According to Altoona Pride Parade Support’s Facebook event post, Altoona Mayor Matthew Pacifico “stated that no gay people live there."
The alleged comment reportedly sparked a huge response from local LGBTQ+ family and their allies. So much so that a Pride parade has been scheduled for Oct. 11 in downtown Altoona to coincide with National Coming Out Day.
The parade will begin at the corner of Green Avenue and Ninth Street and end at the intersection of 15th Street. A ceremony and celebration will follow in Rossman Park along 11th Avenue.
Todd Snovel, executive director of the Pennsylvania Governor’s Commission on LGBTQ issues, and local musician Walkney are special guests of the event.
“LGBTQ members are part of your community, they’re already here. They’re active. They’re amazing. They’re doing great things,” said Sue Patterson, director of Student Diversity and Inclusion Programming at Penn State Altoona. “All they’re asking from our community is for you to look at them and say, ‘You’re one of us,’ instead of looking for how we’re different.”
The parade is the first of its kind in Blair County and coincides with National Coming Out Day.
Related to the parade, Altoona area TV station WTAJ reported a recent study found hate crimes against the LGBT community have increased more than a third in the past 20 years. According to the study from security.org, nearly 12 percent of all hate crimes target the LGBT community.
The WTJA story continued by noting Sue Patterson, director of Student Diversity and Inclusion Programming at Penn State Altoona, said part of the problem is people being afraid of showing their true colors and getting judged because of it.
“They want to be amazing members of the community, and they already are," Patterson reportedlty said. "It’s just so often they’re doing it quietly where people don’t know because they’re afraid of the retribution they might get if they come out.”
Amarillys Aponte-Lee, president of Pride Alliance at the school, said the language used to talk about the LGBT community is overwhelmingly negative.
“That spreads the message that being gay or being bisexual or being lesbian is a negative things, and that’s what we don’t want,” she said.
As a result of these students in the Pride Alliance and the school are organizing a pride parade and inviting others to learn more about the LGBT community.
The event is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. Carpooling reportedly will be available. To be a driver or to reserve a seat, interested people are asked to contact Jay at 570-980-1040.
Editor’s note: I am reminded of a Ted Martin story. When he was executive director of Equality PA (now defunct), he told me how often local elected officials, members of the Legislature, and others would object to his prompts to seriously consider LGBT-inclusive civil rights ordinances, laws, and regulations. Martin said officials would say 'we don’t have any gay people here.' Then, gay individuals and couples would make visits to those officials. They don’t say that anymore,” Martin said.