‘I Live This Every Day’: Portraits of Pride in Iowa

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DES MOINES — It was hot at the Capital City Pride Fest. Bodies glistening with sweat, dunk-tank-envy hot.

But there people stood, draped with rainbow flags, wearing them like capes. Gathering on the street. Listening in the shade to Democratic presidential candidates who had come to win their support.

Among the revelers was Mook Bascomb, 37, who had come to celebrate Pride with his family.

“I’m still assessing,” he said when asked about the 2020 race. “I don’t have cable at home. I have no idea which way I’m going, but I know I’m a Democrat.”

As the Trump administration seeks to limit protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, the Pride celebration was an opportunity — eight months before the Iowa caucuses — for the candidates to denounce President Trump and to show their support for L.G.B.T. people. One after another, they took the mic on the sun-baked plaza by the Statehouse.

Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., who spoke at the event, is vying to become the nation’s first openly gay president. And several candidates have actively courted L.G.B.T. voters: Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and former Representative Beto O’Rourke of Texas, for instance, have both released plans to protect L.G.B.T. rights.

“When we are marching here today,” Ms. Gillibrand told the crowd, “we are standing on the shoulders of people who have come before us, who have fought for us — who have suffered for us so that we can love the people we love.”

It was a sentiment that resonated for many at the festival.

“This is not a lifestyle,” said Mr. Bascomb, who is transitioning. “I live this every day.”

We spoke with some of the other celebrants last weekend about issues that matter to them and what they were hoping to hear from the candidates. Their comments were edited and condensed for clarity.

How do you identify yourself?

Female and — it’s been a journey — bisexual.

How would you describe the current climate for L.G.B.T. people in America?

I feel low-key anger. Every day, something new has happened. I’m not trans, but I feel for my trans brothers and sisters. I feel my rights as a woman are being assaulted. From every angle, I feel like we’re getting assaulted. It’s kind of like the sea is boiling and I can’t do anything about it right now other than sit here and watch it and hope that someone will come and fix it.

Did you hear anything from the candidates today that you really liked?

I think what rubbed me wrong is some of the candidates almost assumed, like, we didn’t know about the AIDS crisis. It felt almost insulting to be like, yes, we know it was terrible. Tell us how you’re going to fix it. I get that it was bad.

How do you want to see the candidates address L.G.B.T. issues on the campaign trail?

Whether or not they seem to actually care when they’re not right here looking us in the eye and then saying what we want to hear.

How do you identify yourself?

I identify as pansexual, nonbinary, demi.

What are you hoping to see from the candidates today?

I want to see Bernie.

Have you been impressed with him on L.G.B.T. issues?

I’m a really big fan of the fact that his politics have stayed consistent. You see pictures of him getting arrested during the civil rights movement or marching with L.G.B.T. people, so it makes it feel like he’s not just moving on a whim.

How do you identify yourself?


How do you think things have changed in the past decade for L.G.B.T. people?

We’ve definitely got the right to marry. I’m definitely really happy about that. I didn’t even think I’d see it in my lifetime.

Are you supporting any candidates at this point?

I’m leaning a little bit toward Elizabeth Warren at this point, but Bernie definitely has a really strong background on L.G.B.T.Q. issues, so I haven’t decided.

What can the presidential candidates do to show their support for L.G.B.T. people in an authentic way?

It really just needs to be reinforced that it’s our constitutional right to have equal rights. And anyone who lives in this country should have absolute, equal rights, even if we’re not the same. Period.

How do you identify yourself?

Most of the time, female. I’ve been questioning my gender a lot lately. I’ve always kind of questioned it.

What brought you here today?

It’s kind of a celebration. I am living at a time where I can actually be able to explore my identity, do it openly, and be around a community of people that are working toward making it better for other generations.

Did you hear anything today that impressed you?

The candidate who was talking about being able to have more identities out in the open. Like if you’re wanting to identify as gender-fluid or inter-identity, where you use them/they pronouns, that you will still be accepted as well. If you feel that way and you feel that’s how you identify, then what’s stopping you from being that person that you want to be?

Do you remember who it was?


A woman? Kirsten Gillibrand?


How do you identify yourself?


Did you hear anything that impressed you?

I think everybody had a really good message. I feel like I’ve heard a lot from Beto and I’ve heard a lot from Bernie, so that was kind of what I was expecting. But some of the candidates that came after — I hadn’t really heard a lot from.

What can they do to show you that they support L.G.B.T. people in an authentic way?

Show a real intention to include somebody who is an L.G.B.T.Q. individual in their presidential campaign. And not just somebody who happens to be gay, but somebody who is also a gay advocate who has been fighting for gay rights, so we know that they will represent us accurately and professionally once they’re in office.

How do you identify yourself?

I usually just say I’m gay.

How would you describe the current climate for L.G.B.T. people in America?

It’s kind of hectic mainly because of our president. I’d say that’s about it.

What issues are most important to you?

Just rights in general because we’re all human.

What are you hoping to hear from the candidates?

Just their support, to be honest.

How do you identify yourself?

Straight, cisgender male.

What brought you here today?

Last year was my first time attending a Pride fest, back home in Wisconsin. I’m just here because we care. Just wanted to come support, be an ally.

How important are L.G.B.T. issues to you as a voter?

Very important. I have a lot of friends and close friends, a couple family members, who are part of this community, and even for myself growing up under a religious household, it was a little different. And as I came of age — self-reflection, realization, meeting people — things have changed. And of course, being a black man, dealing with the history of oppression — I’m definitely with them in this fight.

How do you identify yourself?

I’m cisgender and bisexual.

Did you hear anything from the candidates that impressed you?

I really liked the first one. I can’t remember his name — the guy from Texas. He actually sounded really interesting. He had a lot to say about community in general.

What can presidential candidates do to show you that they support L.G.B.T. people in an authentic way?

Actually voting on bills and things in the government to help us. Because you can show up here, that’s fine, and make promises. But if you’re not going to keep those promises, it doesn’t really mean anything.

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