“As some of you may know, June is International Pride Month,” said PrideFest organizer Jared Brown last month in his address to the Fairfield City Council. “Pride was born out of a need to push back against the establishments that actively target and oppress queer voices. . . . Today, pride is exceedingly important for community, visibility, and activism, as time has proven progress is not easily won or maintained.” As a result of efforts by the Fairfield Queer Parliament, Fairfield will join with cities across the world to celebrate Pride Month with three days of activities June 24–26.
Documented advocacy for LGBTQ+ equality in the United States goes back to the early 1920s. Like other minority groups, the LGBTQ+ community has experienced over 100 years of discriminatory legislation that results in unequal healthcare access and Iowa’s version of the “Don’t Say Gay Bill,” Senate File 2024. The joy and exuberance of Pride celebrations is in stark contrast to the sobering political landscape.
“Pride is very important because we’re hoping we can show the whole town that 1) queer people are definitely here, and 2) queer people are good people, and they’re your friends and your neighbors, your allies,” says Star Dust, a Fairfield Queer Parliament Member. “We’re trying to show the town that we are fun.” Pride Month is also meant to demonstrate that the LGBTQ+ community is a loving and open group. “It’s sad that we don’t know and understand each other. So we’re hoping that pride will bring us all together and show the town that we are a community, and to be a community means supporting each other. Everyone is welcome to our event, just like everyone should be welcomed here. We are hoping to build more community and more connections within and around the Fairfield area.”
PrideFest is about more than building bridges. “We want to celebrate achieving construction of this beautiful and robust LGBTQ+ community in Fairfield,” says Hannah. “Additionally, we donate profits to charities that support our queer community, like the Trevor Project, this year’s beneficiary.”
“We picked the Trevor Project,” explains Star Dust, “because there’s a branch locally in Des Moines, and the Trevor Project is a organization that helps queer youth minorities. [The Trevor Project] helps them with finding a therapist, they’ll help find hotlines for safe spaces, they provide free information. Essentially, if you are a queer youth that needs help, or if you’re in a household that’s unsafe to come out in, or if you’re trans and you need materials . . . the Trevor Project helps with that. They also provide a lot of free information online about statistics when it comes to queer minority groups. Their statistics are not just plucked out of thin air, their statistics are from actual doctoral peer-reviewed studies.”
One research finding featured on the Trevor Project’s website is that, “LGBTQ youth who live in a community that is accepting of LGBTQ people reported significantly lower rates of attempting suicide than those who do not.” Additionally, “Access to LGBTQ or LGBTQ-supportive role models improves mental well-being among LGBTQ youth. Positive portrayals of LGBTQ people in the media help to reduce feelings of social isolation and invisibility.” Pride is one way of battling that isolation and invisibility and demonstrating community support.
“PrideFest is for everyone,” says Hannah. “We have events for families, events for 21+, and events to rope in all of our lovely allies. We are supporting local LGBTQ+-owned businesses. We want everyone to have a time to celebrate.” This year’s Pride event will be the most extensive ever, Hannah says, with events ranging from queer performances to a family picnic.
The festivities begin Friday night, June 24, with a Safe Space Crawl 5 p.m. at Noble House Kava at 115 N. Main St. This tour of locally owned businesses celebrates places that are proudly committed to inclusivity and accessibility.
Events on Saturday, June 25, begin at 3 p.m. in Howard Park with family games, music, and vendors featuring local artists and craftspeople. At 5:30 p.m., Fairfield’s first official Pride March will begin, led by longtime queer activist and Fairfield resident Jared Brown. “We encourage people to dress loud and proud!” says the group’s Facebook page. “We are practicing our right to march and be seen. Flags, banners, signs if you want!”
At 6:30 p.m., a free family-friendly Pride Show begins at the Fairfield Arts and Convention Center. One feature of Pride Shows is drag performance art, which makes fun of gender stereotypes. “The family show is going to be a fun and interactive show with the live performers. That includes comedy sketches, singing and dancing, and ad libbing,” says Star Dust. “It’s family oriented, we make sure to do stuff that’ll make everyone laugh from all ages.”
The 8 p.m. Extravaganza for ages 18 and up gets edgy and political, hosted by Burlesque performer Leo LaFlash of Des Moines. “During the nighttime show, we really let loose and let go of any inhibitions and really dive deep,” says Star Dust, whose performances have layered references to social issues and pop culture, including The Peacemaker and Bo Burnham. While the earlier show avoids anything inflammatory, the show for adults does not shy away from political commentary. “I believe that it’s an artist’s duty when they have a platform to use that platform to speak up,” Star Dust says. All performances will be professional, and many will feature beloved local drag characters. The show is immediately followed by an after party in the Arts and Convention Center. Tickets are $15 at the door.
Sunday, June 26, returns to all-ages festivities with a Pride Family Picnic at 1 p.m. in Central Park. Live music includes performances by Lore Oliver and Hannelore Burghart. People are encouraged to bring blankets or chairs to sit on, and bring food or get lunch from local businesses on the square. Interested food vendors can email email@example.com to reserve a space.
For the Fairfield Queer Parliament and the LGBTQ+ community, PrideFest is only a small part of the work to be done. “We are hoping that Pride helps tear down a lot of the misinformation that’s been spread about the LGBTQ+ community, trans folk, and minorities,” says Star Dust. “There’s this fear that, you know, we are going to take away from their rights, when in reality, we just want equality.”
There are many ways to support the LGBTQ+ community. The most critical is voting. “Stop voting for anyone who oppresses, cuts funding, perpetuates misinformation, or takes away access to healthcare,” says Hannah.
“Stop voting for politicians that are openly against and discriminatory towards minority groups, whether they be people of color or LGBTQ+. [Stop voting for] people that have called trans people and queer folx groomers,” Star adds. “Do your research. Type in the name and who you want to vote for and their stance on LGBTQ+. It’s very, very easy to find who is and who is not for us.” Star Dust also advises voting with your dollar, buying more from locally owned queer businesses and avoiding purchases from large corporations that fund discriminatory lobbying. Again, it’s a matter of a simple internet search.”
On a personal, day-to-day level, Star Dust says that if you “hear something that is questionably discriminatory towards any of these minority groups, all you have to do is ask a question. Hey, why do you feel that way? What makes you say that? Does that sound a little off? Question yourself on a daily basis. The words that you speak have power. And question your friends, question your family. You don’t have to confront them, just question.”
Hannah adds, “Listen to your queer community when they ask for what they need, when they organize, when they tell you how to treat them.”
The Fairfield Queer Parliament is currently seeking volunteers for PrideFest. If you are interested in volunteering, please email Star Dust firstname.lastname@example.org.
Donations are also needed. “We donate all proceeds to the Trevor Project, but we have a lot of upfront costs. We need to make sure we can put on this event again and again. Many of us pay for things out of pocket. Help us make this event sustainable by donating.” You can Venmo Hannah (@HannahNichols1) or make checks payable to Hannah Nichols and drop them off at Noble House, 115 N. Main St., Fairfield.
During his speech to the City Council, Jared emphasized the importance of Pride in establishing a welcoming community. “It allows a deep look at our queer past, present, and future, and says to those who may be isolated in their queerness, ‘You are not alone.’ It allows us to celebrate the amazing queer people who got us here and reminds us we have a long way to go.”