JAMESTOWN – Jamestown’s first ever pride festival worked to highlight the importance of transgender rights and fairness to those in the LGBTQIA+ community.
With support from the Pride Steering Committee and organizer Sheridan Smith, the event took shape Saturday after a year on hold due to COVID-19.
Festivities kicked off with a flag raising at city hall, where Jamestown Mayor Eddie Sundquist joined those in the transgender community to support their rights.
“If you are a transgendered individual, a person of the trans community, and you need to change your name, you need to change your gender, you need to change anything about what the government has given you, you need to go through state Supreme Court,” explains Sundquist. “And what you face are judges that have no idea what it’s like to live your life, what it’s like to make that public information about changing a part of you that was assigned at birth, or assigned by the government.”
That’s why Sundquist says vying for judicial candidate Grace Hanlon to the state court is important for the pride community.
“To have a member of the LGBT community be a judge, the first judge in the history of our district of the eight counties of Western New York to be an LGBT judge that knows what that feels like, is something we have never seen,” explained Sundquist.
Long-time advocate for LGBTQIA+ rights, Helen Walters, was among those in the transgender community who spoke out about the importance of hosting the affair.
“Pride is our defense. The first thing the people that wanna put us back in the closet do is try to shame us. Every criticism of the LGBTQ community has the phrase, “shame on you” attached to it,” explains Walter. “You’re a sinner, shame on you. It’s unnatural, shame on you. You’re abusing children, shame on you. Shame is the tool they try to use to push us back into the closet. And the way to fight that shame is to say, ‘hell no.’ I don’t buy that premise. I am proud of who I am. I am proud of who I present myself to be.”
The group then honored victims of the 2016 Pulse Nightclub shooting. Festivities then continued throughout the day and into the evening highlighting the importance of allyship and accepting those who are different.