but was rescheduled to October 9 due to weather hazards.
Pride Houston, the organization that annually hosts Houston’s LGBTQ festival and parade downtown, opted to turn its 2021 celebration into a block party in Montrose. The group made the decision after canceling the rest of its festivities due to COVID-19 safety precautions—including its annual summer event, which garnered over 700,000 attendees in 2019.
The Pride Houston LGBT+ Fall Festival Montrose Block Party will take place all day on October 9 around the local LGBTQ bar BUDDY’S. The celebration will feature the organization’s annual Rock the Runway fashion show and performances from Deborah Cox, local talent, DJs, and more. The event will also spread community awareness by including appearances from local activists and organizations such as AIDS Foundation Houston and Legacy Community Health.
Kendra “Kay” Walker, Pride Houston’s vice president, says, “It’s a party with a purpose.”
Since children under 12 years old are unable to get vaccinated, only people 21 and older can attend the celebration. The event also has a limited capacity of 5,000. Non-refundable tickets can be bought either online or at the entrance gate.
The block party will follow COVID-19 protocols, Walker says. People must wear masks to enter and are encouraged to keep them on throughout the event. To participate, ticket buyers must provide proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test from no more than three days before the party. Those who buy tickets in advance can head to the Montrose Center’s parking lot to get tested for free on September 29 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The event will offer limited on-site COVID-19 testing for those who did not get tested within 72 hours of the event. If people cannot get tested at the celebration, they must provide a valid vaccination card and proof that they received their final vaccine shot at least two weeks before the celebration. These folks must also complete a travel questionnaire and be screened at the entrance gate.
Award-winning Canadian singer-songwriter Deborah Cox says she’s excited to perform at the Montrose Block Party and celebrate with the LGBTQ community.
Due to the pandemic, she couldn’t safely commemorate her 25th anniversary in the music industry and hasn’t been able to perform in-person for over a year. Cox hopes her LGBTQ fans know how much she appreciates their support, and that she admires their commitment to living their best lives.
Cox says, “Standing out from the pack and speaking your truth is not something that can be done by everyone, but the members of this community express their individuality with such fearlessness, grace, and strength, and I think that we should all look to them as an example of tenacity and power.”
Cox’s show opener, local drag artist Angelina DM Trailz, will be performing a tribute to Lady Gaga’s long career. She is also inviting other local entertainers and her drag family to perform with her.
Trailz, a nonbinary artist who uses she/her pronouns while in drag, gets misgendered daily. “I get told I’m in the wrong bathroom; I get called the wrong pronouns; and people assume my gender every day,” Trailz shares.
She says she’s looking forward to the party because it is a chance to be herself without fear of reproach. It is also an opportunity to reunite with her community, celebrate how things have improved, and reflect on areas where the community can grow.
“We’re still not perfect in our community—we deal with a lot of trauma,” Trailz says. “But this is a reminder that we’re all still here for each other, and this is a moment for us to celebrate self-love.”
Nationally recognized trans activists Eden Torres, Lou Weaver, and Jevon Martin will be speaking at the event to educate and inspire community and self-love among trans attendees. Local trans advocates B’Yancha Foxx and Dylan Forbis will also discuss services and programs that trans audience members can benefit from.
“I have noticed at Pride that there are many trans and gender-expansive people that attend this event, and it’s their only connection to the community. I want to give them resources that will benefit them,” Torres says.
Torres, the president and founder of Pride Portraits, the largest LGBTQIA+ visibility campaign to date, will highlight the resources available at the Montrose Center’s Hatch Youth program for trans and gender-expansive youth. Weaver, a well-known LGBTQ leader and a research assistant at UT School of Public Health Houston, will talk about Trans-Legal Aid Clinic Houston’s services, which include opportunities to correct gender and name markers on government ID cards. Martin, the award-winning founder of Princess Janae Place, a New York nonprofit that combats trans homelessness, will reveal a new and important resource for trans people. B’Yancha Fox will promote a UTHealth study designed to get trans women on PrEP at no cost, and Dylan Forbis, Pearland’s first trans elected official, will share how trans people can get involved politically outside the Loop.
Torres hopes trans and gender-expansive attendees will understand they are not alone, and leave with useful information that will improve their lives. She also hopes cisgender audience members will learn and become better allies.
“I hope that the cisgender people listening will see us, hear us, stand up for us when we can’t stand up for ourselves, and ask us how [they can] support us,” Torres says.
To secure the event, Pride Houston will be working with the Houston Police Department. The nonprofit will also collaborate with Constable Alan Rosen’s office, which agreed to provide free security.
“Ensuring the safety of all members of the community remains my highest priority,” says Rosen, Pride Houston’s 2019 Ally Grand Marshal. “I am committed to our partnership with Pride Houston to build trust with the LGBTQIA+ community.”
According to Walker, when the rate of hospitalized children increased and the rate of vaccinated adults stayed below 50 percent, Pride Houston opted to reschedule the parade to 2022.
“We wanted to put the community’s health first,” Walker says.
The block party allows the community to safely reunite, show their pride, and support businesses in the historic gayborhood. The block party is also part of Pride Houston’s effort to support the community year-round. If the party goes well, a similar celebration will kick off Pride Month in June of 2022.
“This board wants to invest in the community,” Walker says. “We don’t want to see them once a year. We want to be there for them 365, and if we don’t have the resources, we want to direct you to the resources.”
For more information, follow Pride Houston on Facebook at facebook.com/pridehouston/.