The ACLU is tracking 496 anti-LGBTQ bills in the United States, and 54 of those bills were introduced within the state of Texas. A sigh of relief was breathed when a federal judge recently ruled SB12, one of those 54 bills, as unconstitutional. Despite these continued attacks against our community, Houston area residents are seeing an increase in local Pride events, proving that this metroplex has Pride as big as Texas.
While the last stubborn remnants of glitter from Pride Houston 365’s 45th annual Houston Pride parade have finally been swept up or vacuumed away, Houstonians and their neighbors can look forward to the first ever Katy Pride on October 14 and the fifth annual The Woodlands Pride Festival on October 21, among other events such as Third Coast Pridefest in Galveston on October 22. These localized events are just as crucial as large-scale programming offered by major cities because they create much needed visibility for LGBTQ people living in suburbs and rural areas.
Katy Pride began as a Drag Bingo event hosted by the community’s LGBTQ affirming First Christian Church in September 2022. “We had all these protests, which really opened our eyes to Katy, the LGBTQ community, and the need for Katy Pride,” says Amanda Rose, Katy Pride President. “We’ve started to see more local Prides pop up versus just Houston Pride. The Woodlands has a Pride, and Brazoria County and Lake Jackson had Prides this year. So, we said, ‘We should do Katy Pride. There’s a need, and we know the interest and the support is there.’”
Naturally, some people have balked at the idea of having Katy Pride, but that isn’t deterring Rose or her colleagues. “People say, ‘This isn’t Katy anymore. This isn’t the Katy I remember,’” states Rose. “Well, it shouldn’t be. A successful, growing city, should not be what it was 10, 15, or 20 years ago.”
With the Katy ISD school board recently voting in favor of outing trans and gender non-conforming students to their parents, attendees of Katy Pride can expect to see activations that uplift LGBTQ youth across their event. “At Katy Pride, we’re offering all the high school GSAs and similar groups the ability to have booths and just get awareness out,” explains Rose. “Our hope is we will have a lot of youth at this event, and they need to know we’re there and that these organizations are in their schools.”
North of Houston, The Woodlands Pride Festival is celebrating its fifth anniversary. “It’s insane to think that we have been doing this since 2018. From our first year of welcoming over 5,000 people, which blew our minds, to last year welcoming over 7,500 people,” says Jason Rocha, President and CEO of The Woodlands Pride, “we’ve become one of the staple festivals in The Woodlands, and we are glad to be on the forefront of leading the charge to other suburban and rural Prides in the Houston area.”
Many may not realize this, but behind the scenes of every Pride event is grassroots information and resource sharing. “We’ve talked to Katy Pride, Columbus Pride, Fort Bend Pride, and even Abilene Pride, which is a lot farther away than the others. We’ve been trying to give them as many resources as we can,” says Rocha. “The Woodlands Pride has helped us a lot, just in the organization of things, and it’s going to be well received,” adds Rose.
Local Prides can also move the needle on pressing social issues. “The Woodlands Pride is actually the lead plaintiff on the SB12 lawsuit,” explains Rocha. “If you went to a drag show, some theater, or the Beyoncé concert since September 1, we’re one of the five reasons that that’s able to happen in the state of Texas.”
This kind of state-wide impact is a pretty remarkable feat for an organization that is only five years old. With SB12’s author, Sen. Bryan Hughes, planning to defend the bill all the way to the Supreme Court, The Woodlands Pride is poised to have a national impact.
Allies are welcome and needed at local Prides, too. “Katy Pride is about education. Even in 2023, we must dispel myths of what people think about the LGBTQ community,” says Rose. “And the allies need to be there to show love. I think what speaks volumes is when someone who’s not in the community shows up and stands out for people.” This sentiment is shared by The Woodlands Pride. “If you’re busy on the day of Pride, reschedule yourself to show up, even if it’s just for an hour,” adds Rocha. “When you have all these politicians attacking you and corporate sponsors pulling out, this is the time to show your support and be an active ally.”
No Pride can occur without volunteers and donations from the local community. Anyone looking to get involved with their local Pride organization or to donate is strongly encouraged to reach out and pitch in. “I invite everybody out there to share their resources to help make Texas a state where everybody can live freely, regardless of their gender, orientation, religion, or any of those things,” says Rocha.
WHAT: Katy Pride
WHEN: October 14
WHERE: First Christian Church of Katy 22101 Morton Ranch Rd.
WHAT: The Woodlands Pride
WHEN: October 21
WHERE: Town Green Park, 2099 Lake Robbins Dr.