June marks National Pride Month, but advocates say celebrations go beyond 30 days

Published: Jun. 4, 2021 at 11:38 AM HST|Updated: Jun. 4, 2021 at 12:01 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - With rainbows filling the sky year-round in the Aloha State, the Hawaii LGBT Legacy Foundation said it is no coincidence that the state is a “leader and destination for Pride.”

“We have rainbows on our license plates, on our drivers licenses,” said the foundation’s director, Francine Beppu. “Who doesn’t want to celebrate here?”

June is National Pride Month, but Beppu said she’s set on making celebrations last 365 days of the year.

When Beppu moved to New York for college, she discovered a new world of people fighting for the right to love — she knew she wanted to be a part of this movement.

Once she returned home to Oahu, she volunteered with the LGBT Legacy Foundation and quickly revolutionized the way people celebrate the month throughout the islands.

She said the 2019 Honolulu Pride Parade became the largest parade in the state with over 30,000 attendees. And between 2018 and 2019, pride festival attendees increased by 60% from 5,000 to 8,000.

Unlike most celebrations across the country, Honolulu hosts festivities in October.

According to Beppu, the timing is strategic for many reasons:

  • LGBTQ+ History Month, National Coming Out Day and Spirit Day all take place in October
  • October is typically a shoulder season in Hawaii, so it helps bring tourism during the off-season
  • Instead of competing with larger events on the mainland, Honolulu offers another chance for people to celebrate Pride Month

Although Honolulu’s pride events usually draw large crowds, last year’s celebrations looked a lot looked different for everyone due to the pandemic.

Instead of a huge parade, the LGBT Legacy Foundation hosted virtual “Rainbow Town Halls” to provide a safe and open space to discuss the issues facing the Hawaii LGBTQIA+ community. They also invited everyone to create and participate in their tiny float parade, hilariously emceed by Candi Shell and My Friend George.

“I like to say, ‘Let’s move ahead with the things that we’re able to control,’” Beppu said.

While Hawaii’s unpredictable reopening strategy makes planning difficult, she said regardless of where we are in October, they have plans in place to make it a grand celebration.

For Guillermo Sanchez and Jason Victorino — who are partners, co-producers and Scarlet night club performers — they said the time to re-open is now.

“You know that us in the LGBT community, we tend to have to create our own families,” Sanchez said. “A lot of us aren’t accepted by our own families so, we create our own.”

With Scarlet being closed for over a year now, the couple said it’s been difficult to stay afloat, and they are worried about others in their community. In 2019, the night club hosted a fundraiser for HIV/AIDS that raised over $10,000 in one night.

“It just goes farther than what people think,” Sanchez said.

The couple hopes that they will hear news from the governor soon on lifted restrictions to reopen clubs with enough time to plan their Pride celebration in October.

Meanwhile, Daniel Chun, public relations director of Alaska Airlines, said they’re gearing up to “bring festivities to a whole new level” for Pride Month.

For over a decade, the company has partnered with LGBTQ+ organizations, creating informative travel guides for people looking to celebrate across the state from Palm Beach to Hawaii.

“More of our employees come out to participate in our various Pride events than actually any other event that we do in the community,” Chun said.

Alaska Airlines developed a “Globe Group” to create LGBTQ+ events and plan how they can show up in an inclusive and authentic manner.

Whether you’re looking to travel, wanting to celebrate from home, driving through Kauai’s Pride Parade on Saturday, the Hawaii Legacy Foundations has every event mapped out for you here.

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