PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Pride got off to a somber start in Philadelphia. Deputy Dante Austin, the LGBTQ liaison for the Sheriff’s Office, and the city’s first openly gay deputy, took his own life Friday.
There were a lot of broken hearts at Friday’s Pride kickoff.
Pride is a feeling, a symbol, a celebration and always open to interpretation.
“Just knowing that love is love, no matter what color, what race,” one woman said.
“I think pride is a sense of self,” one man said.
The joy of self was on full display in the city’s Gayborhood district — near 12th and Locust — where the official kickoff to Pride Weekend was held.
“I think it’s important for kids in the community to see that, ‘Hey there is this visible gay presence. You aren’t the only one who is like this, other people are like this too,'” one man said.
It’s a celebration of progress and community, “but as well as having that time to remember,” one man said.
Earlier in the day, Austin was found dead in his office. The 27-year-old LGBTQ outreach leader died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.
“Whatever the cause is, it is indicative of us needing to support each other more,” Michael Grosberg, with the Delaware Valley Legacy Fund, said. “Having leaders like Dante in our community was really fundamental.”
The rainbow signals that a storm is passing and joy still lies ahead.
“It’s just right for us to honor him and continue his legacy,” one woman said.
The William Way LGBTQ Community Center will be offering support for anyone who needs in the wake of Austin’s death. The Philly Pride Parade and Festival takes place Sunday.
If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, please ask for help. The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-TALK. You can also text “talk” to 741-741.