Justin Ford. Photo by Erin Stephenson

Justin Ford. Photo by Erin Stephenson


When a lone gunman killed 49 people and injured 53 others at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, on June 12, the repercussions were felt here in Bloomington and around the world. As Bloomington PRIDE prepared a local vigil, area businesses were quick to reach out and ask what they could do to help. Justin Ford, chair of the Bloomington PRIDE board of directors, said this outpouring of support led to the creation of a local initiative — STANDwithPRIDE.

“We know we can’t stop tragic things from happening, but I thought we could get bar and restaurant owners together and say their establishments are safe for the LGBTQ+ community,” Ford says. The idea was to create a sticker or poster for businesses to display, but the STANDwithPRIDE effort has grown beyond Ford’s original expectations.

“Some restaurants have asked us for information to help their staffs become better informed,” he says. “They want to be more sensitive to LGBTQ+ issues, and they are looking for information and possibly some kind of training.”

From those discussions, Ford says, Bloomington PRIDE is working to create a comprehensive educational program. The goal is to offer area businesses training sessions tailored to specific needs. “We want to help businesses create safe, inclusive spaces for all of their customers,” Ford says. He hopes resources and training programs will be available by the end of the year.

Ford notes that Bloomington PRIDE’s mission is to create safe and inclusive spaces, celebrate queer arts, and challenge stereotypes. “And the educational component just adds to our mission,” Ford says. “Educating the community about LGBTQ+ issues helps create safe and inclusive spaces.”

While Bloomington PRIDE is obviously an advocate for the LGBTQ+ community, it reaches out to the larger community with events throughout the year. On August 27, PRIDE Summerfest will take place 2–11 p.m. in downtown Bloomington. “It’s a day where we celebrate the LGBTQ+ community,” Ford says. “We try to create a very inclusive, fun street party. And everyone, everyone, is welcome.” For more information on PRIDE Summerfest and Bloomington PRIDE, visit bloomingtonpride.org.