Gulfport | The LGBTQ Resource Center has announced a series of Pride events beginning May 31 and culminating June 24 at the St. Pete Pride Festival.
The resource center is a project of the non-profit Circle of Friends, the organization which supports the Gulfport Public Library. In February, the American Library Association awarded the library with the Newlen-Symons Award for Excellence for serving the LGBTQ community for its dedication to programming and awareness.
“We have a very active LGBTQ Resource Center committee so we always have programming,” the library’s director Dave Mather says, noting the committee’s desire to focus heavily on events in June. “We get anywhere between 50 and 150 people for our programs.”
“We wanted to have at least one event every week during Pride month in addition to our regular programming,” Watermark contributor and LGBTQ Resource Center committee member Greg Stemm adds. “Pride Month is really when we kind of kick into high gear.”
The month-long celebration will begin May 31 with the raising of the Pride flag in Gulfport. While it’s been flown above the Gulfport Public Library in the past, this year will see Mayor Sam Henderson and City Councilmember Paul Ray join in to speak at an official event.
“The city of Gulfport is dedicated to supporting the LGBTQ community and promoting an all-encompassing environment for our patrons during National Pride Month,” Ray said via press release, “and all year-round.”
Following the flag raising ceremony, artists will gather for the opening reception of the second annual “ArtOut” event. The show will feature work by nearly a dozen LGBTQ artists, who will attend the reception to showcase their work in oils, acrylics, photography, ceramics and more. The free show will run through June in the library.
On June 7, fan favorite performer Matthew McGee will debut “Waltzing Matilda” in the city’s Catherine Hickman Theater. The all-ages country western cabaret will feature songs by country music’s biggest stars and is described as an “autobiographical honky tonk revue” that’s “more ‘Hee Haw’ than CMA.”
The Tampa Bay International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival (TIGLFF) will also present “Reel in the Closet” on June 14 for the resource center’s Pride installment of their monthly film series. The documentary details “the real lives of LGBTQ people from the past through hundreds of never before seen home movies dating back to the 1930s.”
“It’s kind of a big deal in that it’s not something you can see in most places just yet,” Mather says of the film. “We had to reach out to the actual people who created it.”
On June 19, the LGBTQ community and local faith leaders from the Interfaith Tampa Bay Pride Worship Service will join together to discuss spirituality. “Can I Be Gay and Still Be Spiritual?” will offer Christian and non-Christian viewpoints, with short presentations about faith traditions during a “lunch and learn” program.
“There’s a wide variety of different faiths represented,” Stemm says. “Each person in the panel will talk about how they’re trying to make their own faith journeys more welcoming to LGBTQ people. There will be an opportunity for people to ask questions about some relatively controversial issues.”
“Obviously because we’re a public library we can’t go for one side or the other,” Mather adds, “but perspectives like that where you have a whole bunch of different perspectives [allows] people [to] take home what they want. It’s several different faiths so you get different perspectives.”
An “Open Mic and Poetry Slam” will follow on June 21 at the library, hosted by community advocate Sam Obeid. The evening will feature slam poetry, readings and storytelling, with a special guest appearance by Gulfport Poet Laureate Peter Hargitai.
The month of festivities will come to a close June 24 at the LGBTQ Resource Center’s booth at this year’s St. Pete Pride Festival, but programming is year-round. “In a normal community if you wanted to find gay people you go to a bar or a Pride celebration,” Stemm says. “If you want to find gay people in Gulfport you go the library, which is kind of a cool thing.”
Image from City of Gulfport website