Next week marks the 31st year since the first National Coming Out Day was observed. Held on Oct. 11 each year, National Coming Out Day commemorates the anniversary of the landmark National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights in 1987.
Communities in the Tampa Bay area have festivities planned throughout the week, including a block-long rainbow flag that will be unfurled in the St. Petersburg parade on Saturday. A number of activities are also in store for the second annual Pasco Pride Festival this weekend.
The Human Rights Campaign, which sponsors the worldwide event under the auspices of its National Coming Out Project, said coming out as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer is still important. Also crucial are vocal allies who are straight or cisgender.
“When people know someone who is LGBTQ, they are far more likely to support equality under the law,” the Human Rights Campaign said in a statement released about this year’s happenings. “Beyond that, our stories can be powerful to each other.”
At ComeOutStPete.org, the team has made it their mission to advocate for community awareness and acceptance of all sexual orientations and gender identities. More than a dozen events and parties are scheduled Thursday through Oct. 11.
The biggest is the Come Out St. Pete Parade in the city’s Grand Central District.
Here’s a look at some of the National Coming Out Day festivities planned locally:
- A custom rainbow flag spanning one block will be unfurled during the free Come Out St. Pete Parade on Saturday. The parade begins at 20th Street and moves west along Central Avenue starting at 10 a.m. in the Grand Central District, with a festival from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The event also includes the Taste of Grand Central across the neighborhood on Thursday, the Vogue Ball competition at 7 p.m. Friday at VFW Post 39 and a lip sync battle at the Dog Bar at 8 p.m. Friday. For the full schedule, visit comeoutstpete.org.
- Last year’s inaugural Pasco Pride Festival was such a success that the gala has been expanded this time around. There is a block party from 4 to 8 p.m. Saturday at Railroad Square in downtown New Port Richey, plus vendors, food, drinks and activities for kids in Sims Park at Grand Boulevard and Main Street. The Pasco Pride Festival will also take place in Sims Park from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, with speeches by state Rep. Anna Eskamani and Carlos Smith, the first openly gay Latino in the Florida Legislature. The entertainment includes Larmani, Mr. Vyn Suazion and DJ Czaritsa and the Spheres Bubble Show. pascopridefestival.org.
- The official after-party for the Coming Out Day parade in St. Petersburg is kicking off at bar and lounge Enigma, 1110 Central Ave., at 8 p.m. Saturday with drink specials and music.
- Sunday brings a beach day at Pass-a-Grille, where the family and ally organization PFLAG St. Petersburg will have a tent with resources to answer questions about its chapter from noon to 4 p.m. at 113 11th Ave., St. Pete Beach. Later, the Sunset Tea Dance will stop by the Hurricane restaurant’s rooftop deck. The event runs 4 to 9 p.m. at 809 Gulf Way.
- On Oct. 10, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman and the City Council will hold a presentation and official proclamation for Come Out St. Pete from 3 to 4 p.m. at the Sunshine Center, 330 Fifth St. N.
- On Oct. 11, the Metro LGBTQ Welcome Center, 2227 Central Ave., will celebrate Coming Out Day with cocktails and light appetizers provided by Punky’s Bar & Grill from 3 to 4 p.m., acting as an official Come Out St. Pete closing party.