Niceville Pride grows in numbers, and acceptance
The LGBTQ community in Niceville is hoping to keep the momentum going after the success of last month’s annual Pride event, which featured an increase in attendance and enthusiasm. The celebration showcased a Pride march down John Sims Parkway, vendors, a silent auction, an open-mic support group, a movie screening and a Pride prom.
“We went from an event that catered to about 100 people, that grew to about 200 at the second event, and we had just over 300 participants at the third annual Niceville pride,” said Logan Goodson, chair of Niceville Pride.
Although past Niceville Pride events have been held in June, Goodson moved the event to October to better accommodate participants and enhance accessibility. This was the first Pride event in the city of Niceville since June 2019.
“We had a wonderful turnout; pretty similar to what we had last year, if not just a bit more,” Goodson said.
This year’s event saw nearly 200 participants in the march and roughly 200 attendees of the Pride prom that followed. Despite cancellation of the 2020 event because of the pandemic, Goodson says that he has seen major growth in the event since its inception in 2017.
“We’ve grown financially, we’ve grown in reach, we’ve grown in support from people who are not LGBTQ identifying, and that’s predominately witnessed from the amount of love and support we’ve received from people who were driving past us during the march,” Goodson said. “Everything seemed to be very positive, very uplifting, and that's a large change from the first time we did this event.”
Goodson adds that he has seen expansive growth in local acceptance of LGBTQ+ persons and in the proliferation of trans and non-binary rights since 2017. He believes that this is partially due to Niceville Pride.
“Seeing the presence grow over the couple of years, just in the four years we’ve been doing Pride is really inspiring,” he said. “This year, I made it my mission to really engage varying groups, whether that be through the school system or engaging businesses.”
Through sponsorships, silent auction and T-shirt sales, Niceville Pride raised just over $7,000 for PFLAG Niceville, a local organization that aims to support LGBTQ individuals. The money collected from this event will also fund three $500 scholarships that will open in January. These scholarships will be available to any LGTBQ+ student attending college next fall.
“I feel like we were able to raise the amount of money we raised this year because of our presence with Niceville Pride in years past,” Goodson said. “I really feel that past Niceville Prides have made it easier for us now to go to these businesses, to go to these schools, and ask for and receive support from our community.”
Although Goodson, who came out as a teenager, grew up with a supportive parent, he realizes that not all LGBTQ kids are as fortunate. He hopes that events like these will create visibility and growth for those marginalized individuals.
“I think marching is a way that has shown effective visualization for our people throughout the entire span of these marches starting in the late 1960s,” Goodson said. “As these same visualization tactics have been used throughout history, we’re able to use them now to affect nonviolent, positive change. It’s the most historically reverent way to connect with our ancestral roots through the queer community and also still enacting positive change for us today.”
PFLAG Niceville holds monthly support group meetings for LGBTQ+ individuals and their friends, family, and allies. The next meeting will be held virtually at 6 p.m. Nov. 14.
If you are interested in attending, visit PFLAG Niceville’s website for more information.