‘We were despised’: Honolulu Pride is celebrated today, but it wasn’t always that way
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The warm and welcoming Honolulu Pride celebration that takes place on Oahu every October wasn’t always the glitzy party it is today.
It comes from rocky beginnings during a time when gay and queer people pushed for their voices to be heard.
At 77, Scott Foster continues to embrace his true self.
“Because it’s safe to be gay now. So here I am and here we are,” he said, with a laugh.
This story is part of a series from Hawaii News Now for Honolulu Pride.
PART OF THE SERIES:
- A highlight of Honolulu Pride, Universal Show Queen pageant makes a grand return
- Four stones sit in Waikiki. Their story? Unknown to most who pass by
- This business owner has embraced all that she is. She wants others to do the same
He remembers the early days when he first came to Hawaii. The gay scene thrived in Waikiki ― at landmark bars like Hulas and Hamburger Mary’s.
“Boy, those were the days. Talk about rock and roll fun,” he recalled.
But he wanted to do more. So he laid the groundwork for Hawaii’s first ever Pride parade. It was a huge feat to pull off the small gathering.
“The first one, some people walked down the sidewalks in Waikiki carrying a few signs. There were maybe 25 people? Literally, 25 people. That was kind of the beginning of it,” he said.
That first Pride march happened on June 30, 1974.
It went from the corner of McCully Street and Kalakaua to Queen’s Surf Beach.
“That’s how it all came to begin, was just out of the need to have people feel safe when they went to events,” Foster said.
SPECIAL SECTION: Honolulu Pride
Since then, Pride has flourished, becoming a more widely accepted month-long event that celebrates love, equal rights and gender identity. But it wasn’t always well-received.
“We were hated and despised,” Foster said.
Others recalled the horrific stories of the backlash early participants faced.
“From what I had heard, from other people who have shared with me, was that they felt like they were in danger at times. People would throw eggs. I heard there were rocks being thrown. A lot of name calling,” said Jonz Stoneroad, who was crowned Mr. Gay Pride 1995. He’s witnessed many Pride parades since the early 90s.
“It felt really inclusive. And I think what made it inclusive was I got to see a variety of people that was there,” he said. “I think what made Hawaii different was that it didn’t matter what social group, ethnic city, identity you fell in – when it came to the pride, everybody was just like, together you know?”
Stoneroad found his family in the Imperial Sovereign Court of Hawaii ― an LGBTQ+ pageant organization that gives back to community causes through fundraising and engagement.
It’s through this ohana that he, too, embraces his true colors.
“I’m seeing a lot more acceptance among younger generations, which is very comforting because being younger, when I was their age, I was always apprehensive, hesitant,” he said.
“But now it’s like I can talk almost openly.”
While both Foster and Stoneroad say acceptance for the gay community has blossomed, they also agree challenges remain.
“Will that discrimination ever go away? No,” Foster said.
“There will always be straight people who are scared to death of gay people, and there will always be closeted people who are scared to death to associate with being gay. That’s just a fact.”
Added Stoneroad: “Now, we’re no longer in that era. Now, there’s more people, there’s more colors to the flag, there’s more names. And I think it’s good to embrace them.”
The 2022 Honolulu Pride Parade is set for Saturday.
It starts at 10 a.m. from Magic Island, goes through Waikiki and ends at Kapiolani Park. The festival will continue at the Waikiki Shell.
Hawaii News Now will be a part of the parade while also streaming a portion of it on digital platforms.
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