For generations sexual minorities have been feared, ridiculed, discriminated against, and ostracized because of misinformation and misunderstanding. In 1976, lesbian and gay Rhode Islanders began to organize our first ever pride march, believing it is essential that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) people have avenues to educate the larger community, as well as opportunities to come together and openly celebrate who they are. State and City leaders attempted to block the parade, but those early organizers pursued litigation which eventually led to a court ruling allowing this “pride” event to take place. About 75 individuals marched through downtown Providence to celebrate their diversity, and to highlight the contributions they had made to the wider community. Thus was born the group that would become Rhode Island Pride. In four decades, participants have grown annually from just under 100 in 1976 to over 30,000 at RI PrideFest today.

In the 1970s and 80s, gay men and lesbians across the nation were engaging in a variety of grass roots actions that we now identify as the “gay liberation movement.” Through the production of seminars, rallies, performances, theme events, art, literary programs and projects, as well as televised political issues, individuals have been able to learn about the oppression, concerns and contributions of LGBTQ people. Here in RI, early gay pride celebrations were the first steps that eventually led to civil rights protections being extended to gay men, lesbians, and bisexuals in 1995, and to transgender individuals in 2001. Rhode Islanders have been able to legally marry in their home state since 2013. In keeping with this tradition, RI Pride continues to reach out to an increasingly diverse and growing population, hoping to make it easier for all gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people to be themselves.