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Wilmington celebrates Pride Month; local advocate says it's a big step

Delaware Public Media

June is LGBTQ Pride Month nationally, and this year, it’ll officially be Pride Month in the City of Wilmington too.

It’s the first time a mayor has declared June Wilmington’s Pride month, according to a city spokesperson.

But residents have been working to make Wilmington a better place for LGBTQ folks for a while.

Joe Sielski helped organize an LGBTQ happy hour group in the city back in 2010.

“Because there’s always been this disappointment that the only place for LGBT people to gather in the city of wilm is just the gay bar. And we wanted to sort of establish a community that wasn’t solely gay bar-based,” he said.

Sielski says that by holding the monthly “Our Night Out” gatherings at different restaurants and bars throughout Wilmington, the group helped transform the city into a place that felt more welcoming.

“Because certain establishments hosted, we as gay people returned as patrons,” he said. “You know, by saying because so-and-so has done Our Night Out, it’s now a safe space ”

After eight years, Our Night Out still meets every third Thursday of the month.

Sielski says Delaware is doing pretty well when it comes to anti-discrimination laws and other structural protections for the LGBTQ community.

But he feels the city of Wilmington could be more culturally progressive.

He notes creating an atmosphere where same-sex couples feel comfortable holding hands in public, for example, is up to citizens.

“But what the city can do is the city can say, we want you, ... you matter,” he said. “This pride month … is a really big step. ”

Wilmington kicked off its Pride Month this week with the first screening in an LGBTQ film festival at Theater N, and a one-night staging of Hedwig and the Angry Inch at The Queen.

It continues with a Pride Night with the Blue Rocks, and distribution of rainbow decals to local businesses so they can show their support.

Sophia Schmidt is a Delaware native. She comes to Delaware Public Media from NPR’s Weekend Edition in Washington, DC, where she produced arts, politics, science and culture interviews. She previously wrote about education and environment for The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, MA. She graduated from Williams College, where she studied environmental policy and biology, and covered environmental events and local renewable energy for the college paper.