Charleston Pride celebrates progress

"People thought I was crazy to even try to start something like this here," said Lynn Dugan, who started the event.

It's easier being gay than it was just four or five years ago, according to the founder of Charleston Pride.

Lynn Dugan, a longtime activist for gay rights who marched in the first parades in New York City 40 years ago, started the annual Charleston Pride parade and rally in 2010.

She was honored for her work Saturday at the fifth annual Charleston Pride rally at Brittlebank Park.

"People thought I was crazy to even try to start something like this here," she said. "This is the Holy City."

The parade and rally started in North Charleston and moved to Charleston last year.

"A lot has changed in the last five years," Dugan said. "We're moving in the right direction."

More than 200 people from 53 groups marched in the parade from Wragg Mall to Colonial Lake Saturday morning, organizers estimated.

A couple thousand turned out for the afternoon rally at Brittlebank Park. It was a colorful occasion, with rainbow flags and colored beads and feathers everywhere.

Jason Seabrook, a gay man who works at a downtown restaurant, showed up with big colorful Christmas bulbs hanging around his neck, accented by colored feathers, gold beads and a gold mask around his eyes.

"It represents freedom for me as a gay person," he said of the rally. "People tend to have prejudices. It's a day to be myself."

The rally was scheduled to last until 3 p.m., and the weather almost cooperated. A torrential downpour with lightning sent everybody scurrying for their cars about 2:45 p.m.

Melinda Scharstein, a fine-art photographer who works in the College of Charleston library, was given the Inaugural Charleston Pride Community Pride Award for her work with the transgender community. She started the Trans* Love Fund last fall to raise money for drugs that allow people to undergo sex changes.

The College of Charleston has more than a dozen transgender students, and about 30 people regularly attend Charleston Area Transgender Support meetings, she said.

"The world does not exist in a very simple gender binary," she said. "I think we need to trust people that they are in touch with who they are."

Reach Dave Munday at 937-5553.