Hundreds of people in support of the LGBTQ community along with more than 30 organizations gathered at Crockett Park and thousands later on North Main Ave to celebrate the 11th-annual Pride “Bigger Than Texas” Festival and Parade Saturday.

This was my first pride event, so it was nothing short of impressive to see the plethora of outrageous and wildly amusing costumes that many of the attendees wore. Equally impressive though was the feeling of community – folks from all walks of life participated including families, business owners, service industry workers, young professionals, students and more. I had always heard about how tight-knit the LGBTQ community was, but never had experienced it personally. That has changed.

I grew up in a conservative house in the Northside, an area where the gay community was either nonexistent or very well hidden. That was a different time, and much of the mindset has changed since then but it doesn’t alter the fact that the LGBTQ community still faces an uphill struggle every day. Pride events like this play an important role not only to LGBTQ individuals but as a reminder those who are unfamiliar with or unaware of the community.

I spoke with Dilshan Edussuriya, an accountant originally from Sri Lanka who came out in 2002. Dilshan is a busy man; he volunteers his time with the Human Rights Campaign and Equality Texas, and is also in the process of opening a tapas restaurant in Southtown. I asked what provokes him to spend so much of his free time volunteering with equal rights organizations. “It’s a cause I truly believe in and want to support,” he said.

Human Rights Campaign volunteer Dilshan Edussuriya at the 2014 Pride "Bigger Than Texas" Festival. Photo by Scott Ball.
Human Rights Campaign volunteer Dilshan Edussuriya at the 2014 Pride “Bigger Than Texas” Festival. Photo by Scott Ball.

It’s people like Dilshan who make a real, tangible difference in this city.

As I continued my walk I also met parents Sherry Denter and Priscilla Fernandez.  They’re members of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) San Antonio. Holding handmade, colorful signs in support of Priscilla’s son and Sherry’s daughter, they could hardly hold back their genuine pride they shared for the strength of their kids. Both of their children have been out for a number of years.

Sherry Denter and Prisilla Fernandez hold up signs they made for the 2014 Pride "Bigger Than Texas" Festival. Photo by Scott Ball.
Sherry Denter and Priscilla Fernandez hold up signs they made for their children at the 2014 Pride “Bigger Than Texas” Festival. Photo by Scott Ball.

I asked Priscilla how she felt when her son told her he was gay. “I didn’t understand, I was angry with him and how he would be treated.  In a way parents also go through the coming out stages with their child,” she said.

Declaring themselves as “the moms of many” they help support young people in the gay community who have been abandoned by parents who have deemed their children’s sexual orientation as unacceptable.

Shortly after the block party at Crockett Park the focus shifted to North Main Avenue otherwise known as “The (Gay) Strip” for the parade.  While waiting for the event to begin, I photographed several different couples to represent the theme of the night “Freedom to Live, Freedom to Love.” (See gallery above.)

With an appearance by lieutenant governor hopeful Senator Leticia Van de Putte (D) and a strong assembly of Senator and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis supporters, this parade made a statement about the impact our municipalities can achieve in this election year.

I half expected to see protesters around each blind corner, but I did not run across any last night.

Equal rights for all San Antonians is vital to the progression of this city, and I am elated that my city is embracing this change more than ever before.  When I started the day I was in support of all things LGBTQ, at the end of the day I felt like I finally had something to give back.  Thank you.

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Scott Ball

Scott Ball is San Antonio Report's photo editor and grew up in San Antonio.