RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — June is Pride Month and hundreds of people kicked it off at Pride First Friday in Downtown Raleigh.
Michelle Giron and their fiance traveled from Greenville to celebrate.
“It’s important now more than ever to be visible and to make sure that people know that we here, we exist, you know, queer people matter,” Giron said.
That’s something Melinda Ewbank aims to show through art and jewelry all year long as an artist at Happy Cabbage.
“I am an inclusive business so I have queer things available all year long just because I think it’s important to have that representation,” Ewbank said. “I did create trans bodies in my art just specifically for pride this year to just like push that inclusivity and make people feel really welcomed, and the whole point of my business is to make people feel comfortable.”
As national companies like Target and Bud Light face backlash from customers for selling LGBTQ products and hiring a transgender influencer as a spokesperson.
While Pride First Friday only lasts one night, sales associate Lauren Shackelford said pride-centric and LGBTQ-plus products can be found at Curate on Hargett Street year-round.
The products range from jewelry to keychains, to pronoun pins.
“Those were a big hit. They were gone really fast,” Shackelford said.
Shackelford said the shop supports LGBTQ creators.
“We want everyone to feel like they can come shop in the store and spend time in this area and feel safe in Downtown Raleigh,” Shackelford said.
A few blocks away at the General Assembly, bills that sit in committee, that Giron said are anti-trans, has them concerned, but despite those concerns, the couple said Pride First Friday is about focusing on joy.
“I love being in the community,” Mateo Molina said. “I think it’s great, like just seeing other queer people, like living authentically and just seeing how they express themselves. I think it’s really cool to see how everybody dresses up when they come out tonight.”
There are several other events celebrating Pride month in the coming weeks, such as Out! Raleigh Pride Festival on June 24th. Raleigh Pride NC has a full calendar of events here.