KANSAS CITY, Mo. — What originally started as the Stonewall riots back in 1969 in NYC, has now turned into celebrations and parades in several cities, including in the Kansas City metro.
Pride month began Tuesday for the LGBTQ+ community and is a time to remember their past, enjoy the present and be proud of who they are. For Kansas City LGBTQ+ business owners, they feel the community support during this month.
"Gay pride is the month that we celebrate that we’re not being persecuted and everybody can live the way that they were born," Side Kicks Saloon Manager Buddy Taylor said.
The saloon – the area's longest-running gay bar – survived the COVID-19 pandemic propped-up by its LGBTQ+ customers.
"A lot of them would come in and order a drink and give $100 tips," Taylor said.
Over the years, Taylor has seen the number of gay bars decline.
"When I first came to Kansas City in 1980, there [were] basically 28 gay bars and there’s five now," Taylor said.
The internet and older generations dying off are a cause for the lack of gay bars in the city, according to Taylor.
However, Side Kicks Saloon is a safe space and "accepting environment" for customer Candace Melendez.
Melendez served in the military during Don't Ask, Don't Tell and said she remembers when people weren't so accepting of who she is.
"I came out of a closet and fought hard to get out of a closet when I was in high school and then got shoved back in it when I was in the military," she said.
Melendez wants to keep these businesses around by supporting LGBTQ+ owners.
At Mid Coast Modern in Westport, they are selling all kinds of merchandise and particularly popular this month are their Pride magnets, glassware and socks.
They too survived the pandemic and are seeing an increase in business.
"It feels like it's getting back to normal," owner Matt Bramlette said.
It's a month full of emotions and hope for many in the Kansas City area.
"Gay pride is very important to our community we need the unity to keep us alive," Taylor said.
While the big Pride celebrations typically happen in June, this year in Kansas City it will take place August 21-22 at Theis Park.