Bangor’s first-ever LGBTQ+ pride parade was held on June 20, 1992, in a local, state and national climate that was, in many ways, dramatically different from 2023.
Back then, the HIV/AIDS crisis was still a devastating part of daily life for the gay community. Few protections for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer people existed anywhere in the country. Maine’s first gay rights ordinance was passed by Portland’s city council in 1992 but was put up to a referendum vote in November of that year, which upheld the law. Bangor would not adopt such a law until 2001.
And in Bangor, the shadow of the 1984 murder of young gay man Charlie Howard by three local teenagers still loomed large — a crime that shocked the community and helped to galvanize change at both the local and state level.
But as one of the organizers of the first parade in 1992 said in a Bangor Daily News article at the time, the yearly remembrance ceremony for Howard was solemn. A parade was in order, to celebrate and be joyful about the fact that, despite huge odds against them, the LGBTQ+ community was strong and resilient.
That first parade attracted between 150 and 200 people. In more recent years, Bangor’s parade has attracted more than 3,000 people to downtown, for the parade, festival and other events throughout the weekend.
Today, Maine is ranked by a number of nonprofits and publications as one of the most LGBTQ+ friendly states in the country — even as other states attempt to enact laws against things like LGBTQ+ education in school, health care for transgender youth, and performances by drag queens.
Here are photos from throughout the years of Bangor’s pride parade — from humble beginnings to the colorful and celebratory event that it is today.