Pridefest brings hundreds downtown for diversity

August 20, 2012 at 1:58 pm

from Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier.

WATERLOO, Iowa — Being raised by two lesbian moms may be rare in Iowa, but Zach Wahls says he had a normal, happy childhood.

The Iowa City man is proud of his parents, and he’s traveling the state with One Iowa — the largest statewide lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender advocacy group — telling anyone who will listen. He had a receptive audience Saturday afternoon at Cedar Valley Pridefest in downtown Waterloo.

Hundreds of people, gay and straight, filled the 300 block of West Fourth Street to hear Wahls, the featured speaker, and participate in the first celebration held in the city to showcase sexual orientation diversity. The daylong event featured musical acts, female impersonators, drag races, information booths and a host of other activities.

Wahls, who became nationally known after giving a passionate speech about equality last year during a public hearing held by the Iowa House Judiciary Committee, told the crowd there’s only one difference between him and people raised by straight parents.

“I’m really good at putting the seat down,” he said, followed by chuckles from the crowd. “You’re laughing, but it’s true. If you can find a difference, let me know.”

A video of Wahls’ speech against a proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage in Iowa was posted on YouTube. It’s received more than 18 million views to date, which earned him appearances on several national television programs like “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” and “The Late Show with David Letterman.”

Wahls said there are some people who still don’t want his family to exist. But the nation has come a long way since 2003 when it was illegal in 12 states to be a homosexual. Luckily, Wahls said the attitude toward the LGBT community has changed for the better. People are much more accepting, he said, and events like Pridefest go a long way toward equality for everyone.

“A person’s worth is not dictated by the gender of the person they love,” Wahls said.

Jennifer Waldron and Brenda Fite held hands with their son, Lloyd Waldron, during Wahls’ speech. The Cedar Falls couple wanted to hear about Wahls’ experiences first-hand because they know Lloyd, 2, will eventually face the same type of issues and questions.

Wahls said friends would ask if his parents were gay and what it’s like to be raised by two moms. As a young man, Wahls even said some guys asked if his moms were hot.

Ultimately, the answers indicated he led a great life.

“I hope our son will be as proud and loving when he’s speaking of his moms,” Brenda Fite said. “We’ve come so far. … When Lloyd is Zach’s age now, I hope this won’t even be an issue.”

The goal of the festival is to celebrate diversity in the Cedar Valley and promote acceptance and inclusion, organizers said.

An estimated 400 people paid entry to the event in the first three hours. Gates opened at noon. Pridefest committee member Mike Tyer said the community response was phenomenal, and he expected the crowd to double or more by midnight.

“This shows the community is accepting and appreciative of diversity. It’s our differences that make us a community,” Tyer said.

Read the full article from The Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier.

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