Change is an interesting thing to live through. When I (Sarah) moved to Corning as an adult a decade ago, I regularly felt like the loudest liberal in every room. I struggled with making real connections with people, and the (very small) handful of people I initially clicked with all moved away. On top of that, I had come from working in theatre and the entertainment field, where putting up a new show means making an instant family. The "real world" of having a 9 - 5 job and then going home - or trying to make set plans with people (rather than just seeing what happened after rehearsal) - was new to me.
The first time I felt like I really found my place was when I joined the team of our local sexual assault resource center, which operates as part of Planned Parenthood of the Southern Finger Lakes (PPSFL). A few days before starting as staff, I was invited to attend the annual celebration. Sitting in an auditorium full of people who I knew cared as much as I did about socially progressive causes made me cry. I still get teary when I hear the Planned Parenthood mission: to provide exceptional services, honest education, and fearless advocacy. Being in that room felt like starting a brand new chapter and coming home to something familiar all at the same time. That's what being "seen" feels like.
Fast forward to meeting Randi and starting our Feminist Book Club, and eventually our beloved Card Carrying Books & Gifts. And to the formation of our close-knit group of friends we call the Brain Trust. I'm so lucky to have so many incredible people on my side. People who really see me.
When I was approached by Hannah at PPSFL about planning a Corning Pride event, I was excited but a bit hesitant. I was excited to be part of something so wonderfully feminist, but my previous experiences at trying to help create a space within the community for diverse sexuality weren't great. Those attempts had been met with homophobia and extreme sex negativity. I knew the young people in our community were ready for a Pride event, but I wasn't sure if the adults were. So we proceeded with relatively low expectations. We said, if 100 people show up, this event will be a success.
I am so glad I was wrong about my fellow grown-ups.
Riverfront Centennial Park during the drag show. (photographer unknown - if it's YOU, let me know!)
The estimate is that between 1500 and 2000 people showed up for Corning's inaugural Pride event. It included a festival (featuring local nonprofits and service organizations), a scavenger hunt up and down Market Street that focused on supportive small businesses, four hours of entertainment led by an amazing MC, a proclamation from a representative from the Governor's office, a closing reception for an art exhibit featuring regional LGBTQ+ artists, and an evening of glitter beer and Pride-themed cocktails. Thanks to our incredibly generous museum partners, it spread in to the next day with free admission and Pride-themed museum tours.
Our fearless MC, Ethan. (photo by Sean Lukasik)
The festival was packed! (photo by Sean Lukasik)
Being a cis, straight, white lady, I have certainly not dealt with the level of discrimination faced by people who are LGBTQ+, but I know what it's like to not feel "seen" for who you are. And as a feminist with immense privilege, it's my job to provide affirming spaces for others. To help other people feel validated and celebrated and "seen."
(photo by Sean Lukasik)
Pride is about so many things: remembering the LGBTQ+ people who have fought for change, honoring those whose lives have been taken due to discriminatory violence, and celebrating the people we know and love and are lucky to have in our lives. We opened Card Carrying so we could help create change in our community, and support the people who are making those positive, progressive changes. To me, there's nothing more feminist than Pride.
Posted June 18th at 3:23pm