Out on the Brazos, a Waco event celebrating the LGBTQ community, was a signal of positivity and joy on an otherwise cloudy Saturday.
Attendees at Brazos Park East shared feelings of acceptance and found allies in the community who seek to fight discrimination many LGBTQ people have faced.
Deanna Leach, a board member of the Waco Pride Network and one of the event organizers, said the celebration showed the power of unity.
“I just am who I am, so I don’t let it bother me too much,” Leach said. “But I still am cautious myself about holding my girlfriend’s hand when I’m walking down the street, depending on where I’m at and whether it’s safe.”
The event offers more than food and games, said Charley Garrison, pastor of Metropolitan Community Church.
“It’s important to me because not only is it affirming to me, but it provides hope to a lot of LGBT people in Waco who don’t realize that there’s all of these groups and people that affirm them,” Garrison said.
The event featured booths and other resources from a variety of organizations including Human Rights Campaign, Lake Shore Baptist Church, Planned Parenthood, and Centex Action Network.
By about noon, some 70 people were in attendance as more arrived. Sara Davidson and Lauren Matthies simply offered free hugs.
“We’re just a group of people, moms, sisters, brothers, who just wanted to come out and show love,” Davidson said. “I don’t think that anyone deserves love any less than anyone else. We don’t have any type of religious or political affiliation besides just being families who can’t stand the thought of someone not being able to hug their family.”
On Friday, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation announced its annual Municipal Equality Index, ranking cities on scales of 0 to 100 based on legal protections and benefits for LGBTQ people.
Waco scored a 22, well below the state average of 40 and the national average of 58. Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth and San Antonio were rated 100.