+ By Christine Fillat + Photos by Sarah Jane Holden
June 2019: Annapolis Pride Month. Rainbow flags line West Street. Soundtrack: “I’m Coming Out” by Diana Ross
The Earth has revolved around the Sun 50 times since the Stonewall Uprising, the event in New York City (NYC) that placed Gay Pride in the forefront of society. Whereas NYC and San Francisco once served as the epicenters of LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer or questioning, plus others) Pride life, Pride celebrations now take place in towns and cities around the world.
In the summer of 2017, Annapolis resident Jeremy Browning came upon a rainbow flag flying from St. Luke’s Church in his Eastport community. It stopped him in his tracks. For him, this was a sight that wouldn’t have seemed out of place in cities like Baltimore or DC or in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.
Says Browning, who grew up in Annapolis, “That’s the first rainbow flag I’ve ever seen in Annapolis, ever, and it’s at a church. And then I realized that they’re an open and affirming congregation, and that there are actually several other very friendly churches in Annapolis.” It got him thinking.
Browning brainstormed with a group of friends about how to get more Pride accessibility in Annapolis. He and others knew that there were LGBTQ+ people in the community, but socially, they seemed fragmented. “So, we thought, ‘Let’s try to bring the community together,’” says Browning.
On May 25, 2018, Annapolis Pride launched a Facebook page. Browning and his friends put together a schedule of events, including happy hours, picnics, and drag shows. People from all over the state, from far-flung areas such as the Eastern Shore, Prince George’s County, and Saint Mary’s County, attended those get-togethers. One year later, the internet site has close to 6,000 followers, a decidedly robust base with many allies.
Given the popularity of its Facebook page, Annapolis Pride initiated a website. A local design company donated the logo and graphics. “I don’t know that Annapolis Pride would be what it is today without the logo and the brand,” says Browning. “It looks very professional. We have a look that is polished. It gained momentum really fast.”
More than simply a social calendar, the web page is a valuable resource where folks in the Annapolis LGBTQ+ community can find out about support groups and places to go for legal advice, spiritual support, and medical services.
In June 2018, Annapolis Pride went to Annapolis City Hall and Mayor Gavin Buckley’s office to ask for a proclamation to declare June LGBTQ Pride Month. “Not only did the City enthusiastically come back and say yes,” says Browning, “they said, ‘We want a parade and festival next year.’ What we thought might take two or three years to organize and develop happen[ed] in less than a year. We’re really excited for the first Pride Parade and Festival and to have the support of local leadership and the mayor’s office.”
The Pride Parade and Festival took place on June 29 and included, to a large majority, grassroots organizations that directly supply services to the LGBTQ+ community. With approximately 5,000 people in attendance and 130 diverse and varied groups dancing, marching, and making their rainbow-hued way down West Street that inaugural Pride Parade day, the vibe was one of joy, love, and acceptance. Jeremy Browning describes the amount of support as being “overwhelming.” He recalls the day as “. . . an amazing and historic day for the LGBTQ+ community in Annapolis.”
Browning is planning for Annapolis Pride’s future endeavors. “My hope is that Annapolis becomes known as a friendly and welcoming place, and that we see more visibility and more safe spaces,” he says. He wants people in the LBGTQ+ community to think of Annapolis during their travel or social planning. “We can really build [our website] out so that anyone who lives here, works here, and travels here can go to AnnapolisPride.org and find what they need [here].”
He is driven to make Pride a part of life in Annapolis, and explains that visibility increases safety and a sense of belonging. “If, for example, a young person or a queer, questioning person sees a rainbow flag or a trans flag in their community, they might feel like, ‘Okay, I belong here,’” says Browning. Transgender and other LGBTQ+ people have been the target of prejudice, and they need allies, people in the community to stand up for them.
The Annapolis Pride website says it best: “We love our city and want it to be a place where all people feel safe and included, where those who may need help or support can find it, and where our business and civic leaders embrace the vision that an inclusive community is a thriving community.” █