Upcoming milestones mark the growth of Las Vegas' LGBTQ community
LGBTQ rights in Nevada have come a long way since the AIDS crisis of the 1980s. And so have that community’s biggest institutions.
This week, The LGBTQ Center of Southern Nevada celebrates its 30th year, marked by its annual Honorarium gala. And it comes just before the 40th anniversary of Las Vegas Pride, which celebrates with a Friday nighttime parade and Saturday festival next weekend.
Those are huge milestones for a community that still deals with discrimination and prejudice.
Justin Tyme, who has been a part of the LGBTQ family for more than 40 years and as an out transgender man for the last few years, finds himself enduring demeaning remarks frequently.
"There's rude people everywhere," he said. "People will say hurtful things even within our own community. And one of the biggest things within our own community, towards our transgender brothers and sisters and non-binary family members, is we constantly get misgendered. ... I still get misgendered on a constant [and] it hurts the heart, it hurts the soul, it hurts the head and it really pulls in the imposter syndrome. And the dysphoria just makes it all start ticking again. Just about the time you think you've got it at bay, somebody's gonna say something."
Tyme later noted legislative victories that have improved the quality of his life. Nevada has been a pioneer in transgender rights. The most recent three governors — including two Republicans — have signed bills protecting trans Nevadans.
State Senator Pat Spearman, the first out lesbian ever to serve in the Nevada legislature, has introduced and helped pass into law several pro-LGBTQ bills. But she told State of Nevada that doesn't see herself as the one influencing the votes on such legislation.
"I can be instrumental in putting the legislation before the public, but it has to be the people who are impacted that can tell their stories, and tell how they're being either negatively impacted [by the bill] not in place, and about how they will be positively impacted when [the] bill passes."
Spearman represents District 1, which will host the Oct. 7 Pride Festival at Craig Ranch Regional Park, the event's festival for the past three years. It will feature performers like singer Crystal Waters and numerous DJs and drag queens, including this year's RuPaul's Drag Race runner-up, Anetra.
The festival has drawn as many as 10,000 people in the past, but some community members have bemoaned the lack of superstars in the entertainment lineup, unlike the Pride equivalents in other entertainment-rich cities. But Brady McGill, the president of Las Vegas Pride, noted that Las Vegas is a much smaller market than those other entertainment-oriented locales. He added that the event makes up for the lack of superstars by focusing on local talent, including those who have been featured on RuPaul's Drag Race.
"The bottom line — yeah, ultimately, we're affected by money," he said. "You wouldn't expect for our sister cities like Albuquerque or Indianapolis to have a list of celebrities, but for some reason, we are held to a high standard. I'd love to have celebrities, too. We hope to get there someday."
Las Vegas Pride is a nonprofit reliant on donors and sponsors, and next week's Pride calendar is rounded out with parties, hikes, brunches and other activities. "We get together out of the love of doing this for our community and really celebrating one another," said McGill. "We partner with every community in town [so they can] have a piece of the pie."
The Center's Honorarium gala, to be held Sept. 29 at the Wynn, highlights the philanthropy and success of local LGBTQ leaders and allies, as well as celebrates the nonprofit facility's own progress and health. The Center endured numerous ups and downs in the mid-2010s, including cycling through several CEOs and enacting staff salary cuts. But chief operating officer Brian Hosier said the Center has since refocused and recovered.
"We didn't have stability, both on the resource side and on the financial side," he said. "So what we've worked really hard for over the last few years is to build those key relationships, both within our community and outside of our community, that will add that stability, and build that foundation that the Center can continue to grow on. Because if you don't have that solid foundation, which I think in the past we didn't have — that's really the issue. ... And we've been very fortunate over the last few years, with a lot of hard work by a lot of people, to add that financial stability. The Center is in the best position it's ever been in."
Michael Lyle, a reporter from the Nevada Current who has covered local LGBTQ issues extensively, has seen a vitality in institutions like the Center and Las Vegas Pride.
"I think it's important to have community centers and places that celebrate and acknowledge the LGBTQ community," he said. "Having these resources is life-saving. Having a place where people can safely gather is life-saving. ... Having these spaces like Pride and to come out and to celebrate amongst people that look like you, that dance like you, that act like you that — just a safe space, having that environment — is life-saving, and very important to helping people understand and accept themselves."
Guests: Brian Hosier, chief operating officer, The Center; Brady McGill, president, Las Vegas Pride; Michael Lyle, reporter, Nevada Current; Justin Tyme, board member and volunteer, Las Vegas TransPride; Pat Spearman, state senator, Nevada