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  • Tara Crutchfield

Polk Pride 2023

It’s time to celebrate, affirm, and stand beside our LGBTQ+ friends, family, and community members in the week-long celebration, Polk Pride. Asked if there was anything new or exciting with Pride this year, founder Scott Guira replied, “The most exciting thing is that we’re going to continue to have it despite the things going on out there.”


Guira created Polk Pride in 2015 to foster a community in Polk County where LGBTQ+ folks of all ages could feel welcome. Discussing the organization in 2021, Guira said, “I know this community has grown. I know that it is an outstanding place to live, to work, to play. I grew up here, and I’ve seen the community change. I want to make sure that the next generation of young people coming up and people moving to the area see that this is a place for them, this is a place for everybody.”


Despite a slew of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation, Guira, and his team are moving forward to create the same safe, loving space he sought to forge in 2015. “We think that at a time like this, it’s more important than ever that we be out, we be vocal, and that our allies are part of our events,” he said. 


Polk Pride isn’t just being vocal. In April, the organization donated to the Drag2Talle initiative. “Drag2Talle was an opportunity for not only drag queens but trans people and our allies to go up to Tallahassee and make our voice heard that drag is not a crime. Drag is an art,” Guira said. “This is considered an attack on the entire LGBTQ+ community, and it was important for us to be part of a larger contingency of people from across the state who went to make sure our legislators, and so the public could see, that LGBTQ+ people are everywhere and that we are just as much a part of the community as they are.” 


Also under the Polk Pride umbrella are Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) and the Lakeland Youth Alliance (LYA), and they, too, are raising their voices. On November 4, students participated in the state-wide “Don’t Say Gay’’ walkout as the Florida Board of Education unanimously voted to expand the “Don’t Say Gay” law. On March 31, they held an LGBTQ+ rights protest at the entrance of Lake Bonny Park. The bills they protested included HB 999, HB 254, and HB 1223. “I don’t know that they make much of an impact on the people in Tallahassee, but I know it makes a huge impact to the kids. It’s important that their voices be heard,” said LYA and Polk PFLAG President Kerri McCoy. 


Most LYA students are middle school-aged and have used words like “unfair” and “government control” to describe the bills. Of HB 999, McCoy said, “Some of them will now have to reshape what they’re thinking as far as their future goes, as far as what they’re going to study.” Trans youth have asked, “What’s going to happen to us?” 


McCoy said, “We have seen the tides turn before. It’s going to be a matter of electing the right people, and we can see change again. If we all just stick together, eventually, we will get through this. I feel like there’s a rainbow at the end.” 


To support Polk Pride, folks can become a sponsor, volunteer, donate, or join their initiatives. Those interested in volunteering or donating can do so on their website. “It’s important that we have our allies as part of our Pride celebration,” Guira said. “If people can share our events [on social media] […] or by word of mouth, whatever they need to do to get the word out that this event is happening and that it is important to everyone in Polk County.”



As an ally, Kerri McCoy advised finding LGBTQ+ resources in the community and becoming part of a group. “If you know someone who is LGBTQ+, ask, ‘What can I do to support you? How can I help? What can I do to make a difference?’”


“Pride was born out of a necessity,” Guira said. “We celebrate Pride now, but when Pride started, it began as a protest against people who were holding LGBTQ+ people back from living safe lives. Now, it’s just as important, if not more important than it’s been the last several years because of our legislation and the changing political climate, to make sure our voice is heard and let people know we’re not going to stand by and let this decision be made without our speaking up.” 


Photography by Amy Sexson


 Polk Pride

FB @PolkPrideFL  
IG @polkpridefl
Lakeland Youth Alliance
FB @LakelandYouthAlliance
 PFLAG of Polk County
FB @PFLAGofPolkCounty

 

PRIDEONTAP 

Polk Pride 2023 Begins 

Swan Brewing 

115 W Pine St, Lakeland

Saturday 6/10

2-5 pm

 

PRIDEFORYOUTH 

Lakeland Youth Alliance Pride Party 

Ages 11-17

Location TBD 

Wednesday 6/14

6:30 pm

 

PRIDEINFAITH 

An Interfaith Celebration of Pride 

Beacon Hill Fellowship 

220 W Beacon Rd, Lakeland

Thursday 6/15

7 pm

 

PRIDEKICKOFF 

Drinks, Dancing, and Drag 

The Parrot 

1030 E Main St, Lakeland

Friday 6/16 

9 pm - 2 am

 

PRIDEINTHEPARK 

Celebration of Pride for the Whole Family 

Munn Park | Downtown 

201 E Main St, Lakeland

Saturday 6/17 

10 am - 3 pm

 

PRIDEAFTER DARK 

Pride After Party | Drag Show 

LKLD Live @ Rec Room 

202 N Massachusetts Ave, Lakeland

Saturday 6/17

9 pm - 2 am

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