New Pride Celebrations Honor Iowa’s LGBTQ History

Today is the last day of LGBTQ History Month. It’s fitting that two Iowa communities hosted their first LGBTQ pride celebrations this month. Remembering the history of these celebrations is absolutely crucial. None of the progress our community has made would be possible without the hard work of the activists who came before.

We must remember the courageous heroes upon whose shoulders we stand, like Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera. These brave transgender women of color led the Stonewall Riots in 1969. The riots sparked the first Pride celebrations, and continue to help us remember and commemorate the importance of living openly, authentically, and unapologetically.

One of the cities that hosted a pride celebration earlier this month is Orange City, a community deep in northwest Iowa. As a native Iowan who grew up in northwest Iowa, I know the magnitude of holding a pride celebration in this area. Open and affirming spaces for LGBTQ people in the region are few and far between, and very vocal anti-LGBTQ politicians are voted into office there with alarming frequency.

Before the event, we spoke with the organizers to lend our support. They are outstanding men whose courage cannot be understated. Their choice to host a pride celebration in, arguably, one of the scariest places to hold such a celebration in our state is incredibly brave. It is also incredibly important.

Pride festivals provide a chance for LGBTQ Iowans to honor the spaces they’ve carved for themselves. They shine a beacon of hope in communities that may not otherwise be welcoming, sending a signal that being LGBTQ is something to be celebrated. Even for those who aren’t able to participate, they can offer a great deal of comfort by showing closeted people they are not alone. It gives me goosebumps to think of what this event represents to the LGBTQ people in Orange City who’ve never felt accepted. Finally, a celebration of who they are and who they love.

Orange City Pride faced some protest online, including criticism and calls to action from Iowa House Rep. Skyler Wheeler, Bob Vander Plaats of The Family Leader, and others. However, at least while we were present, there were no in-person protesters. Orange City Pride was a huge success, drawing a larger crowd than expected. I’m excited to see how it grows in the future.

Ames hosted its first pride celebration in October as well. Organizers in Creston also hosted a first-of-its-kind pride event earlier this summer. More and more Iowa communities are taking the first step to draw on our history and show their LGBTQ pride. This is an amazing trend that I hope to see continue for years to come. Being an LGBTQ Iowan is truly worth celebrating.

—Daniel Hoffman-Zinnel, One Iowa Executive Director