This year, Pride has not been as joyous as it should be, as members of the LGBT+ community have faced numerous threats and attacks at events across the country.
But an incident at a library in a Texas suburb showed love can drown out hatred.
Every year in June, members of the LGBTQ+ community embrace their sexual identity and stand together with their allies to peacefully protest and spread awareness of the issues faced by LGBTQ+ people.
But recently, the month-long celebration has been marred by attacks on gay legislation and by threats from hate groups planning to disrupt Pride events.
One such event celebrating Pride that was targeted by the Proud Boys was the Family Storytime event held on Saturday at the Roy and Helen Hall Library in McKinney, Texas.
Thankfully, a "human shield" of counterprotesters thwarted the far-right extremist group from antagonizing people attending the event.
Determined to raise her three young boys to be open-minded and accepting, Kathryn Vargas wanted to take her boys to the Family Storytime event.
But when she learned about planned disruptions at Pride events around the country, she had her reservations, given her firefighter husband was working and was unable to join them.
Eventually, something clicked for her, and the straight mother ditched her apprehension for a purpose.
“We decided that sometimes being an ally is just showing up. And so we decided that we would still show up and that it was important.”
When they arrived at the library, Vargas was pleasantly surprised to see that the White nationalist demonstrators who had shown up were far outnumbered by a group counterprotesters who were supporting the library and the LGBTQ+ community by holding signs and rainbow flags.
"My 3 small CHILDREN and I had to be escorted to our car for our safety leaving the LIBRARY because #WhiteSupremacy groups showed up," she wrote on Twitter.
"Grateful to #LGBTQ community members and allies who out numbered them 5 to 1 so that at least my younger two kids couldn’t see anything but love."
Michael Phillips, a historian and senior research fellow at Southern Methodist University, was among the group of counterprotesters.
“The word went out on the internet…and people showed up," Phillips said, adding:
“It was pretty well organized to make sure that the families bringing their children to this event weren't harassed, weren’t harangued — basically to form a human shield.”
“We formed a corridor that families could pass through."
Denise Lessard, a spokesperson for the city of McKinney, said the event was keeping in line with other similar events at different libraries to celebrate diversity in the community.
“In honor of Pride Month each year, we display age-appropriate literature throughout the library and host programming that celebrates our LGBTQIA+ community,” Lessard said.
“Our programs are clearly marketed so residents can choose what activities they want to attend. All are welcome.”
A McKinney council member, Patrick Cloutier, condemned the event after going to the library ahead of the event and finding the words “queer” and “drag queen" mentioned in the selected literature.
He said he apprised other council members of his concerns and added that he didn't want his two-year-old granddaughter to be exposed to such words.
However, Cloutier attended the event on Saturday and was surprised at what he saw.
The storytime event was held in a separate room away from non-ticket holders, and the books were read by a woman–not a drag queen–who was "engaging and made the children smile."
“I was appreciative that people who were voluntarily there got what they wanted and what they were looking for."
"The way she engaged the kids and the words that came out of her mouth, I saw nothing wrong with when I was in there.”
Outside, the situation was not as pleasant, as right-wing protesters gathered and held signs accusing LGBTQ+ people of “grooming” and “indoctrination."
The protesters were later joined by suspected members of the Proud Boys and Three Percenters hate groups holding Trump signs and wearing hate insignia.
Here is a clip from the scene.
According to Buzzfeed News, some of the protesters were armed and wore body armor–including "face coverings from rest stop chain Buc-ee's that has become part of the Proud Boys uniform."
Two sisters Josie and Mallie–who withheld their names for fear of being targeted–recalled how the protesters were intimidating people attending the event.
"They started kind of saying different things, calling us groomers, pedophiles," said Josie.
"They were fat-shaming people, they were calling other women whores and just horrible things. You could tell that they wanted to incite some type of violence."
"They just wanted to make us get angry so they could have something to use against us.”
The other sister, Mallie, said:
“I was just thinking about how scared little tiny kids would be seeing masked people with big vests on wearing black. Like, that would be scary, just walking out in the library.”
Vargas, the mother who took her sons to the event, said:
“There's nothing that can quite prepare you for just a deeply unsettling feeling of seeing armed hate groups close to your small brown children."
Fortunately, a counterprotester safely walked her and her boys to her car and blocked out signs of hateful messages with an umbrella.
“There were protesters there that held up signs about protecting kids, but it was members of the LGBTQ community and allies that shielded my brown boys from these hate groups,” Vargas recalled.
“They were the actual targets on Saturday. And yet, they absolutely would not flinch when hatred stared at them.”
Vargas has no regrets about attending the event.
She told Pink News:
“Not only was it important for them to be at the storytime, to be exposed and see things that are different than our family – we don’t know who our kids are going to grow up to be."
“I hope that one day, if they have questions, they remember, ‘Mom took me to the storytime or the books that we have in our house and my parents love me, period’.”
A McKinney Police Department spokesperson said the police were not called to the scene but monitored the event from nearby and kept an eye on things "to make sure the event was peaceful.”
No arrests have been made, but a citation was issued "for assault by contact to someone who pushed another person."