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Savannah is full of Pride
This year’s festival offers more fun and education

19th Annual Savannah Pride

Masqueerade Ball at the Gingerbread House, Oct. 25 at 7 p.m.

Savannah Pride Pawrade in City Market, Oct. 27 at 10 a.m.

Savannah Pride Festival in Ellis Square, Oct. 27 at 11 a.m.

Highlights include drag trolley tours, a mermaid grotto photo booth, a self-guided pub crawl, a performance by Jason Rodriguez (aka Slim Ninja) from the FX series Pose, a history exhibit and story stage at the Hotel Indigo, and the Savannah Pride Prom at the Andaz.

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MANZANA BRYANT is one busy lady.

She co-founded TEE (Transgender Empowerment Education), does outreach for the Georgia AIDS Coalition, and sits on the board of First City Network and the Savannah Pride Committee.

“It’s a lot of hats!” she laughs.

Bryant helped start TEE when she realized that, when talking about LGBTQIA awareness, the T was often left out.

“The reason there’s more stigma with trans people is that some are scared to come out and be visible, because it’s dangerous,” explains Bryant. “It is dangerous to say you’re trans, even at your job. There’s 33% more violence in the trans community than in the LGBT community alone. It seems like it’s okay to be a gay male, to be a lesbian, to be cisgender, but it’s not okay to be trans.”

Because of that stigma, trans people are exposed to danger.

“People want to consider us an abomination, but what I want people to know and understand is that by this happening, it forces us not to be able to have jobs,” explains Bryant. “It takes away from our lives. Some of the girls have to go into sex work, and that’s very dangerous because of HIV and AIDS. It’s all a circle, just from this misunderstanding.”

Bryant’s passion for breaking that stigma is precisely what won her Savannah Pride’s inaugural Leonard Matlovich Award.

Tech Sgt. Matlovich was a native Savannahian who outed himself to the military in protest of their ban on gay people. His bravery has made him a symbol for LGBTQIA rights.

The award came at a particularly touching moment for Bryant.

“I just lost my mom three weeks ago, and then this news comes,” she shares. “I do so much work in advocacy, and that’s one thing my mom was proud of me for doing. To receive this award under his name, and to be the first to even receive this award, oh my God, it’s so important for me and for our community. He laid the groundwork for the military ban, and he’s from Savannah! And we don’t know who he is! It’s so taboo, but such a part of Savannah’s history.”

Manzana "Ms. Apple" Bryant.

Like Matlovich, Bryant’s hard work can go unappreciated.

“We’re behind the scenes and we hardly get recognized or thank-yous,” Bryant says, “but it’s not about the glamour and the glitz. It’s about doing the work. You’ve got to put in the work. There will be hard days. You’ll face a lot of naysayers, you’ll face a lot of hate. But I always believe that education is the key. Let me educate you. No matter what you want to ask, ask it. If I can tell you what I know about me, that can help you help the next person.”

Bryant believes that education and inclusivity will help end the stigma against the LGBTQIA community. The main Pride festival on Oct. 27 is designed for everyone to enjoy.

“Instead of just having people with booty cuts on, and all the other ‘gay’ stuff people consider Pride to have, we’re going to have speakers, education, everything all in one place,” Bryant enthuses. “This is Pride for the community. We wanted something more family-oriented—some Prides are not family oriented. We don’t want to leave out cis people. We want everyone to be involved, just like a St. Patrick’s Day parade.”

Last year, when Pride moved from Forsyth Park to Ellis Square, there were over 8,000 people in attendance.

“And we had no trouble. Not one!” Bryant exclaims. “That means we did our jobs. It makes me happy that Pride went off without a hitch. Security was worried, the cops were worried. It just goes to show that when you open it up to everybody and nobody feels excluded, the hate goes away because you’re a part of it.”

This year’s Pride, the 19th annual, features even more events. There’s a Masqueerade Ball, a Pawrade for pets, the Drag Trolley Tours, and the Savannah Pride Prom, which Bryant is particularly excited about.

“The prom is open to ages 14 through 20,” she says. “Everyone considers Pride as adults and drinking, and it’s not about that. Kids are coming out younger now, and what can we do for them? With this, we pull them in and say, ‘This is your safe space for tonight.’ They get a chance to mingle and network with other kids who might feel the way they feel.”

Hosted by Savannah Pride, the Georgia AIDS Coalition and Stand OUT Youth, the prom is in honor of a fallen friend.

“It’s in memory of Tricksie Turner,” Bryant says. “She started our youth event for Pride and she was such an advocate for the youth. For us to name this event after her is wonderful. Hopefully this event will blow it out and be what she wanted. I know she’s smiling on me.”