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Out and Wonderful: Durham Pride All Year Long

Estimated Read Time:
3 minutes

Durham is the most diverse, proud and vibrant destination in North Carolina.

Posted By Ashley Strahm on May 23, 2024

It doesn't matter what time of year you visit; you will find queer folks celebrated, partners of all types walking down city streets, and Pride flags waving in front of established businesses frequented by proud Durhamites of all kinds.

From its activist roots to its current reputation as a progressive Southern city, Durham's community intends to ensure that the Bull City is a welcoming place for all who visit. When the North Carolina General Assembly passed HB2 in 2016, Durhamites stood in solidarity with the LGBTQIA community through protests, fundraisers for non-profits, and "We Don't Care" bathroom signage. This is a community that will uplift you, support your dreams, and give you strength. Whether you're staying for one night or the rest of your life, you'll feel right at home here.

June is national Pride month, and though we all eagerly anticipate Pride: Durham's parade and official celebration in September, we honor our LGBTQIA community every day. Here's a snapshot of how Durham is celebrating the wonderful, bold and colorful this month, and all year long.

Durham's LGBTQIA History and Community

Durham has a long history of working toward inclusive ideals as a community. From sit-ins during the Civil Rights Movement to widespread support for gender-neutral restrooms and the trans community in the face of HB2 and other forms of bigotry, Durhamites aren't afraid to challenge injustice with action. One of Durham's great icons is Rev. Dr. Pauli Murray, a queer African American activist who fought tirelessly for the equal rights of all individuals. Murray's childhood home is now a National Historic Landmark and will be reopening in 2024 as a space for community and activism.

The Pauli Murray in the World mural foregrounds the frame on a brick wall face.

Check out the Pauli Murray in the World mural on Roxboro Street. Photo: Discover Durham

While Durham has been the home of North Carolina's Pride march for over 15 years, it is also where what is considered to be the first Pride march in the state took place. On April 17th, 1981, 125 individuals gathered in front of the Durham County Judicial Building protesting for equal rights for the queer community. Then, in 1986, a second public demonstration took place on Duke University's campus.

For the next 14 years, North Carolinians gathered in a different city every year to take part in the NC Pride March. Eventually, the march settled in one city, Bull City, to be exact. You can read about it all in-depth on the website for The LGBTQ Center of Durham.

LGBTQIA Organizations in Durham

LGBTQ Center of Durham

Programming at the LGBTQ Center of Durham (a "family room" for the LGBTQIA community) includes discussion groups, movie nights, open mics and more in an effort to affirm, support and celebrate all LGBTQIA experiences.

PFLAG Triangle

PFLAG Triangle offers friendship and support for parents, families, friends and allies united with LGBTQIA people.

Durham Gender Alliance

Durham Gender Alliance is a moderated gender issues support group serving the Triangle.

Southerners On New Ground (SONG)

Cofounded by Durhamite and Southern Black lesbian activist, Mandy Carter – who is well-known for her 50-year history of social, racial and LGBTQIA justice organizing – SONG is a home for LGBTQIA liberation across all lines of race, class, abilities, age, culture, gender and sexuality in the South. Since 2013, SONG's Durham chapter has organized around efforts like the Black Mamas Bail Out Action, Guerrilla theater workshops, Team of the Willing Dinners and many more.

Soul Sanctuary

Today, Soul Sanctuary is an event space and farm collective with a vision for a multi-generational, multi-racial, Black feminist intentional community centered on the support of our LGBTQIA+ elders. Spaces are available for rent and the property hosts public events including Saturday morning Farmers’ Markets.

Queer-Owned and Queer-Friendly Spaces in Durham

Durham Welcomes Everyone, Everywhere

Durham gayborhood? Try the whole city. This is a place where we fiercely defend our fellow humans' rights to express themselves honestly and authentically. Beyond gender or sexual orientation, we proudly celebrate community, connection and love in all its forms. So, you won't find a street or neighborhood where gay culture is celebrated; you'll find its warmth and beauty all around you.

The Pinhook

117 W. Main St.

Found in the heart of downtown Durham, this queer-owned bar and venue is "a safer space for queer and otherwise marginalized folks to express themselves and feel comfortable doing so." Head to The Pinhook for queer dance parties, drag shows, karaoke and movie nights, as well as live music several nights a week.

The storefront of The Pinhook displays gray walls and a red overhang along with their logo.

Check the Pinhook's events schedule to see if there's something fun happening during your stay. Photo: Discover Durham

Arcana Bar and Lounge

331 W. Main St.

Delve into Arcana, through the alleyway and down the steps, to enjoy a one of a kind cocktail bar experience. Recently becoming the 32nd lesbian bar to be added to The Lesbian Bar Project's list, Arcana has been a beloved space for queer folks to gather since 2015. Patrons here enjoy cocktails, music, tarot and community events year-round.

The Velvet Hippo Bar & Lounge

119 Orange St.

Co-owned by five women, this new bar in town is an inclusive space for folks of all backgrounds to enjoy a cocktail. With both indoor and outdoor seating, the Velvet Hippo is a perfect spot to kick back and have a few drinks with friends, a date or even solo.

GRUB Durham

1200 W. Chapel Hill St.

Owned by Stacey Poston and wife Wendy Woods, the two have lived, worked and thrived in the Durham area for over 20 years, and created GRUB as a laid back, and accessible gas station turned eatery for everyone. The restaurant and rooftop is a beloved staple; you'll know you've arrived when you see the trans and gay pride flags out front by West Chapel Hill Street.

The sign for GRUB Durham hangs on a pole in the air, welcoming in guests.

Go to GRUB for a great plate of food and a welcoming environment. Photo: Discover Durham

Auroraflow

607 William Vickers Ave.

By making self-care and spa treatments like massage, facials and reiki approachable and accessible, Auroraflow aims to help people in marginalized communities live healthier, better lives.

Find more LGBTQIA-owned Durham spaces in our blog.

Pride Month in Durham

Beaver Queen Pageant

June 1, 2024

You'll never attend an event like this anywhere else.

For twenty years, the Beaver Queen Pageant has been the Triangle’s own special mix of folly, pageantry, and humor, and the LGBTQIA community has always played a pivotal role in the event. The event is unique to Durham, bringing awareness and funding to the environment but also serving as a mechanism to celebrate queer Durham.

What began as an underground, after-hours drag pageant in 2005 led by activist Katherine O'Brien has evolved into $15,000 raised in the past half decade for the Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association and the wetlands our local beavers call home.

Expect to see contestants take on beaver personalities and compete for the title of Beaver Queen with their fashion, talent, and personality. Each year, the Annual Beaver Queen Pageant appoints a theme, like "Damilton!", and there will be music, a Scrap Exchange tail-making booth, food trucks, and much more on the banks of the Ellerbe Creek in the Duke Park Meadow. The event is free and family-friendly; all are invited to vote for their favorite contestants (or bribe a judge).

Club ERA - The Opening

June 1, 2024

This is not a drill. House of Coxx star Naomi Dix is opening Club ERA, a gay, queer and trans (and beyond) nightclub in the basement of The Fruit on June 1. Get your tickets early for a new era of music, dancing and vibes in Durham.

Pride Night at DBAP

June 6, 2024

This annual event is in partnership with Equality NC, the LGBTQ Center of Durham and the Durham Police Department, with each organization receiving in-game recognition.

The evening's contest features a Bulls Pride flag raised in center field. Wool E. Bull displays a Bulls Pride flag on the field before the first pitch, which is auctioned off with proceeds benefitting the LGBTQ Center of Durham. With such a strong community, this event quickly became an annual celebration.

Pride Night Market

June 8, 2024

Fae & Ghoul Collective host this evening of shopping, sipping and strolling at the Glass Jug RTP.

The House of Coxx: It’s Funny, Y’all!

June 14, 2024

If it's The House of Coxx, you know it will be a hilariously good time. The House of Coxx drag mother, Vivica C. Coxx and House of Coxx member Stormie Daie will be your hosts in the variety show, “It’s Funny Y’all!” while Naomi Dix and Spray and the Jays make special appearances. Guests Kb2funny and Pressure K Friday join with comedy and drag all the way from Atlanta.

A dollar of each ticket purchase will be donated to the LGBTQ Center of Durham.

The Rainbow Connection: Boom Boom's Big Gay B-Day Revue

June 15, 2024

The sun is out, the temperature is rising, and things are about to get really… GAY! Join an all-queer cast for burlesque and drag numbers in celebration of love and pride.

Auroraflow's Pride Block Party

June 15, 2024

This event is not just about fun—it's also about making a difference with drag shows, food and beverages, dancing and local vendors. A portion of the proceeds will benefit Durham-based charity Sacred Solidarity.

Prism: Pride in STEM

June 30, 2024

All are welcome to join this family-friendly pride event at the Museum of Life and Science hosted by Stormie Daie and The Rainbow Collective. Challenge your assumptions and explore the diversity of the natural world with storytime, crafts, science explorations and animal encounters.

Search for more National Pride Month events.

The LGBTQIA Community, All Year Long

OutSouth Queer Film Festival

August 8-11, 2024

Held at the historic Carolina Theatre, OutSouth is the second-largest gay, lesbian, and transgender film festival in the Southeast, and is held every August. The films range from features to documentaries to shorts, highlighting directors from across the country. In addition to screenings, the schedule includes a kick-off party, family-friendly events, and food trucks.

Lights shine a rainbow flag over the Carolina Theatre during the OutSouth Queer Film Festival.

The OUTSOUTH Queer Film Festival is the second-largest LGBTQIA+ film festival in the Southeast. Photo: Alec Himwich / Carolina Theatre / Discover Durham

Pride: Durham

September 28 & 29, 2024

Pride: Durham, NC leads Durham's annual celebration of equality on the last Saturday in September. Its predecessor, NC Pride, served as the Tar Heel state's annual LGBTQIA festival, taking place each year in Durham. The parade draws thousands of costumed marchers alongside decorated floats and vehicles. Additional activities include festival vendors, speeches, and parties taking place around the Triangle. It's a great opportunity to support an inclusive community.

Durham's Drag Family

Plan to head to The Pinhook for the House of Coxx Drag show, a collection of lively theatrical and dance performances presented in traditional Queer comedic style every second Saturday. For a small cover fee, you'll have front-row access to Durham's foremost drag troupe (started and led by the charismatically charming Vivica C. Coxx).

Several other Bull City venues host regular and periodic drag shows, as well. Check out our blog post to learn how Durham Does Drag all year long.

Eventgoers look on as a drag performer walks at House of Coxx Drag Brunch.

Enjoy a drag brunch event at multiple venues in Durham. Photo: Discover Durham

There's also free readings and discussions of queer romance selections at Durham's Southwest Regional Library, as well as game nights at The LGBTQ Center of Durham every month on first Fridays. Plan to enjoy games — these events are free and open to the public.

Y'all means all here in Durham! We hope to see you soon to celebrate Pride all year long in Durham.

About the Author

Ashley Strahm

Jersey roots, Durham fruits. Lover of all things edible, egalitarian and true. Find me clad in Birkenstocks, seeking Bull City Beautiful stories by trail, wheel and spoke.