Pride Is In the Details

Washington Spirit  |   July 10, 2024
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Pride at the Washington Spirit is more than the one night in June. It’s an everyday, conscious effort to build a welcoming space and a safe environment for generations of fans. When the Spirit imagined what Pride Night would look like, the team looked to champion voices from the community to guide discussion and incorporate their viewpoints about what the night represents and celebrates.

Planning for 2024 Pride Night began last summer in small one on one conversations with some contacts at SMYAL (Supporting and Mentoring Youth Advocates and Leaders) and the Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs (MOLGBTQ+).

It became abundantly clear more voices spanning a wide spectrum of identities and organizations were needed to build something that represented and embraced all the intersecting identities within the LGBTQIA+ community. A meeting, organized by the Spirit, included individuals from the LGTBQIA+ community from around DC. Thanks to the broad reach of SMYAL and MOLGBTQ+, attendees included some who knew about the Spirit and some who hadn’t been introduced to the club yet.

The conversation emphasized the importance of implementing small measures for big impact.

From making sure the gender-neutral bathrooms were accessible, to a halftime parade with diverse groups of LGBQTIA+ folks, to delivering educational messages to fans, the conversation began to encompass what a Pride night should be.

SMYAL is a staple of the DC Queer and Trans youth community, known for providing a safe space. The organization has been one of the Spirit’s main Pride partners for over four years, bringing community members to games and auctioning off game-worn Pride jerseys at their annual fall brunch.

“For our kids to see their flags represented at a major league game is huge, and it’s really special. Growing up, you don’t always see that representation, especially because even with representation you deal with all the hate still. The fact that it’s a complete safe space makes it very special. Getting a space where you know that you’re not going to be looked down upon or mistreated is very special,” said Hancie Stokes (she/her), SMYAL’s Director of Communications.

Gaby Vincent (she/her), who played for the Spirit in 2022 and now serves as the Community Outreach and Relations Specialist for the DC Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs, is keenly aware of the significance of representation in sports.

“We got together at SMYAL headquarters. We had an in-depth conversation about the Pride nights we’ve seen and what we’ve thought was done well and vice versa,” Vincent said. “We asked ourselves, ‘What is an event for us, by us? What does that look like? What kind of entertainment does that include? What language is used? What would make us feel safe and welcomed?’ It was so nice to be in a community with your people and just talk about things you can’t discuss everywhere.”

It was important for Pride Night to celebrate not only the fans and players in the stadium, but also the long journey the LGBTQIA+ community has made fighting for their rights in the spaces they love, including sports.

“For me, Pride and LGBTQIA+ people feeling included in sports has always been critical,” Vincent said. “It’s not the case everywhere there’s anti-trans legislation nationwide. For a global organization like the Spirit to take a stance and say LGBTQIA+ people are welcome here, regardless of how you identify or your sexual orientation, is compelling.”

The Spirit will look to intentionality blend entertainment and educational elements throughout Pride Night. To start, the Spirit will unveil its updated Spirit-specific Fan Code of Conduct with attention paid to representation and a culture of inclusion. Signage for gender-neutral restroom locations will be visible around the stadium, and the Community Zone on the concourse will be headlined by SMYAL to help educate fans and cultivate a sense of allyship.

Growing off the success of last season’s Pride Night entertainment, which included the largest Halftime Drag Performance in NWSL history, the Spirit will capture the crowd’s attention with multiple Pride-themed activations. On the Spirit Stage before the match, a DJ will accompany a drag show with multiple performers to send a jolt of energy as fans enter the stadium. Additionally, at halftime, the Spirit will host a Pride Parade that will double as a contest for the best “Pride Float.” Guest judges will determine who takes home the best float prize.

Fans can rep Pride, too. Released earlier in June, the Spirit launched its new Pride Collection featuring multiple Pride-themed merch items, including new replica Pride jerseys, t-shirts, and scarves. 15% of proceeds from purchases of Pride Collection merchandise will be donated to the DC Center for the LGTBQ+ Community.

The Spirit’s Pride Night is what our community makes it. We, at the Spirit, recognize our role and responsibility in laying the framework for building an inclusive space that embraces and celebrates the intersections of Pride. We recognize our role and responsibility for clearly stating and upholding our expectations of the space we strive to create. We also recognize the space is created by every member of our community. To new and old fans, thank you for holding us to a high
standard. Thank you for creating a space that people walk into and feel included. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to try to build a place where we can try to make every person feel like they matter, where queer, nonbinary, transgender, lesbian, gay folks and those who exist somewhere in between feel like they matter.

Happy Pride! Thank you for being a part of our community. We appreciate every single one of you and are so happy you could be a part of building out this Pride game with us.

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