Zion National Park’s First Pride Was A Joyful Act Of Resistance

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Zion National Park’s first Pride was everything its organizers set out to make it: A vibrant celebration of queer life set to the serene backdrop of Southern Utah’s red and green canyons and a powerful act of resistance.

The event was hosted on June 15 by the Gays of National Parks, an organization that honors and protects the relationship between LGBTQ+ people and various parks. The celebration included performances and a parade, during which attendees volunteered to clean up the park.

During the parade, attendees volunteered to clean up the park, picking up trash along the way.
During the parade, attendees volunteered to clean up the park, picking up trash along the way.

Photo: Wade Wixom

While traversing nature has not always been the safest activity for visibly queer people, these national parks continue to provide space for them to gather and “find solace and inspiration in these protected lands,” as a rep put it in a press release about the event. And as our country continues the attempt to police queer bodies, keeping public spaces safe for everyone is crucial.

Among the organizations that participated in the event’s festivities were The Southern Utah Drag Stars, a collective of drag performers currently amidst a legal battle against St. George City, Utah.

Mitski Avalōx, CEO of Drag Stars of Southern Utah, center, at Zion National Park’s first Pride in Utah.
Mitski Avalōx, CEO of Drag Stars of Southern Utah, center, at Zion National Park’s first Pride in Utah.

Photo: Wyatt Larsen

In an effort to blot out this treasured form of queer expression, the city reportedly denied the organization a permit for a family-friendly drag show they hoped to host at a local park, arguing that the Drag Stars violated an obscure, rarely enforced ordinance. However, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has stepped in to assist in filing a discrimination lawsuit against the city of St. George.

Zion National Park’s Pride festivities prove that the show must go on, especially when that show makes bigots uncomfortable. A post on the joyful celebration from the park’s official Instagram yielded a copious amount of homophobic comments — and a couple of amazing ones. “I am so happy to see all the bigots say they won’t be going to Zion anymore! It will be so nice to not have to share the trails with your hateful selves, leaving your trash all over. Good work, NPS, for finding creative ways to solve the overcrowding problem! Happy Pride!” posted one user with the handle @mjmeszaros.

Community groups that attended included Encircle House, Pride of Southern Utah, Equality Utah, Grand Canyon, Grand Canyon Parashant, Zion, Pipe Spring National Monument and Black Lives Matter, among others.

“The loneliness epidemic is twice as pronounced in the LGBTQ community,” said Dr. Hitesh Tolani, founder of the Gays of National Parks.
“The loneliness epidemic is twice as pronounced in the LGBTQ community,” said Dr. Hitesh Tolani, founder of the Gays of National Parks.

Photo: Wyatt Larsen

“LGBTQ spaces have been diminishing over the last 10 years, resulting in the loneliness epidemic becoming twice as pronounced in the LGBTQ community,” said Dr. Hitesh Tolani, professor, organizer and founder of the Gays of National Parks. “With time spent in nature being a known way to help with loneliness, public lands like national parks are underutilized resources for addressing the loneliness epidemic.”

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