By Bethany Ward, Staff Writer–
Chattanooga Pride Week concluded strongly with the Chattanooga Pride Fair on Sunday, October 6th, at Ross’s Landing. It was organized by Tennessee Valley Pride, a local non-profit organization that celebrates the LGBTQ+ community in Chattanooga and the surrounding area.
The fair was held on the Tennessee Riverfront from 1pm-8pm and showcased a true celebration: bright colors, local vendors, entertainment, face painting, and support groups. People came decked out in rainbow tutus, facepoint, body stickers, and more.
“It creates a kind of happy place where the LGBT can come and be themselves…it’s a great environment,” said Eveyln Hensen from the Transgender Chattanooga Support Group.
Chattanooga State student Lexi Sander spoke similarly of the supportive environment, saying, “It’s nice to see everyone coming together and expressing their differences…there’s no hate here…everyone’s coming together to spread love.”
“I feel like we could change people’s minds to not judge others for who they are,” said Sander’s friend Madison Moody, a 21 year old Chattanooga citizen.
Evelyn Hensen from the Transgender Chattanooga Support Group explained that it can be difficult being transgender, but that support groups like this make a huge difference.
“They save [me]. I call [members] when I have a bad day,” Hensen said. “It can be very lonely when you don’t fit in…you need a LGBTQ+ community to be with or you’ll go nuts.”
Hensen also noted that transgender population has very high rates of suicide.
“It can be very difficult…you don’t even know where you can go to the bathroom,” said Hensen.
She knew that she wasn’t in the right skin from a young age: 11 years old.
“I used to pray to God to be normal…I’m 55 now and I’m not fully transitioned yet…I was afraid for a long time.”
There were many other booths present to provide people the opportunity to get connected to support groups matching their needs and get others informed about how to support the LGBTQ+ community as well. The Democratic Party had a booth set up to show their support, said Democratic Party Hamilton county chair Khristy Wilkinson.
“The camaraderie between members of the LGBTQ+ community and allies is nice,” said Wilkinson. “It’s nice to look around and say ‘I’m not alone, we’re all supporting each other, and we stick together.’ We celebrate that once a year.”