Nantucket Pride Organizing Events For LGBTQ+ Pride Month

JohnCarl McGrady •

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Nantucket Pride is ready for LGBTQ+ Pride Month, which begins on June 1st. And despite the rising political tensions and a series of recent anti-LGBTQ bills passed in several states, they aren’t planning to be quiet about it.

“Some battles are worth fighting,” Nantucket Pride cofounder Sean Allen said. “If we're not loud now, we might as well just keep our mouths shut forever.”

Nantucket Pride began in 2018, when Allen and his cofounder, Aileen Dashurova, came together to organize Pride festivities and foster queer community on the island. After attending Antioch College, where Allen said about one-third of the student body identified as queer when he graduated, Allen returned to Nantucket and immediately felt that something was different. The queer community he had grown accustomed to at college wasn’t there.

“I just instantly had this feeling that I was sticking out in my own hometown,” he said.

So he decided to change that.

“We had this desire to make something that didn't really exist here,” Allen said. “It's hard to find those resources and connect the dots. So I was coming up with this idea like, I'd like to get something started.”

Six years later, Nantucket Pride is bigger than ever and beginning the transition to becoming a full non-profit officially recognized by the state, ensuring the organization’s longevity. This year's events will help with that transition, especially the opening bash at Cisco Brewers today, which features a signature Pride-themed cocktail. All of the proceeds from that cocktail will go to funding Nantucket Pride’s future efforts and next year’s celebrations.

But despite the shift towards more mainstream organizational structures and official recognition, Allen doesn’t want to lose the original animating principle of Pride.

“There's always been this desire to stay true to the original message of Pride, which is that Pride is a message of resistance,” Allen said. “There are people who have fought and died. I don't want this to become just a party with glitter and rainbows.”

The key word there is just. Allen loves rainbows—“I go a little over the top with that: when June starts, I’ll be wearing nothing but rainbows,” he admitted—and more than one of the events Nantucket Pride has planned could qualify as parties. Whether or not they have glitter, it’s hard to imagine there won’t be rainbows.

“We can have queer joy, we can have queer celebration,” Allen said.

One example of Nantucket Pride’s focus on queer joy is the annual decorated Pride car parade, this year scheduled for June 2nd, which was originally born out of pandemic-era necessity. With the community unable to rally in large numbers in person, Dashurova suggested a socially distanced car parade, somewhat similar to the yearly Daffodil Day tradition. The event was a success and has been repeated every year since.

Another example is the newer Queer Prom event, also known as the Gender-Bender Prom, hosted at the Nantucket Atheneum on June 22nd. The event is an opportunity for high school students ages 14 and up to explore their gender identity and dress in non-gender-traditional clothing.

“Queer kids are often denied this experience of coming of age in this innocent manner,” Allen said, emphasizing that last year’s event was a major success. “[The students] begged to stay, they didn't want to leave…just knowing that people were safe and able to just explore and be themselves was so fun.”

But, although Allen is careful to avoid what he calls the “harmful narrative” of queer trauma, Pride Month, he says, can never be separated from politics and the realities facing queer people around the world. Even at last year’s Queer Prom, Nantucket Pride relied on what Allen somewhat jokingly termed bodyguards to ensure that the students were safe from any potential protestors, a real threat given the recent wave of anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment targetted particularly at schools and children.

An important part of the politics of radical queer action, Allen believes, is ensuring inclusion.

“I definitely am encouraging our little group that we're starting to form now to think about who we are in relation to other minority groups,” Allen said. “Divided, we're all conquerable. It's important to make sure that everyone has a place at the table and that's definitely something I have strived to do.”

Allen repeatedly returns to the concept of intersectionality, which focuses on the ways different minority identities interact to become more than the sum of their parts.

“How can everyone literally access the spaces we're meeting in, if they’re disabled? As well as queer people of color, multilingual resources,” he said. “I want to make sure that we're accessible to everybody regardless of economic class.”

Allen pointed out that this type of intersectional solidarity goes to the very roots of Pride.

“It was originally the trans women of color who were standing up,” he said. “The most vulnerable were leading the way and being trailblazers.”

In addition to the events already mentioned, Nantucket Pride is organizing a series of programs across the island, including another film festival in association with Boston’s Wicked Queer Film Festival. A full calendar of events can be found below (I’m guessing).

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