1983 Pride Week: No festival, no parade, no faces

‘If you could lose your job because of what you are, chances are you’re going to hide what you are.”
Posted at 5:30 AM, Jun 09, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-09 05:30:32-04

INDIANAPOLIS — Pride in Indiana had a different look and feel in 1983. The vibrant festivals and colorful parades of today’s Pride didn’t exist. Instead, Pride Week consisted of 28 smaller events held around the state culminating with a brunch at the Atkinson Hotel in Indianapolis on June 26, 1983.

“A parade didn’t seem like a really good idea for Indianapolis, primarily because we didn’t think that anybody would show up, so we did a brunch,” Kathy Sarris, a longtime Indiana LGBTQ advocate recently recalled.

The gathering was the subject of a news report by former WRTV reporter Derrik Thomas. It was a sensitive story because the acceptance of LGBTQ people was a far cry from how those people are treated today.

“Before we let anybody into the room, we went in and asked people if it was okay,” Sarris said. “Because at that point, there were a lot of people in that room who were afraid they would lose their jobs. There were some prominent people in that room. Some people were okay with being photographed, but most people kept the back of their heads to the camera.”

The only face in Thomas’ report was that of Kathy Sarris. She told Thomas that attendees were proud despite their request for anonymity.

“They’re proud, and they’re adjusted and they’re happy. It’s a matter of civil rights. If you could lose your job because of what you are, chances are you’re going to try to hide who you are.”

Looking back now, Sarris is proud of what Pride has become.

“It’s great to see what it’s exploded into. It went from brunches and Pride Day to Pride Week and it took a while for other places to do it. They’re just all over the state now.”

As for what’s next, Sarris hopes to see federal protections enacted through the passage of the Equality Act.

“It has to happen because there are still little hole-in-the-wall places in this country where a federal law would be important. It’s kind of like the Equal Rights Amendment, if nothing else it’s a symbolic act on the part of the government that acknowledges that we’re equal and you can’t discriminate against us.”