When police entered the Stonewall Inn in Manhattan on June 28, 1969, with the intent of arresting patrons and shutting the place down, the gay community fought back. Hundreds rioted that night, and thousands gathered outside the bar the next day to decry police aggression and repressive laws against homosexuals. It was one of the largest gatherings of queer people in U.S. history.

To commemorate the resistance at Stonewall, the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community in the Twin Cities celebrates Pride with a parade and a series of events in late June. Organizers of the huge event, which draws nearly 400,000 participants, have called Twin Cities Pride the nation's third largest free Pride event.

Such a large event for such a diverse community brings healthy doses of both praise and criticism. As GLBT people have made slow but steady gains in equality over the past 50 years, many feel that Pride has become less political and more corporatized, while others don't see themselves represented.

"I think that it's amazing to see how many people come to Twin Cities Pride and from where they've traveled," said David De Grio, a blogger and instructor at Minneapolis Community & Technical College. "Over the few years I've hit up the parade and the [festival], I've met people all the way from Phoenix to Thunder Bay." He also praised the number of non-GLBT allies present at Twin Cities Pride.

De Grio said, however, that there are many issues Pride tends to ignore, like social justice. "I'd like to see more people who stand up for GLBT rights get involved in their community issues that don't involve GLBT rights," he said. "We have serious crime issues in Minneapolis, serious issues with our school system and high property taxes."I never really caught on to the Pride buzz; it just seems fake to me," said Michael Glirbas of Brooklyn Park. "It's too commercial for me and probably is at all Prides across the country." Glirbas feels that the event is too fractured and party-based. "I really think it's just another reason to party and not really reflect on actual Pride. I wish as many GLBT people who attend Pride would actually contribute to the community and stand together as one and not subdivide."

Several events during Pride weekend aim to change the community discussion from within, and create spaces for visibility and celebration among those often excluded from traditional Pride events.

The Revolting Queers (www.myspace.com/revoltingqueers) are one example. The young collective is organizing a parade contingent that challenges the way that "corporate marketing, political pandering, religious proselytizing and fantasies of domesticity have eclipsed a sexual politics of resistance."

As the same-sex marriage debate rages, the Revolting Queers feel that many social justice issues in the GLBT community are being ignored. The Queers' parade float promises to drive that point home -- with coffins representing the "dead" issues. The group hopes to bring those issues back into focus, and is looking for like-minded queers to get involved in the Pride parade on Sunday morning.

Saturday night's annual Dyke March is in response to what many see as white gay male control of Pride, and by extension, the GLBT movement, leaving out lesbians and women of color. Organized by the Twin Cities Avengers, the march is open to anyone who challenges patriarchy, and is committed to social justice as it relates to queer women.

This year will also feature the first Twin Cities Trans March (www.myspace.com/tctransmarch), "an event for all trans and gender-nonconforming people and friends." Friday's March will focus on building community, providing a safe alternative space and increasing visibility for transgender and gender-nonconforming people. One goal of the march is to "protest trans exclusion and transphobia within the queer community and the Pride Festival specifically," according to organizers.

And this weekend's Color CoordiNATION conference (www.aaatf.org/coordination) is a community-building event for GLBT persons of non-white heritage and their allies. The event will address disparities in communities of color -- such as housing, health, employment and leadership -- that are often exacerbated by homophobia and transphobia. Workshops will be offered on creating spaces for people of color, dating, faith and spirituality, and being an ally to communities of color.

"I'm very excited about the future possibilities this conference could lead to," said coordinator Joe Ward. "GLBT communities of color have issues beyond marriage that the mainstream doesn't always see."GLBT communities have asked that Pride festivals become less commercial and refocus on the social justice issues that started the summer events," said the event organizers. "This conference will put community activism directly back into the Pride celebration."

Pride-related events

  • Uptown Pride Block Party:
    Bob Mould, Tina Schlieske, Venus, the Mendicants, B-Girl Be, Harsh Reality and MC Foxy Tann. 6 p.m.-10:30 p.m. Fri. Lake St. at Bryant Av. S.
  • Pride Festival:
    10 a.m.-10 p.m. Sat., 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sun., Loring Park, Mpls.
  • Ashley Rukes GLBT Pride Parade:
    11 a.m. Sun., Hennepin Avenue in downtown Mpls.
  • Dyke March:
    8:30 p.m. Sat., Walker Art Center, 1750 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls. After party: 10:30 p.m. Sat., Pi Nightclub, 2532 25th Av. S., Mpls.
  • Twin Cities Trans March:
    7:30 p.m. Fri., Gold Medal Park, 2nd St. and 11th Av. S., Mpls. (next to the Guthrie Theater).
  • Color CoordiNATION Conference:
    6-8 p.m. Fri., 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Sat., 10 a.m.- 6 p.m. Sun., Minneapolis Community & Technical College and Loring Park.
  • More info:

Andy Birkey's "Minnesota-centric GLBT blog" is Eleventh Avenue South. He also contributes to the Minnesota Monitor.