Home Commentary A History of Pride Day in Vermont

A History of Pride Day in Vermont

grouup of people holding banners for pride day
The 1988 Vermont Pride festival took place at the Statehouse, as did this year’s event. Photo by Gene Barfield.
By Keith Goslant

Thank you for your front-page picture recognizing and celebrating the recent Central Vermont Pride Festival. However, the caption “Montpelier’s first ever Pride Festival” is not accurate. Yes, Vermont’s first Pride Day was held in 1983 in Burlington. This event will be commemorated with the dedication of a plaque in Burlington City Hall Park on Sunday June 26.
However, Pride Day was not exclusive to Burlington, and the first Pride Day in Montpelier was held in 1988 and was then repeated in 1989 and 1990. The principal organizers of all three events are still in Vermont. They are Ronnie Bancroft, Holly Perdue, and Keith Goslant (yes, that is me). Montpelier was chosen to host the 1988 Pride Day to give the Burlington-based organizers a much-needed rest, but to also highlight the work being done in the Vermont Legislature to include sexual orientation, and then gender identity, to the list of protected classes under Vermont’s nondiscrimination statutes.
All three Pride celebrations started at the Statehouse, had a march through Montpelier (sometimes during downpours, but we still marched), a rally back at the Statehouse with local/statewide/national speakers, poetry readings, music, candidates for public office, displays from community organizations, dancing, and much merriment. As has been the tradition in Vermont and was mirrored by our recent central Vermont Pride Festival, the Pride Days in 1988, 1989, and 1990 offered multiple events spaced over multiple days both before and after the Statehouse rally. Events were sponsored across Montpelier by local businesses and churches.
These Pride Days in Montpelier saw the first announcement of the founding of Outright Vermont, debut of the Vermont CARES Cabaret (the origin for the House of LeMay), the Mansfield Bucks, the first Vermont display of the Names Project/AIDS quilt, and the formation of a committee devoted solely to maintaining a Pride tradition in our state.
In 1991, Pride Day returned to Burlington and has been observed there every year since. However, we are now seeing more communities statewide holding their own local events. This year there will be Pride events celebrated in Montpelier, Barre, Bethel, Bennington, Rutland, St. Johnsbury, White River Junction, and an extra People’s Pride in Burlington. Celebrations that range from marches, burlesque/drag shows, creation of a wall of flowers, gay trivia contests, poetry readings, art exhibits, LGBTQ+ family picnics, full weekend retreats, along with the traditional vendors, tables for community organizations, and speak outs/rallies.
I share this information with the readers of The Bridge because Vermont’s LGBTQ+ community history is still very much an oral history. There are currently efforts to create a LGBTQ+ archives, but information and many documents have already been lost. The standout exception is the Vermont Historical Society agreeing to house hard copies of the state’s only LGBTQ+ newspaper, Out in the Mountains (1986–2007), and the University of Vermont’s creation of an OITM digital archive. It will take time for our Vermont history to become fully inclusive of all our many and diverse communities.

Keith Goslant is a lifelong Vermonter for whom Plainfield is his hometown, although he currently lives in Montpelier. He has been an advocate and activist for the LGBTQ+ communities since 1985 focusing on legislative action and working to create change within the Vermont state governmental infrastructure.