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With Phoenix Pride 2022 celebrations around the corner and LGBT History Month underway, now is an opportune time to reflect on recent historical events and personalities in the LGBTQ+ community who have helped shape the Arizona.

From the first marriage licenses issued to same-sex couples in 2014 to the creation of the Transgender Pride Flag, several significant events have led to this year’s 41st Pride celebration.

The 2022 Phoenix Pride Festival and Parade will take place October 15-16 at Steele Indian School Park, with the parade beginning at 10 a.m. at Third Street and Thomas Avenue on Sunday, October 16.

Here are some recent stories – and by no means an exhaustive list – that shine a light on the LGBTQ+ community and its iconic figures in the Phoenix metro, as well as the events that changed the state’s history.

The first two couples to receive marriage licenses minutes after same-sex marriage was legalized in Arizona walk out of the Superior Court clerk all smiles in Phoenix, Friday, Oct. 17, 2014. Left to right are;  David Larance, 36, Kevin Patterson, 31, both Phoenix, and Nelda Majors, 76, and Karen Bailey, 75, both Scottsdale.

Arizona legalized gay marriage in 2014

In 2014, Arizona was the 31st state in the country to legalize marriage for same-sex couples. Less than a year later, the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges eliminated any state-level ban on same-sex marriage. Gay marriage had been illegal in Arizona since 1996.

Maricopa County Clerks’ Offices immediately began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples on October 17, 2014. Here’s what the scene looked like.

Bisbee has become the first city in Arizona to legalize same-sex civil unions

A year before the state legalized same-sex marriage, the small town of Bisbee in southeastern Arizona passed an ordinance allowing same-sex couples to obtain civil union certificates, which which granted them some of the rights of married couples.

Kathy Sowden and Deborah Grier were the first couple to earn their certificate on July 5, 2013. Here’s how Sowden — the past president of Bisbee Pride — helped shape the annual celebration into what it is today.

After Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne threatened to sue the former mining town, the city changed the order

Here’s how Bisbee became a battleground for gay rights.

A 20th century ‘pioneer of the genre’ received a tombstone 113 years after his death

Nicolai De Raylan, an immigrant from Russia, died of tuberculosis shortly after arriving in Phoenix in 1906. Upon his death, De Raylan was discovered to be a transgender man and he was buried in a robe in an unmarked grave .

When Marshall Shore, also known as Arizona’s Hip Historian, learned “we had a pioneer of the genre, right here in Arizona, from 1906,” he launched a fundraiser in 2017 to buy a stone grave.

On November 16, 2019, the Arizona LGBT+ History Project held a ceremony to honor De Raylan 113 years after his death by installing a headstone.

The quote engraved on it, courtesy of Ralph Waldo Emerson, reads: “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest achievement.”

Here’s how De Raylan was cemented as an icon in Arizona history.

Shore also spoke with The Arizona Republic’s Valley 101 podcast about De Raylan and other LGBTQ+ icons throughout the state’s history in 2021. You can listen — or read the transcript — here.

Monica Helms, who created the Transgender Pride Flag, signs books for fans during Phoenix Pride at Steele Indian School Park on Saturday, April 6, 2019.

The Transgender Flag Was Born in Phoenix

In 1999, activist Monica Helms was advocating for awareness of transgender issues when she met Michael Page, who had created the bisexual pride flag a year earlier. They both believed that the transgender community should have a flag representing them.

“I woke up one morning about two weeks later and it hit me as I was lying in bed,” Helms told The Republic in 2019. “The design came to me.”

She debuted her pastel blue, pastel pink and white striped flag, now recognized as the Transgender Pride Flag, at the Phoenix Pride Parade in 2000.

“Even today, I’m still amazed that this is seen all over the world,” Helms said. “It’s a symbol that will live long after I’m gone.”

Learn more about Helms and his story here.

How a Maryvale love affair sparked an LGBTQ pride clothing brand

Jesus Gutierrez (left) and Sergio Aragon

Sergio Aragon and Jesus Gutierrez lived within blocks of each other while growing up in West Phoenix. But it wasn’t until they graduated from college (the University of Arizona and Arizona State University, respectively) that they realized they were in love.

Their friendship “slowly grew into a beautiful relationship both as a couple and now as business partners.”

In 2019, they founded the online brand Gay Pride Apparel as a “creative outlet and also as a way to kind of recapture Pride merchandise,” Gutierrez told The Arizona Republic in 2020. The company’s products are shipped in discreet packaging and purchases show an abbreviated vendor name on credit card statements to protect customer privacy.

Their designs have been worn by celebrities such as actress Lili Reinhart, who the duo say was “the coolest thing that ever happened” at the time.

Here is the story of Gay Pride Apparel and how it reflects its founders “authentically representing a community” all year round.

A proliferation of LGBTQ+ influencers who live in Arizona

LGBTQ+ people, including drag queens, social media influencers and local business owners, have attracted thousands of followers by sharing their lives on Instagram and TikTok.

Phoenix photographer Scotty Kirby does photo shoots with iconic drag queens, and fitness guru Shaun T shares motivational messages and ideas about his family life. Ashley and Malori share enviable snapshots of their newlywed lives.

Here are 13 people and nonprofits you should check out on social media.

The first Latino Pride Festival took place in 2018

In December 2018, the first Latino Pride Festival—hosted by the nonprofit Latino Pride Alliance—was held at Corona Ranch and Rodeo Grounds in Laveen Village.

“This is the largest Latino LGBT gathering in the state of Arizona,” Eric Villezcas Neri of Latino Pride Alliance said at the time.

There were food vendors, a dance hall, and a main stage where local drag queens and musical acts performed throughout the day.

“Everyone is invited, regardless of their community of origin, but we are reaching out to families who have never attended a Pride before,” said Steve Gallardo of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, who has launched the Alliance as a passion project. told The Republic in 2018.

Phoenix Gaymers dubs itself the ‘greatest gay playgroup’

The non-profit organization Phoenix Gaymers started as a gaming group in Apache Junction in 2005. Today, it bills itself as Arizona’s largest gay gaming group and hosts weekly events.

According to his Meetup.com profile, Phoenix Gaymers’ mission is to forge “new and strengthened friendships between LGBTQ+ individuals and groups through a shared love of play.”

Here’s how the story of how the group was born.

Gay bar Nu Towne Saloon celebrates 50 years in Phoenix

The Nu Towne Saloon, located at Van Buren and 50th streets, opened in 1971 amid the gay liberation movement, two years after the Stonewall Inn uprising.

In 2021, its founder, Dennis Kelley, passed away and his brother began overseeing operations as the historic bar celebrated its 50th anniversary. And after half a century, Nu Towne is still the kind of place where everyone knows each other’s names, commands and karaoke songs.

Learn more about Nu Towne in this article, which is exclusive to Arizona Republic subscribers.

Joey Jay became Phoenix’s first drag queen on “RuPaul’s Drag Race”

Joey Jay as she appeared in

After auditioning three times, Phoenix drag queen Joey Jay — originally from Wisconsin — finally made it to 2020’s ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race.’ Although she was the second contestant to be eliminated from Season 13, which began to air in January 2021, she left a lasting impression with her chicken-feather sleeves and hug of the “filler queen” tag.

The iconic Gottmik, who made the final four of the season and was the first transgender man to appear on the reality show, is also originally from Metro Phoenix but moved to Los Angeles after graduated from Notre Dame Preparatory High School.

Tempest DuJour, who competed on Season 7 and lives in Tucson, was previously the first nominee to represent Arizona.

Joey Jay spoke to The Republic while the season aired and had this to say about Phoenix’s drag scene:

“It’s the complete opposite of a lot of other drag communities I’ve seen. Sometimes (the drag community) can be dramatic or mean, and I don’t really see that in Phoenix. Even though my drag is different than someone else’s, we all support each other. And it’s really beautiful to see.”

Read the full Q&A here.

‘My community came to my rescue’:Phoenix drag queen hands out monkeypox care kits

Contact entertainment reporter KiMi Robinson at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @kimirobin and Instagram @ReporterKiMi.

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