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Why I Pride

Updated: Jun 10

Every year in May, rainbow pride flags trickle into my social media feed, beginning a slow simmer of excitement. By early June, the trickle grows to a deluge, and I’m flooded with colors and memes reminding me I belong to a community that fosters a culture of love and acceptance, regardless of someone’s ability, gender, sexual orientation or ethnicity. Thanks to this, during the month of June, I breathe easier and feel happier.

 

As a neurodivergent, queer kid growing up in Utah in the 80s, I didn’t love myself. No matter how hard I tried, I never succeeded in aligning my personality with social norms, and my failures left me feeling like an outsider. Without the internet, finding like-minded individuals involved a lot of searching, trial and error, and more than a few dead-ends . . . until I stumbled on the Utah Pride festival.

 

At the time, the Utah Pride festival was held at the Gallivan Center with only a few hundred people in attendance, but those few hundred people made me feel like I was home. In that crowd, for the first time, this weird kid from Sandy, Utah looked mainstream, and I knew I’d found a place I could be myself, free from shame. I could finally shed this skin of normalcy that never fit right and figure out who I was meant to be. That crowd believed in their hearts it was okay to be proud of who they were, and though I took a circuitous route to get where I am today, my journey of self-acceptance began there.

 

In 2012, I joined the festival committee at Utah Pride and volunteered for several years, helping to organize the parade, dyke march and transgender march. I wanted to share the love of the community with others, and as a result, I built lifelong friendships with amazing people.


In my last year of volunteering, I was six months pregnant and about to take an indefinite break from the demanding work of organizing a festival, but during those years at Utah Pride and afterward, I watched many local pride festivals pop up around the state and celebrated them all. So when my old parade director called me up last year and told me she was starting SLC Pride, how could I say no to becoming part of this new chapter of pride in the Salt Lake valley?

 

While we are blessed with a statewide festival that has grown to three days and thousands of attendees, our community has grown even faster. To accommodate the vast number of LGBTQIA+ vendors, performers and community groups that span the state, local festivals like SLC Pride provide spaces where people can see and experience the community offerings specific to their area. Therefore, we are excited to announce that on June 28-30, SLC Pride will hold their first festival at the Gateway.

 

The features of our festival include radical accessibility, diverse representation in our vendor, food and entertainment choices, a neurodivergent space, a YOUth area manned by certified counselors, a bike valet (which includes parking for strollers and wheelchairs), a low-barrier-to-entry ticket price ($5 for adults; 17 and under are free) and more. Our goal is for everyone in our community to feel proud of who they are and well-represented. Because it’s our first year, nothing will be perfect, but I guarantee it will be three days filled with love and celebration.

 

Hopefully, we’ll find those kids who believe they are better off being dead than being gay, and with any luck, those individuals will begin their journeys to self-love. After all, that’s the whole reason pride organizations exist. We’re in the business of saving lives, and you can help. By donating money and/or resources, volunteering, showing up to the festival or even just liking those pride social media posts, you are telling the world there is space for everyone and we don’t all have to be alike to be worthy of love.


To find out more, please explore our website or visit our facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SLCPride2024


 

Tami Mandarino (she/her) - Pansexual, drug felon with a 5+ year incarceration history. Lifelong struggle with ADHD and major depressive disorder. Survivor of domestic violence and sexual assault. Badass witch. As I like to say about myself, I’ve seen some things, and those things make me strong, powerful and beautiful. Now that I live in the ‘burbs and could be mistaken for a soccer mom, I speak publicly about my past so we can break the stigmas that hurt our communities. When I’m not writing software at my day job or volunQueering for SLC Pride at night, I write contemporary YA novels under the pen name Tami Morning about issues facing youth today like poverty, climate anxiety and the necessity of choosing your family. If you catch a mistake in any of my articles or know a better/more sensitive way to say something, please shoot me an email at tymandarino@gmail.com, and thank you for helping me grow.


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