Druid City Pride Week kicked off LGBT history month with a packed schedule, including a festival, a film screening and more. All ages were encouraged to connect and celebrate with pride.
Lotus DiArmani, Miss Druid 2020, performed throughout Druid City Pride (DCP) Week to the tune of cash and Katy Perry. The entranced audience, who held out bills for the queens to accept as they danced and death-dropped, had nothing but support for DiArmani and the other performers. But these kinds of events are important to reduce negative stigmas that continue to persist about the LGBTQ community, DiArmani said.
“As drag queens, we represent the community at large,” DiArmani said. “We need to make sure that we are here supporting each other and also being at the forefront of the fight. As drag queens, we’re looked at as strong personalities in our community that are willing to get up in heels and dresses and sweat profusely, but in the South it has been very hard to overcome the stigma that gay is less-than.”
DiArmani said the LGBT community is made up of the people “that you see day in and day out” and that they should be treated equally.
“In the South, gay people are ridiculed,” DiArmani said. “We are seen as less-than and second-class citizens. And this isn’t just for gay people – it’s the LGBT community at large, and so I’m here today to celebrate us as lesbians, gay, bisexual, transgender, our queer, intersexual, our ally community.”
Russell Howard, the president of the board of directors for DCP, grew up in Tuscaloosa. He said that as a child, being exposed to the type of diverse representation that DCP is currently providing to the community would have been beneficial.
“I was born and raised here,” Howard said. “It was because of religious upbringing that I was a very late bloomer in coming out because of convictions and things like that. For me now, looking back at the person that I was, I think it would’ve been phenomenal to be able to see an organization that’s so proud of who they are and allows spaces where people can come and show that pride.”
Kim Colburn, a founding member of the DCP board, said that the organization has been striving to create a range of events to encourage a variety of people to attend and support the week of pride. She said this year there’s been a greater range of demographics represented during the week.
“We try to give a little variety and make sure that there’s family events and specifically events where it’s not bar-centered or alcohol-centered so everyone has the opportunity to come out,” Colburn said.
The first-ever Druid City Pride drag brunch was one of these events. Though alcohol was present, the family-friendly event featured a chicken-and-waffles-filled, action-packed show for all ages to enjoy.
“At almost all of our events it’s been a different crowd, which is great because it means we’re allowing space for someone else who maybe didn’t feel comfortable at another one but felt comfortable at this one,” Howard said.
Families filled Government Plaza for the Druid City Pride Festival, too, rounding out the final day of the week of pride. Elizabeth Blewitt, a UA alumna, has observed the growth of the celebration throughout the years of DCP.
“It’s just gotten bigger every single year,” Blewitt said. “There’s been more events and more people being here to show support, and seeing more and more younger faces as the years go by is just amazing. There are kids here now. The first year, it was just a bunch of adults and UA students.”
As another Tuscaloosa native, Blewitt said watching the pride celebration expand in her hometown has been significant.
“Seeing this happen in my hometown is just so great,” Blewitt said. “God, it just makes my heart want to fall out of my ass, there’s no other way to describe it. It’s just so joyful.”
Jessica Rentz, the president of the University’s undergraduate LGBTQ organization, Spectrum, said the event allows the LGBT community to connect and have a good time.
“It’s an opportunity for people who maybe get a little tired and worn down during the regular year to come and kind of get jazzed with each other,” Rentz said. “It’s really just a feel-good event. Roll Pride.”