Thousands of Brevard residents gathered in Downtown Eau Gallie with rainbow flags, colorful makeup and balloons to attend Space Coast Pride’s annual parade on Sept. 28.
For the first time, Florida Tech’s LGBTQ group, Rainbow Alliance, marched in the parade.
For many members of Rainbow Alliance, this was not their first Pride. Jacob Chesslo, the club’s president and a senior in physics, said he attended his first Pride during his freshman year at Florida Tech.
“I was honestly overwhelmed at everything and wasn’t sure how to act or what to do,” Chesslo said. “At the end, I felt somewhat isolated. However, this year, it was very much the opposite. I’m much more open to the experience and enjoyed myself much more during this year’s Pride.”
Chesslo also said being in the parade gave him a mix of “anxiety and pride.”
“It is always an amazing feeling to be a part of something greater, and this was the perfect time to do so,” Chesslo said. “The other members of Rainbow Alliance made the anxiety lesser, and the overall experience was worth it.”
Sarah Edwards, a sophomore in aerospace engineering and Rainbow Alliance’s vice president, was another member to march in the parade.
“No Pride can ever truly compare to the first one,” Edwards said. “This one, however, was the first time I got to march in the parade. It was fantastic getting to watch the excited faces as they cheered you on, and getting to look out onto the endless line of rainbows.”
Edwards, who grew up in the suburbs of Nashville, said her first time attending a Pride event was at a previous Space Coast Pride event.
She said it was an experience she will never forget and something that helped her to see the acceptance around her.
“After spending most of my life in an area where homosexuality was the unspoken evil, I cannot even begin to describe to you the feeling of seeing so many supportive people in one place,” Edwards said. “It was so overwhelming I was almost brought to tears. It was very hard for me to grasp the idea that for the first time in my life, every soul around me was okay with this thing I was ashamed of and felt like I had to hide.”
Patrick Futch, Rainbow Alliance’s secretary and a junior in marine biology, also attended his first parade last year at Space Coast Pride.
“It was very overwhelming,” Futch said.
He went on to say he cried at one point during the parade because he had never been surrounded by so many accepting people.
Attending Space Coast Pride in 2018 helped Futch gain the confidence to come out.
“Pride is really, really important, especially for the people who haven’t come out,” Futch said. “I know from personal experience that having that support is really helpful, for if you want to come out or if you need support if maybe your family and friends aren’t so accepting.”
Helping people find support and acceptance is why Cortney Thompson, the president of Space Coast Pride, helps organize the Pride events every year.
Thompson, who attended his first Pride in New York in 2005, said the organization works in various ways to help the local LGBTQ community.
“Our biggest goal is to always represent our community by helping it grow, defending our community against attacks and spreading the message of love and acceptance,” Thompson said.
He went on to say their most recent goal has been to establish a community center, create scholarships and grow financially.
While Thompson is moving to Kentucky with his husband, making this his last Space Coast Pride, he said he is happy with the impact they have made.
“We’re so proud of this community and all that Pride represents,” Thompson said. “We encourage everyone to get involved. It really helps and makes a difference.”