BELOIT - Drag shows, a pageant and a rally were all part of Rock County's first pride fest to celebrate the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.
Rock the Pride was held Saturday in Telfer Park, with hundreds of LGBT community members and allies coming together. The event was planned by Beloit's Yellow Brick Road, a nonprofit formed to support the LGBT community. It was hosted by Madison drag queen Cass Marie Domino and comedian Brenna Haddock.
"It feels so amazing to have this loving, accepting space," Yellow Brick Road President Marilyn Schuh said. "You can just feel the love."
Kendra Petrocelli, of Beloit, brought her three children - Dominic, Augustus and Charlotte - to the festival. Charlotte is a seven-year-old transgender girl. Petrocelli was thankful her daughter was able to celebrate LGBT pride so close to home. She said she also enjoyed that the family-friendly event had a children's area. She often finds that many LBGT pride events don't always have activities for the kids.
"It's great, because we don't have to worry about her," Petrocelli said.
She often is cautious about her daughter "passing" as a girl at school and around her friend's parents who may not be accepting of her daughter's transition.
"Charlotte is all about pride," Kendra Petrocelli said. "If people try to call her a boy, she says 'I'm a girl. Can't you tell? I'm so cute.'"
Rally speakers included Beloit City Council member Clinton Anderson; Rebecca Solen, a former candidate for Congress against Paul Ryan and veteran who later came out as transgender; and U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison.
Anderson spoke about the official proclamation made by the Beloit City Council last week, declaring the week of Aug. 19-25, 2018, pride week. The proclamation also encourages citizens to "continue to raise awareness about discrimination and other barriers affecting employment, housing, public safety, policing, health care, education and the recognition of family relationships."
"This is a testament to how great the city is," Anderson said.
Solen said she always knew she was transgender, but growing up she didn't know there was anyone else like her. This is a feeling many members of the LBGT community experience, she said.
"We have to let everyone know we exist...and we have to speak out," Solen said.
She calls on legislators to pass laws to help end discrimination towards the LGBT community.
"We ask that they live up to their ideals and virtue of the promises made to us in the Constitution, that we have the certain right to be free from oppressive beliefs as much as others have the right to those beliefs," Solen said.
Though progress has been made for securing the rights of the LGBT community, Pocan said, there is still work to be done.
"In a majority of states in this country, you can get married as a couple on a Saturday then go back to work on a Monday and be fired for who you are, or lose your housing, because of who you are," Pocan said.
Because of this, he said Congress needs to pass the Equality Act.
"This would catch up with all the other parts of law that have to be caught up, so that we truly have full equality across the county. We still have to work on that," Pocan said.
He added everyone needs to work together to end discrimination against transgender people and people of color within the LGBT community.
"We have to make sure we realize that we are as strong as our weakest person, and we all have to stick together to make sure that until we have equality for everyone, we don't have equality for ourselves," Pocan said.
In addition to a pride rally, drag queens and kings competed for the crown at Rock County's first pride pageant. Before the pageant kicked off, pride goers got to see a performance by Mr. Madison Pride 2018 Kasper James.