When residents of the Coachella Valley joined many, many thousands of visitors from around the globe last year to celebrate Greater Palm Springs Pride, the mood was decidedly mixed.
On one hand, the year 2015 had brought us arguably the greatest LGBT-rights legal victory ever: full marriage equality in all 50 states.
On the other hand, we were reeling from the news that just days before Pride—mere feet from the site of the Pride enclosure on Arenas Road—George Zander, a prominent LGBT-rights activist that so many of us knew and loved, had been gay-bashed along with his husband, Chris, after leaving Hunters Nightclub.
Fortunately, George’s prognosis was good, although he faced a lengthy and grueling rehabilitation process after injuries including a broken hip.
As 2016’s Greater Palm Springs Pride approaches, the mood of locals and visitors alike is decidedly less joyous than it was a year ago.
In the months since last year’s Pride, the LGBT community has found itself under attack. Horrifying new laws in some states are targeting the rights of transgender men and women to simply be able to go to the bathroom safely. The Republican presidential ticket has come out staunchly against the nationwide marriage equality we all celebrated so joyously when we gained the right a year and a half ago. And most horrifically of all, a shooter—perhaps conflicted by his own sexuality—killed 49 revelers, and injured dozens of more, late one June night at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Fla.
As for George Zander: Many of us gathered earlier this week in downtown Palm Springs for a candlelight vigil to mourn his passing last December. That good prognosis we all clung to with hope during last year’s Pride turned out to be woefully incorrect.
As we get together for Greater Palm Springs Pride 2016, we’ll deal with all of the emotions of the last year—sadness, mourning, anger and, yes, joy, too—with the help of art, just as our fellow humans have done for millennia.
And we’ll hope that by the time Greater Palm Springs Pride 2017 rolls around, we’ll have a lot less to mourn—and a lot more to celebrate.