4.23.15 Editor’s Desk

By : Steve Blanchard
Comments: 0

SteveCapHealthy competition is good. It motivates both parties to reach new goals and allows benchmarks to be celebrated together.

But there seems to be an unhealthy competition brewing in Tampa Bay, and I hope the LGBT community will stand together to stop it.

There is a ridiculous competition between the long-lasting St. Pete Pride and the brand new Tampa Pride.

At events for both celebrations, remarks have been made to mock the other. During Tampa Pride’s VIP reception at Hamburger Mary’s, a grand marshal suggested Tampa Pride would show St. Pete Pride how to throw a party. That’s silly, considering St. Pete Pride is the largest LGBT celebration south of Atlanta.

At the St. Pete Pride kick-off celebration at Enigma, an elected official made a similar statement trying to downplay Tampa Pride’s inaugural success, which surpassed everyone’s expectations on March 28.

And a board member of St. Pete Pride even posted on social media that the 35,000 attendance numbers at Tampa Pride provided to media by the Tampa Police are somehow inaccurate. I believe the phrase used was “Watermark math”—whatever that means.

Isn’t the point of LGBT Pride to move equality forward together as one community? Aren’t these celebrations supposed to highlight the LGBT community in a positive light while celebrating who we are as individuals and families?

I thought our message was a united one that strives to show LGBTs are no different than our heterosexual counterparts.

Why then are these organizations showing so much bitterness toward each other?

For years, St. Pete Pride and Come Out With Pride had an unofficial competition that was done admirably and correctly. Both organizations challenged each other every year to see who could attract a larger audience.

For years one would barely outdo the other. And each year those numbers motivated each to improve its celebration and reach out more to the LGBT community and the community at large. Both organizations accomplished some amazing things and threw spectacular events.

But something has changed—and it’s hurting our cause. Pride organizations are busy tearing down what they perceive as “competition” rather than applauding the successes of neighboring cities, governments and volunteer groups. There’s a new “nice try, but we do it better” mentality that has turned what should be a community effort into a conflict akin to a gladiator battle.

Enough!

I admit. The success of the inaugural Tampa Pride surprised me. The numbers were double what I expected—and several board members have told me they were happily surprised as well. The energy in Ybor City that day was positive and electric. It was the same familiar energy that is felt on St. Petersburg’s Central Avenue every June when St. Pete Pride commemorates the Stonewall Riots and each October around Lake Eola when Come Out With Pride shows it’s rainbow colors.

How are such positive energies and large messages of acceptance a bad thing?

Why would it be seen as a threatening gesture to other LGBTs and LGBT organizations?

It shouldn’t and it doesn’t.

Pride season is here, and like the Christmas season it seems to arrive earlier and earlier each year. With new regional celebrations added to the list, LGBT Pride has turned into a quarterly—if not year-round—event.

Central Florida’s LGBT community has a unique opportunity that many other metropolitan areas of the country lack. We have multiple chances to celebrate who we are in a very public way. That’s what makes our communities so strong and why equality measures are passing on a local level, despite challenges on the state level in Tallahassee.

Victories are coming every day and in various forms. Legislation now protects us in most of the state, same-sex couples can legally marry here and the transgender community is finally getting the attention and protections it deserves after too many years of silence.

Pride celebrations are a big part of why these victories are happening—and it isn’t just one Pride organization delivering these amazing messages for LGBTs in Florida. It’s every single one of them.

We’re a community that’s used to challenges and one that thrives on healthy competition. Let’s get back to that way of thinking.

I promise, we’ll all be better off because of it.

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