Amid anti-drag legislation, 2023 Boise Pride Fest encourages attendees to 'be proud and be loud'
Every year since 1989, Boise has celebrated LGBTQ+ pride in some capacity, even holding a virtual festival in 2020. Festival attendees, volunteers and performers all take part in the celebration each September.
One of these performers is Buck D’Licious, a local drag king/thing who asked to use only their stage name. Born and raised in Idaho, they will be taking to the stage this weekend with their group the Gendertainers.
“I always like to say that, like, you can't spend any amount of time in Idaho without being inspired," Buck D’Licious said in an interview. "And something that's really cool about our drag scene is it's so clear that every single one of these people is inspired by so many different things, and it's so magical to see them bring that art to the stage.”
Last year, Idaho Republican Party Chair Dorothy Moon said in statements that festival sponsors were encouraging the “sexualization” of children by holding a kids' drag show. Buck D’Licious counters that notion, saying drag isn’t inherently sexual.
"We are performers and just like any theater ... we know how to tailor our performances to an audience."
Moon pressed festival sponsors last year to pull their support, and a handful did. Despite the controversy, Donald Williamson, Executive Director of Boise Pride, says the gathering continues to grow in its 34th year.
"I think right before COVID, we were the second-fastest growing pride festival in the nation. So it clearly shows that there's a desire and a need for this kind of festival, for this community in this area, in this state," Williamson said in an interview.
Williamson says most of Boise Pride's sponsors stuck with them last year and continue their financial support.
“The sponsors that attach their name to being a part of helping us put this together for them lets not only this community, but their employees know that they support this movement of diversity and acceptance and inclusion," Williamson continued.
While sponsors play an integral role in putting on an event like Boise Pride, local artists – particularly drag artists – play an equally crucial role.
And the scrutiny around drag didn’t end after Pride last year. The Idaho House passed a bill that would ban public drag shows. However, the bill did not advance. But despite the criticism, Buck says the drag community in Idaho will meet skeptics with love and invites them to come see a show.
“I would encourage them to come to Pride, not as a protester, just to put their guard down and come and just see. Just see. Because it's not, we're not scary, I swear. We're not here to hurt your kids. We're not here to hurt you. We just want to live our lives and we just want to celebrate who we are and we want to exist. That's it.”
Boise Pride starts at 5:30 Friday evening at Cecil D. Andrus Park.