Pride weekend celebrates LGBT unity, progress
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Thousands made the trip to Downtown Austin Saturday in celebration of LGBT pride.
The weekend served as the 21st anniversary of the Austin PRIDE Foundation, a local group dedicated to fundraising and supporting area nonprofits serving the LGBT population.
Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo kicked off the weekend by reminding those struggling with their sexuality that, with time, it gets better, echoing a popular message which spread across the internet following a string of teenage suicides in 2010.
"There is a tremendous number of people that will love you for who you are, not for who you love," Chief Acevedo said.
This weekend serves as a memorial of sorts for Bettie Naylor, a gay rights activist who dedicated her life to promote equal rights throughout Texas and America.
Naylor died in April, but her partner, Libby Sykora, believes she is smiling down from Heaven.
"She always wanted to do good, speak out for equality and stand up for social injustice," Sykora said.
Naylor died in April, after dedicating her life to promoting civil rights for lesbians and gays in Texas and the nation.
On Saturday, thousands packed Fiesta Gardens in East Austin for the official Austin Pride Festival.
It was there that Stephanie Smith pushed her message of “be who you are” through an apparel line she showcases across the nation.
"The whole idea was self-acceptance," Smith said. “There is so much negativity with gays, as far as the outside world and acceptance. I think a lot of individuals have a hard time with their own acceptance and coming out."
That's a struggle Thomas Kirk remembers vividly from his teen years. Now 41, he says a lot has changed in the quarter century since he came out.
"I definitely feel safer being out and being myself,” Kirk, an Austinite, said. “There is a power of strength in numbers."
But he feels society's acceptance could still be better. It’s a process that Kirk believes will develop with time.
All money raised from the Austin Pride Festival will benefit local non-profits supporting the LGBT community.
In addition, a 5K Rainbow Run Saturday morning also helped area nonprofits. This year's race turnout more than doubled last year’s.