The cherished summer charges on with Pride Month well behind us, but the work of creating our city as a welcome, inclusive and safe place for all continues. When we held the Newport Pride weekend at the end of June this year to celebrate LGBTQ+ community in our city, we were blown away with the enthusiasm for the events and the attendance at our Pride Festival and in the Pride Ride with Bike Newport. We were so grateful for the support from our sponsors, from our community partners and our friends at City Hall including our Mayor and councilors who worked with us to raise the rainbow flag atop City Hall for the duration of Pride month. That support mattered so much, as evidenced by the dozens and dozens of young people and families we saw and interacted with at Pride who were so grateful and excited to have a celebration like this in Newport. It sent them a very important message of, “you matter and you are welcome here.”

But the weekend wasn’t without its incidents of intolerance, which is why it felt important to write this letter to remind folks that Pride month exists for a reason and the work is definitely not done to make sure all our residents and visitors feel welcome, safe and included. 

A man with a dog came to the festival at Equality Park and was harassing some young people. I happened upon him and asked him to leave. His dog jumped up and bit my arm. Alarmed by the man and his aggressive dog he was struggling to control, we asked our police detail officer to step in. She quickly took care of the situation. As the man left, he was chanting “straight is the only way to date!” These teenagers were shaken but the crowd did a wonderful job making them feel safe and welcome. A friend on Warner Street flew a Pride Progress flag on the front of his house. Someone threw a rock through his window that Saturday night. We can’t know for certain if it was because of the flag, but I think it’s fair to assume it was. Another community member on Touro Street was flying a rainbow flag. They received a printed cartoon in the mail the next week sharing the sentiment of, “don’t force your gay propaganda down my throat.” There may have been other incidents, and if you know of any, we’d appreciate you letting us know at info@newportout.com

I don’t raise these blips of intolerance to bring us all down or to make us feel bad. I think by and large our community cares and recognizes the shared humanity of all people, including our LGBTQ+ members. But I share them to call us ALL to do the work to make sure our community is truly a safe, welcoming and inclusive space for all. And if you’re not sure what that means or what that looks like in practice, please follow our work at Newport Out and we’ll do our best to inform and educate you. Let’s find ways to celebrate Pride month all year long, not as some form of forcing propaganda on others but because we can agree on a value of dignity, respect and inclusion for ALL people regardless of color, culture, body type, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. 

Sean O’Connor

Co-Organizer, Newport Out

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