Pride train set to roll through Upper Valley

By JUAN VEGA DE SOTO

VTDigger

Published: 06-04-2024 3:37 PM

Modified: 06-04-2024 6:44 PM


Stop by one of the nine Amtrak stations on the Vermonter’s route Saturday, June 8, and you might catch a glimpse of LGBTQ+ Pride celebrations as the train slows into the platform.

That’s because, for the second year running, Pride groups across the state plan to rally to their local train stations to greet the Vermonter on its southbound journey, waving flags and playing music as part of the Pride Whistlestop Tour. Beginning in St. Albans, the train’s Vermont stops include Essex, Waterbury, Montpelier, Randolph, White River Junction, Windsor, Bellows Falls and Brattleboro.

A statewide celebration of LGBTQ+ identity like this one might have seemed unthinkable to the planners of Vermont’s first Pride march, back in 1983. Since then, local Pride groups have popped up in towns all across the state, from Newport to Bennington.

Barre’s Pride, which kicks off a week’s worth of events tomorrow, has grown immensely since it first started four years ago, according to chair Erica Reil.

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“We started in someone’s backyard, and now we’re shutting down a street. We have the local library, churches, restaurants, so many people reaching out to us,” said Reil.

It is one of many Pride festivals celebrating the LGBTQ+ community in Vermont this month. St. Albans and Brattleboro are also holding their Pride fests this weekend. Rutland County Pride is partnering with the NAACP to kick off their festival with a Juneteenth Strut on June 22. Both Bethel and White River Junction will have events on June 27.

And Barre’s is not the only Pride festival growing rapidly. William Fourney-Mills, the executive director of Rutland County Pride, said that they had “doubled the size of the event” this year. He also emphasized their efforts to make the festival accessible to everyone, by including a “sensory reduction space,” American Sign Language interpreters and a youth “fun zone.”

In conversations with Vermont’s LGBTQ+ community leaders, the redemptive power of queer joy appeared as a central theme of Pride.

“One thing I hope people remember this Pride is (that) … authentic expression of our identities is a powerful form of resistance,” said Dana Kaplan, executive director of Outright Vermont, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting LGBTQ+ youth in the state.

Kaplan acknowledged the work still needed to make Vermont a safe and equitable place for everyone, drawing on the memory of the 1969 Stonewall riots, a defining moment in the American queer right’s movement.

“We will never back down, just as the trans and queer activists at Stonewall … didn’t back down,” said Kaplan.