In 2018, the El Paso Zoological Society in conjunction with the El Paso Zoo in El Paso, Texas, and Sun City Pride hosted the first-ever Pride celebration at the Zoo. The event, titled Hear Me Roar, kicked off El Paso’s Pride week with a bang. This was the first time the Zoo had hosted an event of this kind, embracing the LGBTQ community and providing a family-friendly place to come together and celebrate.
When the EP Zoological society first advertised the event on social media, it was met with mainly positivity, but of course the expected backlash came with it. There were the few outliers—individuals who expressed their displeasure with the Zoo taking what they viewed as a political stance, some even canceling their Zoo Memberships. But despite the lashing out of a few, the Zoo and Zoo Society decided to stand by their LGBTQ staff members and the community as a whole and continue with the event.
Walking through the Zoo during this event was nothing short of joyous. So many families, sporting smiles and rainbows walking hand in hand proudly was absolutely heartwarming. Vendors selling anything and everything Pride-themed, local outreach organizations handing out free information, and everything the Zoo has to offer was there for all to enjoy.
I was honestly blown away by the number of same-sex couples pushing strollers and holding little hands enjoying their families freely. The event was capped off with a family-friendly drag show in the Zoo’s brand new Wildlife Amphitheater. Lion King and other animal-themed performances entertained the theatre that was so packed it was standing room only. Looking around at all the smiling faces of all ages, including those of my Zoo allies was incredibly touching. To see the community come together at my place of work made me extremely proud.
As a member of the LGBTQ community, to have my Zoo embrace us, not for profit, but for genuine support meant so much to me. I have seen many zoos in the past few years hosting similar events, and it is amazing. To see the Association of Zoos and Aquariums embracing diversity and celebrating it only adds to my respect for the organization.
In a world that is only recently becoming more tolerant and inclusive, knowing that my place of employment is willing to stand up to push back regarding supporting my community gives me a strong sense of pride. In talking with the staff members who put the event together regarding the negativity they had received, they astonished me with their reactions. They proved with their actions and unwavering support to be true allies.
I am grateful to the El Paso Zoo and Zoological Society for their ongoing efforts to support Pride. Thank you to all zoos who support the community and your own LGBTQ staff members.
Carrie Trudeau is the animal training and enrichment coordinator at the El Paso Zoo.
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