Participants and parade-goers, some caked in makeup, sequins and rainbow flags, danced through the streets of Kansas City’s annual Pride Parade and festival Saturday.
The parade began shortly after 11 a.m. with hundreds lining the busy roadways, closing down at least six blocks in Westport.
Floats ranged from local Westport bar Missie B’s re-imagining of the classic Little Mermaid tale with drag performers, to a band of older men sitting in a cart, playing The Weather Girl’s hit “It’s raining men,” on trumpets and trombones.
“You better work it,” shouted a pair of parade-goers watching performers strut through the streets.
The two people, who were dressed in drag, did not feel comfortable sharing their names for fear of retaliation. That sentiment echoed among at least a dozen others The Star tried to speak to in the crowd.
While many expressed gratitude for the city-wide celebration and its inclusive message, they also said recent state legislation and anti-LGBTQ fervor had left them feeling that unabashed pride may make them vulnerable to either hatred or violence.
On Wednesday, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson signed two bills into law. The first banned doctors from prescribing gender-affirming care, such as hormone therapy or puberty blockers, to minors and stopped state medicaid from paying for the treatment. The second law prohibited students from playing on sports teams that did not match the gender on their birth certificate.
Only days prior, on June 1, a transgender woman was shot twice in an act she believed was motivated by hate. Jackson County prosecutors charged the alleged shooter, 30-year-old Gonzolo Sago Duvergel, with first-degree assault on Friday.
Erica Peres, who stood along Broadway Boulevard for over an hour, felt it was important to attend this year’s pride event to “stand up for the rights” of her loved ones.
“It’s been difficult,” she said. “We have friends and family members who are a part of the (LGBTQ) community. They’re wonderful people and I don’t think any of the hatred is tolerable.”
Peres brought her 2-year-old daughter, Delilah, to the parade, where she spent the majority of the event sucking on lollipops and playing with bead necklaces thrown from a float.
“She loved the rainbows,” Peres said.
“I just want to show her that everything is beautiful. Love is beautiful... And love and acceptance is bigger than the hatred.”
Many of the floats passed out fliers with mental health resources for LGBTQ youth and signs advocating for gender-affirming care.
Two other parade-goers said the event reminded them of how many good, accepting people exist in Kansas City’s LGBTQ community.
They came to see some of their friends on floats and dancing through the streets.
“It’s nice to be in a space that feels comfortable,” one said, with a pride flag symbolizing pansexuality strapped to her back.
As the parade came to a close, music from the neighboring Taco Bell and Westport bar FountainHaus grew louder. Dancers left the streets and filtered into the businesses to hide from the rain. For many, the party was just beginning.
“It’s such a great day,” said Hadley Arnett, speaking about Saturday’s Pride event while standing across the street from FountainHaus.
She had yet to decide what to do with the rest of her afternoon as she held her young puppy, Ed, draped in a rainbow flag.
Arnett said she tries to attend events for Pride wherever she is. Last year, it was Australia. This year, it’s Kansas City.
“I always come out for these events. It’s really important to showcase support for all different types of people,” she said.
“Here, everyone is welcomed.”