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LGBTQ+ networking group keeps Pride alive year round

Rainbow flags, a symbol of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) and queer pride and LGBT social movements, are seen outside the Stonewall Monument in New York City.
Rainbow flags, a symbol of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) and queer pride and LGBT social movements, are seen outside the Stonewall Monument in New York City.

Pride month may be over, but the founders of the organization Our Night Out Wilmington are proud of their identities year round.

It started with a community event calendar in 2010, five years before same-sex marriage became legal. Life-long Delawarean Joe Sielski started it as a small “passion project,” but the people who regularly followed the calendar grew, and Sielski knew he had come across an opportunity.

“I did not do this alone. I’ve said this a thousand times that it’s not necessarily because of me that this exists. I make a Facebook event and I hit send and then 150 people show up. The 150 people are the group, they’re the magic. The people are what makes this extraordinary.”

One Night Out’s purpose is just that – to facilitate congregation in public spaces where LGBTQ+ people were once, and still are, excluded from.

Group leaders choose a venue to gather on the third Thursday of each month, and post the details on the group’s Facebook page, which has almost 2500 members.

“It was us just organizing ourselves into a small little bar, a small little location like a restaurant, and truly that’s all it is," Sielski said. "It’s nothing grandiose, it's nothing extravagant. It’s just a get together.”

Sielski says the queer community helps to reveal the demand for assimilation in society. But at an Our Night Out event, breaking gender expectations won't be threatened.

“We know that because of who we are and because of what we’ve endured and because we are a family," he said. "We know, despite how fearful we can feel, we know that we have a sense of hope in ourselves as a community.”

He emphasized that the right to congregate, or to “be here and be queer” as Sielski says, is important to exercise, now that the LGBTQ community’s rights are under threat by the Supreme Court.

The Court’s decision to strike down abortion laws under Roe vs. Wade has caused panic among many LGBTQ+ people, who fear same-sex marriage could be next.

Sielski says Pride month exists because of the conflicts and hatred the community has endured, and still does, and Our Night Out has become a homage to one of its other co-founders, Josh Borin, who took his own life in 2020.

Rachel Sawicki is Delaware Public Media's New Castle County Reporter. They are non-binary and use they/them pronouns.