The Daily Gamecock

South Carolina pride weekend draws thousands, fosters inclusion of local LGBTQIA+ community

The 2021 South Carolina Pride Parade and Festival celebrated the LGBTQIA+ community in South Carolina through performances and events this weekend.

Main Street swirled with color from patrons' representative clothing and flags worn in a cape-like fashion. The street was lined with tents from local food vendors, political groups, inclusive religious denominations from around the area and more.

The South Carolina pride weekend’s events consisted of a lit-up night parade with floats on Friday and an all-day celebratory festival on Saturday. These events focused on fun for members of the LGBTQIA+ community and allies and represented an array of communities in support of the LGBTQIA+ movement.

The event resumed its annual experience last weekend after the precautions taken for COVID-19 in 2020 halted it. Two years ago, thousands of South Carolinians attended South Carolina pride, with a 2019 peak of 85,000 people showing up for the LGBTQIA+ community.

The festival had two stages on Main Street with a variety of acts performing, such as Vanilla Ice, Sweet Sensation, Maddie Rean and select drag queens from the television competition RuPaul’s Drag Race.

USC third-year criminal justice student Lauren Nagel and third-year education student Emily Nettles both attended South Carolina pride for the first time on Saturday and were eager to see what the festival had to offer.

“I’m excited for the drag queens, because they seem so cool. And, I got a free mom hug, so that was nice,” Nagel said, referencing a group of women giving out hugs as "moms" to support members of the LGBTQIA+ community who might have strained relationships with their families or just need a motherly embrace.

Though there was plenty of fun  — and drinks, for adult attendees  — the South Carolina Pride Festival also provided an atmosphere for families and children. One experience that represented this was D.R.A.G. Storytime, a Harriet Hancock LGBT Center sponsored segment, where drag queens and kings told inclusive stories to children through engaging performance.

“We like kids. They’re the future. I didn’t have this kind of representation growing up," drag queen storyteller Onya Nerves said. "Growing up with this availability to be who you are, what you are, and then having people read stories that identify with what you’re growing up in, is amazing."

At the festival, there were also individuals shouting through small megaphones to attendees about joining different religions. Other members of the religious community showed up to South Carolina pride to dispel the stereotype of the homophobic Christian and to promote love and acceptance of the LGBTQIA+ community. One such member was Judith Myers, a pastor at Emmanuel Baptist Fellowship.

“About half of our congregation is LGBT, and (being here) is supporting them and loving them, but also telling others, who may have been hurt by the church, who have been traumatized by the church, who have been told that the church doesn’t love them, that God doesn’t love them, that actually, let’s rethink that,” Myers said.

The South Carolina pride weekend has drawn to a close for this year, but the event will be back next fall for more inclusive and uplifting events for South Carolina’s LGBTQIA+ community.


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