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Old Gold & Black

Old Gold & Black

Scott Kull: The new Director of Athletics
Abigail Taylor, Contributing Writer • April 16, 2024

Have a little pride

The rainbow flag has symbolized equality for the LGBT movement since the 1970s.

It’s Saturday, Sept. 13 in Barnet Park. Street performers toss hula-hoops, and young adults with Technicolor hair browse booths decked out in rainbow. Event-goers carry miniature rainbow flags, a mirror image of the flag hoisted above the Spartanburg Area Chamber of Commerce.

“This is a position saying we’re welcoming to all, and we will not exclude any,” says Allen Smith, chamber CEO.

Not everyone echoes Smith’s cry for inclusion.

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“I ask everyone who does not hate these people but knows their lifestyle is wrong to lower our flag to half-staff those two days in sadness for the lost morality of our city,” says Larry Cochran of Boiling Springs. His opinion was published in The Stroller segment of the Spartanburg Herald Journal.

This year, protesters in suits stand outside of Barnet Park, carrying signs with Biblical references. Pride attendees blow kisses towards them, and the protesters leave after the pride parade at noon. Event police say that the protests have diminished with each passing year, though the protests themselves have always been present.

Lester Francen is president of The Foundation, a LGBT resource center located in Columbia, S.C. The Foundation hosts a series of support groups, including a transgender, bisexual, youth and men’s HIV groups. The organization hosts family events during pride festivals, such as the South Carolina Pride Festival on Sept. 20. People of all ages walk around the park, from little girls with rainbows painted on their cheeks to old women fanning themselves with rainbow disks.

“I like the openness of it, how everybody can come here, and they just feel free to be themselves,” says Ricky Bran- non. Brannon works a booth advertising his chiropractic practice. A plastic skeleton, wearing a shirt that says “Don’t be Gaycist,” sits in a chair behind the booth.

“I have several family members that are part of the lesbian and gay community,” says Brannon. Today, he shows his support while advertising to the LGBTQA community that they are welcome customers.

Chalondra Garrett and Sable Johnson also attended to support others, namely their friends.

“It raises awareness about all the different genders. It’s not just gay, bi, lesbian. It’s more than that,” says Garrett.

Garrett explains that asexuals, pansexuals and demisexuals are often left out of the conversation for equality. Asexuals do not experience sexual attraction towards others, pansexuals experience attraction to all genders and demisexuals experience sexual attraction only after a romantic bond forms.

Despite the awareness that many attendees claim Pride provides, Pride is not exempt from criticism within its own community.

The Gay Shame movement criticizes the commercialization of Pride festivals and the way in which businesses trans- form Pride into an opportunity to sell products.

Smith says, of the rainbow flag flying above the chamber: “Chambers of commerce are in the business of growing business.”

“We will not be satisfied with a commercialized gay identity that denies the intrinsic links between queer struggle and challenging power,” says the mission statement on the Gay Shame website.

The movement counters Pride festivals with theatrical displays that do not fit into the described “mainstream” culture. However, the event-goers at Barnet Park do not focus on the business aspect of the festival.

“It shows awareness that we’re here and it also creates a sense of community for everyone to feel more accepted and together,” says Converse student Asher, who refrains from giving his last name.

Asher’s name is one he chose for himself. “I picked it because it means happiness,” he says. Asher describes his favorite part of Pride: “Meeting other trans people.”

“Everyone’s cute,” adds his friend Katrean Hall. When I ask why they’ve attended Pride this year, Hall responds immediately.

“Because I’m gay,” she says.

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