About a month ago, I had the pleasure of discussing a local event. Paducah, Ky. held their annual Western Kentucky Pride Fest event.

It seems like Pride Fests have really taken off in recent years–inspiring large events and even sales on Pride Merchandise.

But, more than anything, I wanted to ask the attendees what this all means for them.

Samuel Duncan said the important thing about Pride Fest is the opportunity to meet other LGBTQ+ members.

With beautiful weather, complete with a cool river breeze, the event was full of support from local people and businesses.

“Community is very important when you’re in a marginalized group,” he said. “It’s important to know other people like yourself whose experiences in life you can relate to, and that’s fact for everyone regardless of orientation or identity.”

He also said Pride Fest is important for everyone, even straight and cisgender people, because it is an opportunity to show support to their LGBTQ+ loved ones.

“It’s a way for our community to band together and stand for positive values and stand against intolerance,” he said.

As a transgender man, Duncan had the chance to meet new people who are also transgender. He said he didn’t know just how many there were.

Another local attendee, Jeri Findley, said she was thrilled the community was finally acknowledging their LGBTQ+ individuals.

“It seems our area has been stuck in the ‘That’s something we just don’t talk about’ phrase.”

Findley added too many people feel they are damaged. There are too many suicides.

She said she even witnessed apprehension on some people’s faces, because so many of them feel broken.

“Mostly I saw exhileration,” she said. “These faces seemed to say: I get to be me today!”

Findley said this was her first gay pride event, so she didn’t have anything to compare it to. Her consensus, though, was that people were having a great time.

She said she had two favorite people which she met at the festival.

“One was a young woman who walked to me out of the blue and thanked me for being me. She said: So many of us grew up without support at home. Thank you so much.”

Findley just smiled and said, “You bet, sweetie!”

Her second favorite person was an elderly black man with whom she shared a beer in the beer garden with. They just hung out as two people who didn’t need labels, but came together to care about others.

Local attendee Amber Pitt said that people keep asking why pride maters. “Why should ya’ll parade around with your rainbows and glitter in our faces?”

Pitt said she dressed up for the event, wearing a Make America Gay Again hat, a Free Mom Hugs T-Shirt, rainbow eyelashes, and various pins and buttons that proclaimed things like “Love, peace and chicken grease.”

That same night, she attended the McCracken County vs. Tilghman football game. While walking past the concession line, she heard a group of girls saying: “Go get a hug then. Just walk up to her. She’s wearing a shirt for it.”

Pitt stopped and looked at the girls, asking the one in the center if she wanted a hug. The girl bear hugged Pitt. The girl thanked her for “being so awesome.”

“This is why it needs to be normalized,” said Pitt.” This is why we stand up visible so the teen girl in a concession line gets a little joy from seeing a stranger stand up for her.”

Pitt said another man thanked her that night as well.

“Yes, it matters. It may not matter to you, but it might matter to your kid. It might matter to your sibling, to your best friend. Think about that. Your best freiend might not want to let you know their sexuality because of your opinions on it.”