U.S. Pride Committees Travel to Boston for InterPride Conference
Pride has always been the flashiest way for the LGBT community to celebrate its triumphs over adversity, but because we exist across the globe, it can be difficult to us to join forces and ideas. Hence InterPride, the International Association of Pride Organizers and Organizations, was created in Boston in 1982 to provide workshops on producing LGBT Pride events. On the weekend of Oct. 10-13, delegates from across the country celebrated 30 years of Pride by returning to the city where it all began for Interpride 2012, a conference that provided workshops, networking brunches and even a gala.
During the four-day event, held at the Boston Sheraton, members of various Pride committees and LGBT groups came together to discuss the many aspects of Pride celebrations. Among the many options for the delegates were workshops to help improve PR, use social media better and even be more inclusive within the community itself.
One conference, entitled "Grassroots Organizing and Community Mobilization," focused on just that. Daniel Heller, founder of The Welcoming Committee, a group in Boston that encourages the LGBT community to create their own events around town, said that despite low attendance, the workshop was a big success.
"It was very inspiring to have a discussion about how such a diverse set of communities around the world are attacking similar problems [community building in a diverse minority] in different ways," said Heller.
Pride Montreal’s committee focused on building an app and getting more visitors from outside the metro area to come to their festival in August.
"A lot of people confuse Diversité with Pride. A lot of visitors come in July [to the former] thinking it’s a Pride festival, but there’s no parade or parties," said Steven Ross, who works on PR for the group.
Reaching Out to the Press to Publicize Pride Events
Another major issue discussed, and heatedly at some points, was the press. During a workshop called "Dealing With the Press: What Do They Really Want?," delegates demanded to know how to get in the news. On the panel were several local celebrities, including Randy Price (the first openly gay news anchor), Fast Freddie from Mix 104.1 and Jim Clerkin from Kiss 108 FM.
While many delegates were eager to point out their issues with the press -- for example, a lack of visibility, bad press and broken promises -- the panel was quick to fire back with adequate responses.
"Pride committees need to learn how to reach out," said Sue O’Connell, the editor-in-chief of Bay Windows. "Hire PR firms and tells us more than a week before the event is happening." She suggested a month lead-time for local press items.
In addition, Randy Price said Pride parades aren’t a story anymore.
"Pride happens all over the world now. The press wants something deeper. Work all the angles and start with the sexiest elements," he said, half-jokingly, meaning that only the interesting stories will get coverage.
After Joanne from Canada asked how to be more inclusive of the trans community, EDGE Publisher and CEO David Foucher, also on the panel, gave some sound advice. Foucher said that stories need to resonate with readers, otherwise they won’t bother to investigate further. O’Connell quickly added that people should remember that the press is there to get readers and sell advertisements.
Another major problem preventing Pride coverage is the overhead companies that own the press outlets, many of which are highly conservative, said Clerkin. It’s clear that the mainstream media is still wary of LGBT-related stories.
Making Seniors a Part of Gay Pride
While dealing with the press seemed to be a contentious issue for all Pride committees, another workshop on how to include seniors was warmly embraced by all ages interested in hearing what local groups for the elderly LGBT community had to say.
Including seniors is a critical part of Pride, the panel said -- and Boston knows it. Every year, the city donates one of its trolleys to carry those who can’t walk the mile-and-a-half parade route. Beyond that, the trolley allows wheelchair-ridden people to get on and off to shake the hands of people who may not have any idea what the elderly have done for younger generations.
One delegate in attendance asked how the panel felt about the "Speedo-wearing twinks running around on parade day," who treat Pride as a just another reason to drink and have sex.
Essentially, the question was one of how does the community get younger adults and teens to understand the history and struggles of LGBT life since the 1960’s?
Surprisingly, the panel members said that it was not the partiers that bother them, as they often combine both the educational and celebratory aspects of Pride together by volunteering throughout the year.
Instead, they took issue with middle-aged members of the community, who might be too afraid of their own fate to talk to seniors, and choose to look the other way and not celebrate all the progress laid out before them.
The State of Gay Civil Rights Throughout the World
Lastly, the status of LGBT communities around the world was discussed in two separate workshops, one with returned Peace Corps members and the other discussing Cuba.
Unsurprisingly, Peace Corps members shared that they were forced back in to the closet for two years as they completed service. Places like Belize, Jordan and Armenia have done very little to advance human rights over the past decade and there’s no sign of improvement coming in the near future.
With strained relations between the U.S. and Cuba, it was surprising to hear that the island nation is surprisingly open and supportive of its LGBT community. Thanks to Mariela Castro, Cuban President Fidel Castro’s daughter, same-sex couples have achieved great strides in gaining human rights since the 1990s.
While marriages are not considered valid, educational campaigns by the National Center for Sex Education (run by Mariela Castro), promote understanding and acceptance. The center also offers state-funded sexual reassignment surgery.
All in all, Pride committees reported being incredibly satisfied with what they heard over the four-day event, and expect business to be booming come Pride season in 2013.
For more info on the Interpride Conference, visit http://interpride.org/