Portsmouth held its fourth Pride celebration on Saturday. One goal of this year’s event was to attract and show support for LGBTQ young people.
At noon, participants gathered in Portsmouth’s Market Square, in rainbow order, for a march. They were led by the Leftist Marching Band and members of Seacoast Outright, a support and advocacy group for LGBTQ+ youth.
15-year-old Gale Paguet stood at the head of the crowd, wrapped in a rainbow flag and holding a banner for Seacoast Outright -- said being bold isn’t always easy.
“For me I’ve generally had a positive experience being an out and queer student, but I still have that feeling of uneasiness,” Paguet said.
“I make a very conscious effort to not be in hallways at school by myself. I’ve had people in passing tell me that being gay is disgusting. I’ve had friends who have been verbally and physically attacked because of their identities.”
Families gathered along the route cheering on the marchers.
Tim Maloney stood with his family and held a sign offering “Free Dad Hugs.” In the early moments of the march, he estimated he had already given between 50-100 hugs.
“I really wanted to set an example for my little boy as to accepting everyone and being positive about everyone’s way of life,” Maloney said. “Kids learn by example.”
19-year-old James Cotigan is a youth board member of Seacoast Outright and spoke at the event. He said this year’s Pride celebration attracted more young people than in the past.
“Compared to other prides, this one is youth centric. It’s so crazy.” Cotigan said.“Having the really young kids here is really cool. They get to grow up and see that we are people who love people.”
Other speakers included Portsmouth’s mayor Jack Blalock, Seacoast Outright executive director Hershey Hirschkop, Goffstown select board member Kelley Boyer, and LGBTQ+ officials.
The march culminated at Strawberry Banke, where there were live performances, vendors, and information tables from groups like the Alzheimer's Association, Cocheco Arts Charter School, and the Lavender Caucus of the Service Employees International Union.