As the event marks a major milestone, organizers say the mission is more critical than ever.
Author: Josh Sidorowicz
Published: 12:51 PM EDT June 23, 2022
Updated: 4:15 PM EDT June 24, 2022
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — It hit Tiffany Freisberg when she first started monitoring the comments posted to the St. Pete Pride Facebook page.
The organization’s new president initially had a difficult time filtering through many of what she said were openly homophobic and transphobic posts.
“These weren't trolls, these were real people living right here in St. Pete shamelessly just saying horrible things,” she said. “So I thought, you know what, we're going to make this the gayest city in America.”
For every single kid who might hear a comment like what she was reading, Freisberg said, she made it her mission to ensure they feel 10 times more love to drown it out.
The reality is, she paused, progress is slow.
But through the occasional pessimism, she also likes to remind people of just how much progress has been made in a short period of time.
The first St. Pete Pride parade was attended by roughly 10,000 people during a time when the city’s mayor wouldn’t even acknowledge its existence.
This year, more than 300,000 people are expected to attend what has become one of the largest Pride events in the nation, in a city that proudly hoists the rainbow flag over city hall now. The parade returns this year after a two-year hiatus due to the COVID pandemic.
At a time when LGBTQ rights are in the spotlight in Florida and elsewhere, Freisberg said, it gives organizers a renewed sense of the original mission of Pride.
“When something is founded from a place of necessity, the people who understand why it exists feel more passionate about ensuring that it endures,” she said. “Because we understand what's at stake.”