More than 200,000 people gathered in downtown Orlando on Saturday to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community and its allies at the annual Orlando Pride event. The event was also a way of showing resistance and defiance to the anti-LGBTQ+ policies and actions of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who has been widely criticized by LGBTQ+ advocates and civil rights groups.
The highlight of the event was the parade, which featured floats, music, costumes, and rainbow flags. The youngest Grand Marshal in the history of Orlando Pride was Dempsey Jara, an 11-year-old transgender girl who transitioned at the age of seven and has been an advocate for transgender rights and inclusion.
“I’m just living my best life. I’m just being me. It’s not about being transgender. It’s about being true to yourself,” Dempsey said in an interview with Newsweek.
Dempsey and her family have faced many challenges and threats for supporting her identity, such as being harassed online, receiving death threats, being sued by a conservative group, and having their home vandalized. But they have also received support from their community and from organizations like Equality Florida, the state’s largest LGBTQ+ civil rights group.
“She’s not just a transgender girl. She’s a girl. And she’s a girl who wants to play sports with her friends,” Brandi Jara, Dempsey’s mother, said. Brandi Jara is one of the plaintiffs in a lawsuit challenging DeSantis’ ban on transgender girls from playing in school sports, which he signed into law on June 1, the first day of Pride Month.
DeSantis has also vetoed funding for mental health services for survivors of the Pulse nightclub shooting, which killed 49 people and injured 53 others in a gay nightclub in Orlando in 2016. He has also threatened to cut funding for cities that enforce COVID-19 safety measures, such as mask mandates and vaccine passports, despite the state having one of the highest rates of infection and death in the country.
Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, who joined the parade along with other local officials and celebrities, echoed Smith’s sentiment.
“We’re here to celebrate our community. We’re here to celebrate love. We’re here to celebrate joy. And we’re here to celebrate defiance,” Dyer said.
Many participants at Orlando Pride expressed their pride and solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community, as well as their frustration and anger with DeSantis and his administration.
“We are not going to be intimidated by anyone who tries to stop us from being who we are. We are here, we are queer, and we are fabulous,” Miguel Rodriguez, a participant at Orlando Pride, said.
– 200,000 people showed up for Orlando Pride in defiant middle finger to Ron DeSantis, LGBTQ Nation, October 23, 2023
– Transgender 11-Year-Old Becomes Youngest Grand Marshal at Pride Parade, Newsweek, October 23, 2023
– Trans girl is youngest Orlando Pride marshal: ‘Living her best life’, PinkNews, October 22, 2023
– Orlando Pride parade features 11-yr-old ‘transgender girl’ as marshal: ‘It’s about being true to yourself’, USSA News, October 22, 2023