Organizers alter Pride Month lineup, canceling main events after outcry over celebration’s theme

Updated: Jun. 4, 2021 at 9:37 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Identity, Inc., Anchorage’s nonprofit dedicated to the betterment of the community through LGBTQ+ activism and support, said it will not continue with its planned Pride Month events after outcry regarding the group’s proposed theme and related hashtag.

The group took a step back after criticism of its initial theme for its Pride events this June, which was #CONQUEERED.

“The impact was that it caused harm,” said Identity Executive Director Laura Carpenter, “and so we needed to stop using that.

“It became clear that the issues were much deeper than this one thing, and dating back decades,” she continued, “so it is a thing that Prides across the country are figuring out – how to honor everyone in the community – and we really want to make sure we are able to do that.”

Organizers first explained the hashtag in a press release as a nod to the LGBTQ+ community having “endured many obstacles throughout the years, but no matter what has been thrown our way, we’ve always done one thing: conquer.”

Rather than inclusive, however, the group said it now recognizes the theme and related hashtag is insensitive and even offensive to many different groups, particularly with the idea of “conquering” as the main theme.

“You have to look at both intent and impact,” Carpenter said. “The main issue was about the racial connotations and the relationship to colonization and conquering, which is not what people want when they think of Pride.”

Per its website, Identity describes itself as “the cornerstone of our LGBTQ+ community in Alaska,” and all about helping people make connections, providing access to support systems and resources, and practicing inclusiveness and love.

Now, the group has decided that while other Pride events take place, it will put its efforts instead toward working on itself as well as an event – likely to take place during next year’s Pride Month, Carpenter said – that’s welcoming to all.

“We want a theme that honors all of us,” Carpenter and two board co-chairs wrote in a letter to supporters. “We want to be responsive, welcoming and inclusive in all our communications.

“However, we did not do that with this year’s Pride theme,” they wrote, adding that they also didn’t do that with initial responses about the theme. “We apologize for the harm we caused with selecting that theme. We apologize for the additional harm we caused for how we responded to those who spoke up.”

The writers then said they are meeting to hold themselves accountable, reflect and consider how they work with community members.

Among the upcoming events that are set to go on this month are the statewide Rainbow Run on June 12, Juneteenth and Homer Pride on June 19, a memorial gathering in Anchorage on June 20, and a Pride block party, also in Anchorage, on June 26.

“You can’t cancel Pride,” said Carpenter, who added that Identity, Inc. is looking forward to celebrations in the future but will first address some of its issues internally through race equity education and more. “It is still Pride Month; it is still an opportunity to celebrate.”

A more detailed list of some of Alaska’s Pride Month events, including several in other communities, can be found here.

The Identity Health Clinic is also now open again but at limited capacity. Learn more about all of Identity’s offerings by visiting the nonprofit’s website.

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