Maria Clara Melo waved a rainbow flag proudly over her head.
The crowd was decked out in everything from shiny spandex shorts and tiny tops to overalls and rainbow striped crop tops.
She was surrounded by people of all colors, genders, shapes and sizes, and she was proud.
On Saturday, Oct. 12, Orlando Pride colored all of Downtown Orlando rainbow, just 50 years after the Stonewall Riots and one day after National Coming Out Day.
Orlando’s Come Out with Pride event aimed to remember the events and lives lost during the riots and celebrate how far the nation has come, according to the event description on Facebook.
Melo, 21, an Orlando resident, said she feels like Pride has always had a positive atmosphere.
This was her third time at Pride, and the first time she brought along her sister, Ana Bentim.
Melo said it’s important to be around people in the same community who get where you’re coming from.
“I think it’s really nice to be around people in the queer community that feel comfortable expressing themselves and their sexuality,” Melo said. “It’s really cool and validating”.
Bentim, 29, said her first Pride was a cool experience as she watched everyone come together in one place.
As an Orlando resident, Bentim said she has seen the parades from her home before, but that being at the event was an entirely different experience.
“It’s good to walk around and see everyone show a different part of them and who they are,” Bentim said.
Melo said Orlando Pride is bigger and more developed that other Pride events she’s been to before, and that there are a lot more physical structures and stands around.
“It seems like it gets bigger every year,” she said.
The event had everything from food, clothing and flag vendors, to information stations about staying healthy and safe.
While Pride is an event that’s able to take place now, the signs present at the event addressed the memory of the events at Stonewall in 1969.
Jacob Chesslo is the president of Rainbow Alliance, Florida Tech’s LGBTQ student organization.
He said, “Historically, Pride was important due to acting as a protest against anti-LGBTQ prejudice, and acted as a way to support each other in the fight for equality.”
Chesslo went on to add, “It’s a way to celebrate the steps we’ve made in equal rights, and a way to show the community love and support.”
Chesslo has been involved in Rainbow Alliance ever since starting at Florida Tech, and has been to Space Coast Pride parades, St. Pete Pride and now Orlando Pride.
Chesslo, a junior in physics, said that he believes that the country is supportive of the LGBTQ community.
“Many more allies are coming out to events and celebrating the gains we’ve made in the fight for equality,” Chesslo said.
Still, those who oppose LGBTQ rights are present in 2019.
At Orlando Pride, three protestors stood outside of the fence that separated the event from the rest of Downtown Orlando at about three p.m.
They held signs saying, “Jesus saves from God’s wrath” and “Turn from Pride to Jesus.” This is not the only opposition.
According to the New York Times, the Supreme Court met last week to decide whether the current civil rights legislation allowed employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and transgender status.
Title VII outlawed discrimination of race, religion, national origin and sex, and the specifics of “sex” have not been explicitly written to include sexuality and gender identity, according to the New York Times.
Chesslo said the judicial proceedings are necessary, and that without a judicial ruling, the actions against the community will continue.
“It’s a necessary process to, hopefully, solidify the human rights that the LGBTQ community has,” Chesslo said.
Melo said that the importance of Pride is to provide an event where LGBTQ people can feel proud to be who they are.
“I love seeing all the people dress up and be happy and gay,” Melo said. “It’s nice that they can feel safe and comfortable because there aren’t that many spaces where they can be.”
The Human Rights Campaign stressed that this is the importance of National Coming Out Day, according to their website.
The day is a time to celebrate coming out as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or another orientation.
The Human Rights Campaign website states, “Every person who speaks up changes more hearts and minds, and creates new advocates for equality.”
Teresa Rago, a junior in mechanical engineering, was one of many who celebrated National Coming Out Day.
To celebrate, she created an Instagram post. “Posting it online gave my friends from back home a chance to support me if they wanted,” Rago said. “It really shows how much I’ve grown and how confident I’ve become and how comfortable I am being myself in front of everyone.”
Rago said in high school, she was much less comfortable with her sexuality. However, she was still able to participate in National Coming Out Day during her senior year of high school.
“I brought rainbow-themed treats to my teammates for Coming Out Day,” Rago said. “Even though I wasn’t really out back then, I wanted to help form an environment where other potentially closeted teammates could feel safe, which is something I wish I had back in high school.”
When coming out is a concern for many young people, Orlando Pride took the opportunity to make a space where all members of the community could feel safe, especially when LGBTQ members haven’t been so safe in the past.
Pulse Nightclub, a gay nightclub, had representatives walk in the parade.
They held a banner with the faces of those who died in the shooting on June 12, 2016, with the hashtag #wewillnotlethatewin across the front of the banner.
Equality Florida, a civil rights organization for the LGBTQ community, walked as well.
The group was led by a man with a megaphone who walked in front of their banner.
Through the megaphone, he called towards the crowd following him, saying, “What do we want?” The crowd behind him replied, “Equality!” “When do we want it?” he continued. “Now!”