Pride parade returns Saturday

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It’s been a “groundswell” of a year for transgender people both nationally and locally, organizers of the Hawaii Island Pride Parade say, and this year’s event aims to reflect that.

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It’s been a “groundswell” of a year for transgender people both nationally and locally, organizers of the Hawaii Island Pride Parade say, and this year’s event aims to reflect that.

On Saturday, an estimated 8,000 island residents will gather in Hilo for the fourth annual parade, which organizers hope will bring awareness to the Big Island’s LGBT community.

This year, a procession of people will carry a banner in support of transgender people.

“We want to bring attention to the transgender community that has been in the news a lot lately,” said Laura Moidel Acevedo, secretary of the pride committee. “There have been bathroom policies and bullying policies all across the United States … there were trans-phobic laws passed in certain places in the U.S. and lawsuits that followed … there’s been media awareness of transgender people over the last three or four years, and this seems to be the year where changes are being made as a result of that.”

A study released this month by the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law shows Hawaii has among the highest percentage of people who identify as transgender in the country. Around 0.8 percent of the state’s adult population identifies as transgender, the study shows, or about 8,450 people. Nationally, that number is about 0.6 percent, or 1.4 million people.

Starting next school year, Hawaii’s public schools will implement a new set of transgender student guidelines to help schools better accommodate transgender students.

Transgender equality is “the next step in the stepping stone,” in LGBT rights, said Beverly Yates-Tese, vice president of the organizing committee.

“We’re aware that we’re not where we would like to be, but it’s moving in the right direction,” she said. “Especially with everything that’s happened in the last year.”

Organizers say the yearly parade has also helped bring about awareness. Since its 2013 start, it’s swelled into a series of events known as “Hawaii Island Pride Week.”

“There’s just so much more acceptance now,” Acevedo said. “It hasn’t really grown as far as the number of people in the parade, but it’s grown tremendously in the awareness the community has about the parade.”

Events will also pay homage to victims in last month’s shooting at an Orlando gay night club which left 49 people dead. The parade will include a small entry to memorialize victims, and organizers are holding a vigil at Liliuokalani Park and Gardens on July 10.

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The parade is followed by a family-friendly festival at the Mo’oheau Band Stand. Other events include a “Big Island Pride Pageant” on Friday in Kona, a “Pride After Party” at Karma Sports Bar in Hilo, and a viewing on Wednesday of the Chuck Coleman film “Finding Our Village.”

For more information about events visit hawaiiislandpride.org.

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