Fifty years after police raided the Stonewall Inn, sparking a series of riots in Manhattan, music rang through the streets of Austin during this year’s Pride Month festivities.
On Saturday, Austinites flocked to Waller Creek Conservancy’s “Rainbow on the Creek” to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community. They shuffled booth to booth and sifted through locally made jewelry and clothing while supporting many of Austin’s LGBTQ+ nonprofits. The family-friendly event featured a “History and Heroes of Austin Pride” panel, face painting, drag performances and other activities.
Special education junior Rachel Portalatin, who attended the event with her girlfriend, said she could sense the strong history of activism. She visited the Stonewall National Monument last year and said she was grateful that the community today can have a public celebration.
“It is so important to recognize that 50 years ago, our people were being killed and harassed and kicked out of their own spaces,” Portalatin said. “And now we’re here in a public park.”
The Pride Alumni Network of Texas Exes sold rainbow Longhorn T-shirts and shared resources for LGBTQ+ students. Network member Austin Dennis said he often meets alumni who graduated decades ago who are surprised to learn the network exists.
“We think of UT as being this liberal bastion, but for the LGBT community, it wasn’t always that way,” Dennis said.
Anthony Sobotik and Chad Palmatier, co-owners of Lick Honest Ice Cream and partners, sold ice cream at the event and also participated in the panel. Palmatier said he was initially nervous to open the business in Texas because the state was unfamiliar to him, but he was surprised by how smoothly things went.
“To be in a community where we can participate in an event like today and own an openly gay business is huge for us,” Sobotik said.
Portalatin and her girlfriend said Austin was the only place in Texas they could have moved to because the city and events such as “Rainbow on the Creek” are a safe space for them.
“Normally when we go out in public, we don’t hold hands or tell people that we’re dating because you never know — you might talk to the wrong person,” Portalatin said. “But here, that’s never the case. You’re always going to be welcomed with open arms by anybody.”