The Phoenix Pride Parade features 2,000 individual participants with decorated vehicles, colorful floats and thousands of walkers, with more than 15,000 spectators.

Arizona’s largest annual LGBTQ event kicked off Saturday at Steele Indian School Park, where more than 30,000 are expected to celebrate an inclusive community that continues to fight for its rights nearly a half-century after Stonewall

The two-day Phoenix Pride festival has championed the local LGBTQ community for more than three decades. This year’s packed party drew both first-timers and veterans to midtown Phoenix.

Unity is at the core of the 2018 Phoenix Pride Festival, as evidenced by its theme: “United We Stand, Equality For All.” 

The colorful, diverse crowd was full of rainbows symbolizing pride for LGBTQ people.

Groups of friends snapped photos and chatted by flags that billlowed in the breeze, while other scantily-clad celebrants bopped on a dance floor to songs by Cardi B and Lady Gaga.

MORE: A year after snub at Pride Parade, Trans Queer Pueblo launches week of action

Others forayed into the adults-only Erotic World tent, which featured live performances from both male and female burlesque dancers.

Some came with family. Others arrived with friends. And some left with new ones. 

‘People just understand you here’

First-timer Liam Daumke, 14, draped himself in the pink, blue and white transgender flag under the shade of a tree. He said he felt welcomed and embraced as a transgender boy at Pride.

“To come here and have people know that I’m trans is a nice feeling,” he said. “It’s amazing to see that people just understand you here.”

Daumke was joined by his mother, Debra, 45, who said her son receives a ton of support from friends and family. She wishes more people whose children transition to their affirmed gender had the same comfort.

“I’m happy a lot of minds are changing these days,” she said. “If your kids come to you about this – listen. Don’t think it’s just a phase. It’s not a bad thing. Just love your child and listen. Everything is going to be okay.” 

Kendra Tonan-Lizzarago, the president of Trans Spectrum Arizona, said she’s seen a positive change in people’s perception of their transgender peers in recent years but there’s still more to do.

Tonan-Lizzarago’s organization is the largest support group for transgender adults in the Valley. They host weekly meetings with trans and gender non-conforming people and their families to cultivate a sense of belonging and appreciation in their community.

They typically receive an influx of new participants following events like Pride. She said she’s willing to make herself “a bright shining beacon for people to look to me when they need help.” 

Local meet-up group offers alternative

Jonny Stanciu, the creator of Phoenix meet-up group More Than Bars aims to empower people to find purpose and a community at more places than the line for cocktails. Stanciu, 26, started the volunteer organization in 2016 and spearheads movie nights, chili cook-offs and hiking activities to bring people together. 

The group has attracted more than 900 people on Facebook and has grown into a collection of hobbyists sharing their passions.

“I was initially surprised by the response,” he said. “We get a huge mix of members that includes older people, couples, sober or religious people who don’t want to hang out in bars because our community is more than drinking.”

That doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with cruising the bar scene. It’s just about having options, Stanciu added. 

“You can do more with your life than you know. You have more potential than you think,” he said.



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