On Saturday, September 30th the Floyd chapter of SONG hosted PRIDE. Taking up the mantle from the previous host, PFLAG, this year’s pride was a victory in itself – a triumph in the face of growing facism and christian nationalism in Floyd, VA. 

Celebrating the diverse and vibrant queer community in Floyd, this year’s event featured performances from the Drag Queens and Kings of the Downtown Divas, folk artist Amelia Empson, poets, storytellers and a lively DJ who kept the vibes high. Local organizations such as The June Bug Center, the library, CARE,. and POWHR setup displays, provided support and offered activities. There was even a rainbow unicorn! 

AJ Cook, the primary organizer of the event, was pleased to report that over 150 people gathered at the new location for Floyd PRIDE. “We are so thankful for this strong community and how we’ve shown up together even when we’ve had protests of drag on the fringe. We’ve shown up together in meeting rooms. We are taking care of each other and determined to keep PRIDE in the Park safe and accessible for those who need this kind of festive celebration where we are free to really be who we are. “

Formerly held at private event spaces, this year’s public spot at Lineberry Park required event organizers to obtain a permit, a process usually handled by the town manager. However, the town council interveened in what should have been a simple process. Citing concerns about “drag queens,” they required the event permit to be voted on by the town council. 

Approved 4-1, this permit issue comes on the heels of a July fight with the County Board of Supervisors over an attempt to rescind funds from The June Bug Center after they hosted a Pride Month drag show event and tabled at a Juneteenth Celebration. 

The decisions by town council and the Board of Supervisors to continue funding and approve the PRIDE permit are direct results of the organizing and agitating by Floyd SONG members and the communities they represent. Mara Robbins, part of the Floyd Chapter of SONG. suggested: 

“The startlingly visible presence  of white supremacist and christian nationalist groups, especially during 2017, turned my community into a place I didn’t even recognize anymore. Now we are resisting fascism but we are also advocating for the health and safety of who we are and where we live in a really personal way. With books being banned and the drag community being targeted across the South, we feel a deep responsibility to support those who are most vulnerable. We deserve to live free from fear.”

Located atop the Blue Ridge Plateau in the southwest corner of Virginia, Floyd is a shining beacon of rural organizing in the South; demonstrating resistance through visibility and political education, organizing to combat fascism by being in solidarity across communities, growing political consciousness, and illuminating the ways in which christianity is being weaponized to remove essential resources from our communities and violate our bodily autonomy.

Emil Morris, with the Women’s Resource Center of the New River Valley noted that “Floyd has such a strong culture here of innovation and of activism. We have great people and this is a beautiful place! While working with Southerners on New Ground and  Springhouse Community School, I meet LGBTQ young people all the time who were born here and are growing up here and they are the community. Right? They deserve to be supported.”

The rise of fascism in the US is a cultural and political backlash. The right wing ecosystem, fueled by white and christian nationalism, is responding to the expansion of rights and increased visibility of the LGBQTIA+, pro Black, pro Indigenous, pro working class mentalities, by working to ban drag shows, intimidating Black and Indigenous communities through pro confederate demonstrations, and by continuing to use the safety of children as a wedge issue to demonize our communities.

Fascism works by limiting our rights so much over time that we have none to defend ourselves with. Protecting our rights now, being visible now, and engaging in political education now, is essential for protecting our liberties and dignity not only in Floyd, but across so many small southern towns it will ripple outward to the rest of the country. 

Join the resistance to fascism and the growing movement for Queer and Trans liberation in our lifetime! Floyd SONG’s next community event will be Tuesday, October 31. Come have fun at our Halloween “Night of the Deadly Drag” from 7-10 pm at Dogtown Roadhouse. There will be bawdy revelry, musical entertainment, dancing, costume contests (with prizes!) and dramatic performances by the Downtown Divas. 

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