Days after our first Equality Fest ended, people in the Highland Lakes are still talking about what they experienced and how they felt: welcomed, accepted, encouraged and loved.
That was our goal.
Vendors were able to move their products (some even ran out before the end of the day). Stories from our speakers were relatable to listeners. And singer-songwriter Jaime Ramirez was everything we thought he would be and so much more; he was absolutely the perfect entertainer for our first Equality Fest.
What we will all remember, however, were the new faces at a HLEC event who’d never attended before. And some came to their first LGBTQ event ever. We could tell who was new coming to a Pride event by how they approached our booths — timid, unsure and hesitant. What they saw — and what’s important to us — are attendees who look like they do: proud members of the LGBTQ community and allies who are unashamed to be who they are, complete with glittered fingernails and eyes, tattoos, tank tops, muscle shirts, colorful hair, jewelry and all. Newcomers also saw people like themselves: retirees, blue- and white-collared workers, different ethnicities, various education levels, and individuals of all walks of life who are very accepting of others.
Each newcomer had a different reason for attending. Some were there because they wanted to be, while others were curious about the event, the HLEC and the LGBTQ community in the Highland Lakes. And then there were those who attended because they were supporting a family member who was venturing out to their first Pride event.
Every person at the Equality Fest is the reason why HLEC leaders work tirelessly to host events and offer services. Seeing you give unconditional acceptance and love is the fuel that keeps us going. And that acceptance illustrates why the HLEC exists.