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Tucson Pride, its history and its 2020 parade

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Chloe Hislop | The Daily Wildcat Drag queens posing with a pride attendee at the 2019 Tucson Pride festival. Tucson Pride was founded in 1977, making this the 42-annual festival.

Tucson Pride History

Tucson Pride is an LGBTQ+ organization established in 1977, which began from an incident where a gay man named Richard Heakin walked out of Stonewall Tavern in 1976 and was murdered. 

Heakin was brutally beaten and died a few days later from his injuries, while the four young high school boys who beat him were given a light punishment. During this time where hate crimes were often not punished at all, these boys were only given probation. 

As a result, the pride community came together and had a picnic in Himmel Park. They came together to talk about advocacy for rights in the community and just punishment for the crimes against their community. Over the years, the picnics eventually grew into the Tucson Pride festivals that we have today.

Tucson Pride is also the oldest LGBTQ+ organization in the state of Arizona. 

Sam Cloud, the president of the Tucson Pride Board of Directors, said the pride community advocacy led to some of the first anti-discrimination laws in Arizona. 

“Back in the ‘70s, there was really no knowledge about AIDS and HIV,” Cloud said. “Rights for the LGBTQ+ community were nearly unheard of, so the fight for equally back in that time was very strong and kind of on the forefront.” 

Cloud acknowledged how the New York City Stonewall Riots kick-started the fight for equality in 1969 on a national level. Cloud emphasized just how dangerous this time was and said years after Stonewall, people in the community were still being beat, stoned and discriminated against. 

“Last year was the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots,” Cloud said. “Fifteen some years after Stonewall, people were literally being assaulted, sometimes beat to death.”

The history of LGBTQ+ in Tucson also incorporates the ideals of Two-Spirit, which is a term used by Indigenous people to describe their gender or sexual identity.

The University of Arizona’s LGBTQ Affairs holds a Two-Spirit Tucson Meeting which is a Queer & Trans People of Color resource for indigenous people. 

        RELATED: The past and future of queer programs at the UA

University of Arizona Pride history

The University of Arizona’s LGBTQ Resource Center is home to LGBTQ Affairs, Pride Alliance and Safe Zone. After almost 20 years of advocacy, the Office of LGBTQ Affairs was established in 2007, according to the LGBTQ Affairs website. 

Blu Lopez Au, graduate assistant for LGBTQ Affairs at the UA mentioned how the community holds queer dance parties that started decades ago by DJs Roberto Lopez and Jaime J at the local restaurant La Cocina.

The dance parties were started up again by local LGBTQ+ community members who missed having the safer, queer-inclusive space to dance and be involved in the queer community in 2017 and was later given the name HeartBeats Queer Dance Party, Blu explained in an email.

“These events served a dual purpose and were also community fundraisers to raise funds for local queer community members,” Blu said in an email. “For the past couple of years (pre-pandemic) the parties became a larger local queer community collaboration with Fluxx Productions, a QTBIPOC led nonprofit organization. Fluxx is a long-standing community space and safe haven where LGBTQIA+ family could all go and be accepted while working to amplify LGBTQIA+ artists and activists in Tucson, Arizona.” 

Tucson Pride also recently adopted the “Queerstory” committee last year, which is a program for preserving local history, according to Cloud. “Queerstory’s mission is to collect and archive local LGBTQ+ history,” she said. “They collect artifacts and they interview people telling their own experiences in the local community over the years.”


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Updated October 22, 2020