Pittsburgh Pride attracts advocates of LGBT support, visibility

Pittsburgh PrideFest Downtown
Zach Landau | A&E Editor
Pittsburgh PrideFest Downtown
Zach Landau | A&E Editor

Zach Landau | A&E Editor

This past weekend, much of the nation was alight with Pride, and Pittsburgh did not sit out on the action.

The celebrations here started on June 4 with the Ready. Set. Pride! party in Shadyside. The festivities continued when Pride weekend began on Friday with a Michael Jackson tribute concert, followed later by a pub crawl to LGBT-friendly bars throughout the city.

PrideFest also overtook Liberty Ave. in the Downtown district, with booths lining both sides of the street and concert stages bookending the festivities. Beginning Saturday and stretching into Sunday, over 150 vendors were featured, according to the official Pittsburgh Pride website, and Jennifer Hudson later headlined for the evening’s Pride in the Street concert.

Pittsburgh has a long history with Pride, starting back in 1973, according the website.

“About 150 hardy marchers,” the website says, “trekked uphill from Market Square to Flagstaff Hill in Oakland.” The first Pittsburgh Pride also featured a “‘mod painted’ streetcar” and an evening dance.

Throughout its history, Pittsburgh Pride has had its ups and downs. Starting strong during the ‘70s, the event virtually disappeared throughout the ‘80s until ‘91. The ‘92 parade saw a respectable crowd size of 1000, but after rain dampened enthusiasm and turnout in ‘93, crowd sizes dwindled into the low hundreds until the ‘00s.

In the past decade, however, those attendance numbers are already back into the thousands, with 2014 seeing more than 95,000 attendees.

While all came to Pride to celebrate queer awareness, everyone also had their personal reasons to make an appearance at the event.

For example, Duquesne digital media arts senior Grace Cochran celebrated the chance for the queer community to be themselves in an open space.

“I attended pride because it’s a celebration that allows [the] LGBTQIA community to be seen and basically unearthed from a generally heteronormative world/city,” Cochran said.

Cochran also acknowledged that there is still progress to be made in representing members of the community and that the struggle for inclusion will be long.

“There’s a long way to go,” Cochran said, “so right now [Pride’s] a celebration and protest at the same time, and that’s what it will always be.”

Senior early childhood education major Christina Luise attended Pride as an ally for her queer friends.

“I went to Pride because people in the LGBTQ community deserve to be loved and accepted,” Luise explained.

“People who comprise the LGBTQ community deserve love, acceptance, solidarity, and support,” she said.

Even religious leaders came out to show their support for Pride.

Pastor Richard Krug from St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, for example, wanted to demonstrate his congregation’s support of the LGBT community.

“In our country right now, we seem to be taking some steps backwards, where it’s becoming less safe to be a sexual minority,” Krug explained. “And so we want to be a voice that keeps calling for that inclusion, that full justice, that full equality.”

Krug was joined by Pastors Allyn Itterly and Jennifer Fuhr at their PrideFest booth. Both Krug and Itterly are openly gay and have worked to make their churches a more welcoming space for queer people in their congregation.

“When we came out, we had two young people in our congregation who then came out,” Itterly explained.

Itterly emphasized the importance of inclusion rather than simple acceptance for her church, Prince of Peace Lutheran Church.

“This is not, ‘We’re tolerating you.’ We’re walking with you,” Itterly explained. “We’re supporting you. We’re encouraging you. We’re empowering you.”

Fuhr is an ally and hopes to have her church, Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, become a LGBT-friendly place in the future, as well. Currently, she and her congregation are “having a conversation of what it means to be a welcoming community.”

Fuhr looks to Krug and Itterly for guidance in growing her congregation.

“These two are my inspiration,” Fuhr explained. “As an ally, stepping into a new ground … this is enlightening to me and very welcoming that these folks have been through so much and travel this journey with their people.”

To “share peace and hope” is the purpose of Pride for Fuhr.

“That’s what today is all about,” she said. “And this is just fantastic to see such different cultures and different demographics coming together for this specific reason, to spread this love.”