Rochester is not your average mid-sized American city. With a rich, dynamic history of civil rights and activism, it shouldn’t surprise anyone the Flower City is among the most welcoming LGBTQ+ friendly metro areas in the United States. The city of Rochester previously ranked 11th in Advocate’s Gayest Cities in America list.
Rochester and Monroe County is also home to an exceptionally vibrant cultural scene often highlighted by LGBTQ+ sponsored celebrations that make living and visiting here a truly colorful and extraordinary experience.
This year, the local LGBTQ+ community and allies will mark the 50th Annual Rochester Pride celebration in July and the 30th Annual ImageOut Film Festival in October. Both time-honored traditions are continuing to soldier on, bringing new and exciting quality of life events to Western New York.
One of the common goals of Rochester Pride and ImageOut is to foster education and create learning opportunities that focus on LGBTQ+ life, as well as advance the opportunities for equity, social justice and democracy through visibility and the mediums of film, music, video, art and poetry.
In the early 70’s, local activists began celebrating Pride by hosting courageous and vibrant parades on downtown streets and sponsoring high-octane picnics at Genesee Valley Park. These events drew hundreds of people from around the area. At the time, volunteer organizers had no clue they were laying a foundation that continues to shape the political, economic and cultural landscape of the Rochester metropolitan area.
Today, a new coalition of business groups, nonprofits and volunteers organized as the Rochester Pride Collective have stepped up to host several events and programs this year, including the annual parade, festival and picnic celebrations.
ImageOut, a community-based volunteer organization, has served as one of the major vehicles in promoting LGBTQ+ representation. ImageOut is more than just a film festival — it is a robust organization with six programs and services that fosters worldly connections among people from all walks of life. It also serves as a major thread in the cultural fabric of the city. International in its scope, ImageOut’s reach and attendance numbers continue to grow exponentially.
For many years, multinational brands and the local business community have invested and supported ImageOut and Rochester Pride celebrations to broadcast their vision of acceptance, openness and diversification. The most recent market research studies suggest LGBTQ+ inclusion is good for the Rochester economy and its good for our community’s collective soul.
Pride celebrations and gay film festivals look very different around the world, but they all share a common objective with Rochester and Monroe County — to fight for continued recognition of basic human rights and dignity for all LGBTQ+ people everywhere.
Ove Overmyer is a Rochester-area freelance writer.