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City’s First ‘Pride’ Event is One For the Books

City’s First ‘Pride’ Event is One For the Books

For the first time in Elk Grove history, Emily Autenrieth, owner of “A Seat at the Table Books,” hosted the city’s first Pride event in a two-day celebration as the kick-off to “Pride Month” on the weekend of June 4.

“We could not be more thankful for the incredible experience of giving Elk Grove its very first Pride weekend with the support of the City’s Diversity and Inclusion Commission,” Autenrieth said.

“This weekend was all about joyful affirmation of LGBTQ+ identity and the many ways queer people make the world, and our city, a better place.”

-Emily Autenrieth, Owner, A Seat at the Table Books

“We are thankful to the City; the queer makers who came out to share their products; the drag and musical performers who lit up our Big Queer Party, and the many community partners who made this possible, said Autenrieth.

(L to R) Valshapero, Emily Auntenrieth,  Ryder Knight, ShadyBee, KC Shane and Tiffany
Photo courtesy of Emily Autenrieth

“Elk Grove Pride” was the theme, as the weekend-long event was packed with singing, dancing, and a variety of entertainment and guest speakers. Most importantly, the sense of something bigger and transformational happening within the city was felt by many.

Steps for Progress

The “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, and Asexual” (LGBTQIA) community has been gaining more recognition and acceptance in recent years. In fact, on May 22, 2019 the City of Elk Grove issued its first proclamation recognizing Pride Month. On June 1 the first raising of the Progress Pride Flag at Elk Grove City Hall took place. To that end, the bookstore continues to build its reputation as a welcome hub for diversity and inclusion.

“Elk Grove hasn’t had a space for this community. It’s been a longtime gap,” said Jessica Carter, chairperson of the city’s Diversity & Inclusion Commission. “But I’m seeing we’re moving towards being more inclusive. And that’s a beautiful thing.” 

Furthermore, throughout the weekend, youth and adults streamed through the doors wearing rainbow colored buttons, bandannas and shirts. They mingled among each other and shopped at the various vendor tables. One little girl, decked out with a rainbow flag clip in her hair, danced around the store. Her mother, Carissa Reis, said that she felt incredibly supported as a gay parent.

 “I love it. We didn’t have this in my younger days, Reis said. “I’m excited to show my daughter what our community looks like. It can help her normalize that she might not be the only kid with two moms.”  

Even those considering themselves as old school thinkers said it’s time to “bend” entrenched attitudes about gay pride.  

“So what if two women hold hands,” said local minister Tina Mercer. “That’s love.”

“There’s too much hate in the world. Why shut down love?” 

-Tina Mercer, Elk Grove Minister

A Colorful Collection of Entertainment

A drag king and queen show took place, which was a city first. George Azar shared his journey as a closeted Evangelical pastor looking for a sense of belonging in the church. Bret Bugs, a Davis drag queen storyteller and kindergarten teacher, wanted to spread love and gender expression through impactful tales. KC Shane, the first openly transgender singer and songwriter nominated for a “Sammie” music award, stirred emotions on his guitar. And some vendors participated in their first Pride event.

Youth Can Be the Change

Diversity & Inclusion Commissioner, Delia Orosco was a guest reader on age-appropriate stories about gender roles and identity. She said events like this can plant seeds in young adults to become community pillars.

“It could inspire the younger generation to take on leadership roles,” she said. “But I hope they continue to help us grow.

“We can learn from them. We can make our city a place that honors the diversity that lives here.”

-Delia Orosco, Elk Grove Diversity & Inclusion Comission

George Azar, author of, “My Gay Church Days: Memoir of a Closeted Evangelical Pastor Who Eventually Had Enough,” said that youth should understand there is nothing evil or wrong about their sexuality.

“They’re not alone,” Azar said. “We can build a community together and help each other out.”

What’s coming up?

A Seat at the Table has a series of book club readings coming up to help mark Pride Month. They include:

-Dead Dead Girls by Nekesa Afia on June 23 at 5 PM

-Beyond the Gender Binary by Alok Vaid-Menom on June 25 at 4 PM

-The Jasmine Throne by Tasha Suri on June 27 at 5 PM

-Blaine for the Win by Robbie Couch on June 29 at 5 PM

-Yerba Buena by Nina LaCour on June 30 at 3:30 PM

“We hope this is a start. I hope that Elk Grove will embrace Pride in June and throughout the whole year,” said Ryan Autenrieth, bookstore co-owner.

“All this is happening at an intersection of time where people are ready and need to have that pride celebrated.” 

Ryan Autenrieth, Co-Owner, A Seat at the Table Books

For more information about “A Seat at the Table Books” and their upcoming events CLICK HERE.

About The Author

Tony Mercado

Tony Mercado brings a decade of experience as a Bay Area newspaper reporter to the Tribune. He studied journalism and political science at San José State University and has written for such dailies as the Gilroy Dispatch, San José Mercury News and Contra Costa Times. By day, he’s a communications specialist for a San José water district and somehow finds time to dive into a Stephen King novel, get in the stands for San José Sharks and Las Vegas Raiders games and whoop it up with his family and rescue dogs.

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