Queerbomb and Austin Black Pride Kick Off Season of LGBTQ Celebrations

The city proves that pride has no limits

Queerbomb 2017 (Photo by John Anderson)

Across the country, Pride season kicks off June 1, and for the past nine years, Austin has marked its arrival with Queerbomb, our anti-corporate alt-Pride, which falls on the first Saturday of the month. This year, however, Queerbomb won't be the only LGBTQ celebration on the block. Austin Black Pride, now in its third year of existence, has officially moved its weeklong assortment of events to June – starting Tuesday, June 5, and running through Sunday, June 10. The city's largest Pride event (Austin Pride) closes out the season with a festival and parade on August 11. Despite rising costs and extraneous drama, the three gatherings remain adamant in their relevance.

For some outside the conversation, numerous events targeting unique subsets of the city's LGBTQmmunity may seem excessive, but to the folks organizing there's no such thing as too much Pride. Queerbomb volunteer Brian Zabcik, who previously worked with AIDS activist organization ACT UP in New York, considers it a sign of the city's maturity to recognize the "diversity in [the queer] community," he says. The more events, the more that's reflected. He cites Manhattan's Drag March, Dyke March, Gay Pride Parade, and numerous pride festivals thrown throughout the boroughs as a prime example.

Queerbomb, while welcome to everyone, caters to the city's queer community and strives to commemorate Pride's riot roots (honoring the 1969 Stonewall Riots, which is credited for starting the Gay Rights movement). Unlike mainstream Pride parades, Queerbomb's yearly procession is purposefully led down Sixth Street – a typically unsafe space for LGBTQ folks. It's intended to be both an act of resistance and a showing of community support.

Yet the existence of Queerbomb has never lessened the importance of Austin Pride. In recent years, there's been a lot of crossover between events. Former Pride President Paul Huddleston, who stepped down in February, tells me he's been attending Queerbomb for years. Several current board members, including the new president, Micah Andress, say they too are longtime supporters. It's a sign of community growth, considering QB was created in 2010 in response to – what was then – a corporate, cisgender Pride run by a predominantly white gay board. The mainstream event has spent a good deal of effort working to encompass a greater swath of Austin's qmmunity, as made evident last year when they appointed two of the city's notable black queer leaders, Counter Balance: ATX co-founder Fatima Mann and Austin Black Pride President Sheldon McNeal, as the parade grand marshals.

McNeal applauds the work Pride has done and acknowledges it's "always fun to have a flagship event" that pulls in big names and throws grand parties. He also admits, no group has the bandwidth to focus on every sector of the community. Austin Black Pride (ABP for short) was formed in 2016 to address the city's lack of queer black spaces and spotlight issues particular to the QPOC/QTPOC communities. As the new kid on the block, ABP does things a little differently. There's no parade – or march – through Downtown. Instead, it offers numerous events targeting a wide range of ages and interests. And draw a crowd it does. McNeal says nearly 650 people attended ABP last year, with droves of folks coming in from San Antonio and Killeen.

When asked if the future of Pride is many smaller community events or one "mega-Pride," McNeal, Zabcik, and Andress agree: There can be an unlimited number of Prides. For McNeal, his ideal would be to separate groups with numerous partnerships – something he believes is already starting to happen. Zabcik says his goal is to find room for both smaller celebrations and larger events for the "whole community."

See “Gay Place” for event details, locations, and dates.

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Austin Pride, Queerbomb, Austin Black Pride, Fatima Mann, Sheldon McNeal, Brian Zabcik, Micah Andress, Paul Huddleston

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