Pride Month: Triangle Pride

triangle pride march 1986
Author: 
Brandon Goins

Durham, North Carolina has a rich history of LGBTQ activism and progress. It is also the home of the Triangle Pride Parade and Festival, the state’s largest pride event held every fall.

The origins of North Carolina Pride, now Triangle Pride, grew out of the 1980 “March Against Klan/Nazi Terror” in Greensboro. Gay and lesbian activists from across the state joined in the anti-hate protests. Reminiscent of the civil rights movement of the 1960s, the march in Greensboro brought gays and lesbians into the larger conversation on civil rights in the state. This was the beginning of a bond between the growing LGBTQ activist community and progressive allies.

One year after the march in 1980, the state’s first gay and lesbian march took place. With the slogan “Our Day Out,” three hundred gays and lesbians gathered and marched in Durham.

The evolution of the 1981 march into the first annual march was spurred by LGBT community leaders’ frustration with vaguely LGBT themed picnics and park gatherings held in the years following it. In 1986 the Duke Gay alliance and the Triangle Area Lesbian Feminists were active in forming a Pride march which was held on Duke’s campus. Lesbian activist Mandy Carter also had a hand in the event's origin.

“Our Day Out” grew into North Carolina’s first annual Pride march five years later in 1986. The “Out Today, Out to Stay” march garnered six hundred to one thousand LGBT people and straight allies. The relationship between the LGBT community and straight allies grew in the Triangle. The 1980s saw LGBT friendly businesses and clubs like The Capital Corral, which would later become Legends, sprouting in the area. The “Out to Stay” march would pave the way for LGBTQ+ progress in North Carolina. The Triangle area became a hub for small victories in queer politics, health, and social awareness. The year following the march saw Joe Herzenberg, the first openly gay candidate to win a state election, appointed to Town Council in Chapel Hill.

Following the march, the Triangle Gay and Lesbian Alliance (TGLA) was formed to support the movement’s momentum and to plan each year’s march. In 1988 Durham’s annual march grew to officially become North Carolina Pride. The march and festivities moved to Raleigh for two years before being hosted in a new city each year. In 2000 Pride returned to Durham where it has been held every year since. The following year, Pride was moved to the fall to escape the unfavorable June weather. 

The early 2000s saw other major North Carolina cities develop their own annual Pride celebrations. Charlotte in 2001, Wilmington in 2006, Asheville in 2009, Winston-Salem in 2010, and the Outer Banks in 2011. The LGBT Center of Raleigh produced the first “OutRaleigh!” festival in 2011. “OutRaleigh!” is an annual youth-targeted pride event held in May.

Triangle Pride 2017 saw pushback. The N.C. Pride committee planned the parade and festival on the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur. This was contrary to the modern LGBTQ+ community’s value of inclusivity. LGBTQ+ leaders felt that hosting Pride during a major Jewish holiday would discourage queer Jewish community members from attending events. The committee decided to cancel the parade and the festival was moved to later in the evening. The solution, “N.C. Pride @ Night,” was another problem. The cancellation of the parade and the festival running from 4 p.m. to 4 a.m. would discourage youth attendance. The N.C. Pride committee was dissolved. In its place, a group of planners came together and N.C. Pride evolved into the Triangle Pride Parade and Festival. The new event committee's aim was to better represent the diversity of the modern LGBTQ+ community. Though the community and the festival are ever evolving, the LGBTQ+ leaders of the triangle are committed to celebrating Durham's LGBTQ+ history every September.