Every October, Tucson Pride's annual festivities get bigger and better since they first happened almost four decades ago, and 2015 is no exception. But this time it's not just because of the group's growth, its increasing popularity or even simply the momentum behind its mission to promote LGBTQ events in Tucson.
In the grander scheme, of course, it's also because of the momentum behind advocacy for the entire LGBTQ community in the whole country.
On the local scale, we can be proud of how this year Tucson Pride's Pride in the Desert festival—including LGBT-related stage shows, vendors, music and much more (keep reading)—will happen exactly one year after same-sex marriage was legalized in Arizona.
And on the national scale, we can be dazzled thinking about how Pride in the Desert will happen exactly 83 days after same-sex marriage was legalized in all 50 states.
Folks in the LGBTQ ("lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning") community and their allies will forever commemorate the day of that U.S. Supreme Court decision. Now, less than three months later, we'll be giddily still riding the waves of celebration.
Just how will Tucson Pride help us do that, you may ask?
Well, first there's Pride on Parade on Saturday, Oct. 10, commencing at Catalina Park and ending with a big block party at Sky Bar. Both these venues are on Fourth Avenue, where Tucson Pride has tried to host its parade most years (missing it during construction for our new street car).
According to Tucson Pride President April Moss, "One of the things we really concentrate on is giving back to the community, so we reached out to the Fourth Avenue Merchants' Association to help build local business up. They were ecstatic." Now Moss thinks of Fourth Avenue as"basically (the parade's) home."
Along with people marching, there will be all kinds of floats and vehicles in the parade, representing local businesses and nonprofits—and, notably, a car with Tucson Pride's "Entertainer Grand Marshal" Tempest DuJour waving to the crowd (along with her husband and two children). DuJour lives in Tucson but is a national celebrity in the drag-queen world: She's appeared on RuPaul's Drag Race, season 7, hosts her wildly popular Retro Game Show Night at Club Congress and entertains at a wide variety of other events nationally.
DuJour will also be an emcee at Tucson Pride's main event, Pride in the Desert, which has had an annual attendance of 6,000 to 10,000 people, with about 80 vendors, and this year will take place a week after the parade at Kino Sports Complex. This event will feature food and beverage tents; kids' activities like a blow-up castle and obstacle course; three prominent drag-queen emcees; plus entertainers Paul Edgewater, Real Gone and others. Headline drag-queen dance divas will include Janice Robinson, Joi Cardwell, Amuka and Jacinta, an international recording artist who'll be singing a never-before-released song she's written specifically for this event.
Jacinta, in fact, will play one of the most important roles of all at Pride in the Desert. Besides being a renowned drag queen and singer, she also happens to be an ordained minister, which means she'll be orchestrating one of numerous same-sex marriages (and vow renewals) onstage for signed-up couples. Once married before the masses, these couples can access a VIP tent featuring many perks of a wedding reception—catered food, drink tickets, and their own post-wedding tent.
"We try to make it special," Moss says. "It's part of a statement—a special way to celebrate that event with other people."
Another one of the coolest things about Pride in the Desert will be a landmark speech by Grand Marshal Amanda Simpson, the current deputy assistant secretary of defense for Operational Energy at the U.S. Department of Defense—and a transgender woman. In 2010 Simpson made history as the first openly transgender person to be appointed by the Obama administration (or any other one), and this year she rose to her current Department of Defense position—making her the highest-ranking transgender appointee of any administration in history.
"Tucsonans should be really proud of what our community has to offer to the LGBTQ and transgender community," Moss says. In fact Tucson Pride (doing business as the Tucson Lesbian and Gay Alliance) is not only the biggest LGBTQ organization in the state—it's one of the biggest in the nation, started in 1977 (only seven years after those in San Francisco and New York). Since its founding, Tucson Pride has broken off into numerous other groups—Senior Pride, Neon Youth, Wingspan, and many others.
So, yes. These events are about celebrating marriage equality, celebrating people of all sexual orientations, celebrating love. They're also about fun.
Pride on Parade is free and will begin at Catalina Park, 900 N. Fourth Ave., at 6 p.m. Pride in the Desert will take place at Kino Sports Complex, 2500 E. Ajo Way, with gates opening at noon; general admission is $12 and VIP tickets are $50 (military members, seniors and student tickets are $8 and kids younger than 12 are free). Get more information at tucsonpride.org.