The City of Arlington will hold its first-ever LGBTQ+ Pride event June 11.
The event, free to all, will be hosted by the Arlington mayor’s LGBTQ+ Advisory Council and will take place from noon to 4 p.m. at the HELP Center for LGBT Health & Wellness in Arlington with live music, DJs, food, drinks and performances by drag queens.
Stefan Powdrill, the LGBTQ+ Advisory Council’s co-chair, said the council wanted to create the event to provide a safe space for the LGBTQ+ community in Arlington and introduce people to one another.
The council is trying to cultivate a community, given the strides for gay rights Arlington has recently made, Powdrill said.
In 2020, former Arlington Mayor Jeff Williams recognized June as Pride Month in the city. Jim Ross, who became mayor last year, proclaimed this month as Pride Month at a June 7 city council meeting.
Once he became mayor, Ross followed the Unity Council’s recommendation and formed the LGBTQ+ Advisory Council of about a dozen people, Powdrill said. While other advisory councils in Arlington target different demographics, the LGBTQ+ Advisory Council consists of multiple subcommunities.
“Men, women, nonbinary, old, young, Black, white, Asian American, anybody can be LGBT,” he said. “Our specific challenge is trying to cater to our entire community so that everyone in our community can feel safe.”
In an interview with The Shorthorn, Ross said he created the advisory councils to keep up with the different communities in Arlington and find out how the city can support them. Arlington is one of the most diverse cities in the country, and he celebrates what each of its communities brings to the table to better improve the city, he said.
It’s sad to see individuals oppose celebrating any demographic group that is helping the community, he said.
“I will continue to celebrate anybody that makes our community better, and the [LGBTQ+] community certainly helps make our entire community better,” Ross said.
Powdrill said the council began the planning of the process in March, and city officials have been supportive throughout the organizing process.
An Arlington resident since 2005, DeeJay Johannessen said Arlington has made great progress with accepting the LGBTQ+ community due to the nationwide approval for the community and individuals being comfortable to live openly and proudly.
Johannessen, LGBTQ+ Advisory Council co-chair and the CEO of the HELP Center for LGBT Health & Wellness, said he, Powdrill and others contributed their strengths to organizing the event.
While Powdrill is more engaged with the younger LGBTQ+ community in his volunteer work, Johannessen brings his experience with the city leadership, business owners and the HELP Center for LGBT Health & Wellness to organize the event.
The event is not only for young people or people in their 50s, but it’s about making it accessible and enjoyable for the LGBTQ+ community and its allies, he said.
The event drew the attention of both LGBTQ+ supporters and anti-gay activists who attended a city council meeting in May to speak about the event. Several who spoke against the event were members of Stedfast Baptist Church in Watauga, Texas. The Southern Poverty Law Center lists the church as an LGBTQ+ hate group.
Powdrill said the organizers are expecting protesters to be at the event and have been in contact with the police department’s LGBTQ liaison.
The growth of downtown Arlington and the entirety of the city, combined with a diverse UTA student population, make it the perfect time to host the city’s first-ever gay pride event, he said.
“This is what our LGBT community here in Arlington really needs. They need something right here at home to support. They need something to embrace, and this will be just the start of something that is going to be on the run for a long time,” Powdrill said.