Monday, July 27, 2009

Making Progress In Pennsylvania

from The Patriot-News:

Life for gays in the midstate has gotten better, said residents who attended PrideFest of Central PA in Harrisburg on Saturday.

"Five years ago, I never thought I'd see anyone proposing same-sex marriage in Pennsylvania," said Sabrina Kreps of Harrisburg, who was at the festival with her partner, Patty Wilson of Lancaster.

William O'Donnell of Mechanicsburg said it seemed to him that fewer protesters were at Saturday's event than in years past.

"Our community has definitely come a long way," said O'Donnell, who sings in the Harrisburg Men's Chorus.

About a half-dozen protesters, holding large signs, staged a counter-parade, walking slowly northward on the sidewalk along North Front Street as the PrideFest parade worked its way south down the middle of the street.

One protester, with a microphone and public-address system, engaged in verbal jousting with each band, float and marching and performing group that passed.

Kreps could remember a time not long ago when it seemed that the only places gays could go in the midstate and feel socially accepted was the handful of "gay bars."

But these days, "I find my friends are hanging out in mainstream bars" more often and feeling more comfortable doing so, Kreps said.

She said there's still a long way to go. Her decision to be open about her homosexuality has cost Kreps her relationship with her natural family, she said.

"I had to find a new family. This is my chosen family. This is home," Kreps said, referring to the people and couples strolling up and down South Riverfront Park as part of the festival.

Observers noted how many young people were at the festival and how they seemed at ease with their sexuality. Wilson said it wasn't that easy for her growing up, and those memories will always remain.

"I'm old-school lesbian, and I put rainbow stickers on my car," whereas a lot of young gay people don't feel the need to do that, Wilson said.

Yet, Kreps said that there is still hostility and prejudice, and that there is a need for groups such as Common Roads, which helps gay and transgender youth come to grips with their sexuality. There are still too many young gay people committing suicide because of oppression, Kreps said.

She said the festival is a good way for gay youth and gays in general to learn about the resources and support services in this area.

"I have people call me asking, 'Do you know a counselor who is gay friendly?'" Kreps said. She said that's because professionals don't always feel comfortable advertising such services outside of events such as the festival.

The festival was held inside a fenced area along South Riverfront Park, where attendees paid $7 to enter.

Mark Smith, the parade chairman, estimated that the festival crowd would be at least as large as the 5,000 people who attended in 2008.

The annual PrideFest has been held since 1992. Smith said there were 50 parade entries this year compared to 42 last year. The parade was added to PrideFest in 2006.

"We had four marching bands this year, which was a first," Smith said. He also noted activities being held during this year's festival marking the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Inn protest in New York City in 1969. That event is considered a milestone for the gay rights movement in the United States.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Take your demented life style and put it in the bath house where it belongs. I'm sick and tired of you perverts trying to make normal people think you're normal. This is why people have had it with you fags.