Queer family in Charlotte looks forward to return of the Charlotte Pride Festival & Parade, August 20-21, 2022
When Joshua Jernigan and his family moved to Charlotte, it was like catching a fresh breath of air. Joshua, his partner Elliott, and their newborn daughter Elizabeth, had been living in Kentucky where he and Elliott couldn’t be out as a couple.
Arriving in Charlotte, the family encountered a new world.
“It was very exciting,” says Joshua. “The first time we went out to dinner together as a couple and we didn’t have to be so very stoic toward each other — it was nice.”
In Kentucky, the couple had occasionally gone to a local Pride festival, but it paled in comparison to the Charlotte event’s size.
“We knew Charlotte was bigger, but we didn’t know exactly what it would be like,” Joshua recalls thinking before heading to their first Charlotte Pride Festival & Parade in 2016.
“Once we got there, we had Elizabeth, who was one year old at the time, in her carrier,” Joshua says. “Everybody came over and were so welcoming and accepting and just loved that a baby was there. People were excited to see a family there. We had never taken our kid to a Pride festival before. It was so welcoming. It changed our perception of Pride in general — just how welcoming and open Charlotte Pride was.”
Elliott’s work as a mechanical engineer prompted the family’s move. Not long after arriving, Joshua noticed a gap in community services and got to work himself, founding the Gender Education Network in 2018. The community nonprofit is dedicated to trans and gender-expansive children under the age of 12, assisting children and their families in navigating care, education, and social needs.
As Joshua’s work in the community grew, so did his family’s participation in the annual Charlotte Pride Festival & Parade.
“Pride is a full weekend celebration,” he says. “We all get new shirts and Elizabeth gets a new Pride dress to wear. We look forward to it. We get to spend the weekend with other families and people just like us. They understand our family. We don’t get weird looks and we don’t have to explain.”
The weekend affair has become a mainstay family holiday. “We don’t celebrate other holidays like a lot of people do because we’re not particularly religious,” Joshua says. “We’ve made Pride our big family celebration each year. We go and immerse ourselves and just have fun.”
Joshua, Elliott, and Elizabeth, who is now six years old, have missed Charlotte Pride during its two-year pandemic hiatus. The family is looking forward to the return of the Charlotte Pride Festival & Parade on August 20-21, 2022.
“We’ve had to quarantine extra because we have high risk people in our family,” Joshua says. “It’s been hard. It’s been sad. But I’m very hopeful and excited for the festival and parade’s return this year.”
The virtual events have been fun, but they’re just not the same as being with a wider community they consider family. It’s important for Joshua and Elliott that Elizabeth understands her family is part of a larger community.
“We just want to ensure we’re getting out there and letting her see that our community exists all over the place,” Joshua says. “For Elizabeth, at such a young age, she gets to see that her family is normal — whatever normal means. We’re not weirdoes. We have community. There are people who have families just like hers.”
Learn more: Charlotte Pride Festival Youth & Family Zones
Each year’s Charlotte Pride Festival includes tailored activity zones for LGBTQ youth, children, and families presented in partnership with Equitable.
Youth Zone: In partnership with Time Out Youth, the Charlotte Pride Youth Zone provides teenagers an opportunity to connect and have fun in a drug- and alcohol-free area within the festival. Activities include traditional board games, art projects, and video games.
Family Zone: In partnership with PFLAG Charlotte and Gender Education Network, the Family Zone is especially tailored to LGBTQ families with young children. Past activities have included art projects, Lego toys, mini-golf, and more.
Want to help Charlotte Pride expand our Youth and Family Zones and other programs throughout the year? Let us know via the contact form below! We’ll be in touch.