Yesterday’s announcement of the overturning of Indiana’s ban on same-sex marriage was a huge milestone in the fight for marriage equality in Indiana. As a passionate advocate I was very excited by this news, and proud of the state of Indiana as well as South Bend and all the couples who got married yesterday. I’ve been mulling around the idea of writing about my experience with Pride Prom 2014 and it now seems very appropriate to do so
If you attended this wonderful event 2 weeks ago, you know how much fun it was. Dressing up, dancing, photo booth, fun, romance, DJ Chuck Fry, my evil twin Matt Teters..this event had it all!
What makes me the happiest about an event like this, though, is not how much fun it was, but the bigger context of what an event like this means to our city and its residents, especially in light of the ruling yesterday.
I arrived at the event, fashionably late, with my girlfriend Melissa, all dressed up and ready for a good time. I even wore a jester mask from Mardi Gras to fit in with the theme of “Royals” because if there is a South Bend Royalty, I definitely consider myself to be the Jester.
One of my favorite things about South Bend is how friendly everyone has been and how many friends I’ve been able to make in 2 short years. Even before we entered the ballroom at the Palais Royale (beautiful btw), I started running into friends in the lobby and just outside the door. When we went upstairs my friends were at the check in desk, in line at the bar, running the sound and dj’ing, dancing, frolicking and just having fun. My friends were everywhere! In fact there were so many people that I knew and cared about in that grand space that I had to let Melissa go dance with her friends while I made my rounds for fear of overwhelming her (sorry Melissa!).
The best part about all these friends, and this event in general, was that nobody seemed to care about your gender identity or sexuality. We were all just there enjoying the opportunity to be grown up and get fancy and dance, enjoying taking silly photos and romantic photos in the photo booth(thanks to OMG Photography), and enjoying our city. That lack of distinction and the unity/togetherness of the group is what I loved. It was definitely a #weAreSouthBend moment.
I remember last year when the first Pride Prom was held how the organizers were worried about public backlash. They were taking a risk with the marquee message asking Mayor Pete to the prom. Yet the event was well received, excellently executed (Mayor Pete even bartended) and tons of fun. This year, in contrast, there was no such worry, very little concern. How great is it to have made such progress in just a year? How great is it to live in a city that is making such an effort to celebrate diversity?
I also remember when the HJR-3 fight was happening and Simon Radecki of Freedom Indiana came to town. We encouraged him to come to State Theater events to find volunteers and add signatures to his petition because we felt he’d find a lot of interest. As the campaign wore on, Simon remarked how amazingly supportive South Bend had been, far more so than Fort Wayne which was supposed to be a bigger support base. He was genuinely surprised but I wasn’t. This community is just a lot more Pride friendly than people think.
So to wrap it all up, I had a great time at Pride Prom. I went to the event, in some ways as an ally to the LGBT community. But at the end of the night the best part of it was that there didn’t have to be a big fuss about LGBT and allies. We were just South Benders, enjoying each other’s company and that of course that’s the way it should be. Because there are plenty of reasons to have Pride in South Bend!