Wendy Dorfman, co-owner of Downtown’s Sugarwolf Exchange, wasn’t entirely sure what to expect in Lafayette when she moved from D.C. a few years ago. Some warned her to temper her expectations when it came to feeling welcomed as a queer woman and business owner. At first, the town seemed a little stuck “back in time,” she says, especially when it came to attitudes around race and the LGBTQ community.
In June, when the mayor-president and City Council initially voted against recognizing Pride Month, Wendy took matters into her own hands.
“It just didn’t sit right with me,” she says. “There are so many celebrations, so many festivals here. Lafayette loves a party — but not for this community.”
So she set about organizing a Pride event in Downtown Lafayette, one that wasn’t the first of its kind but was certainly the biggest and most embraced. She reached out to fellow business owners and groups representing diverse communities throughout the city. Asociación Cultural Latino-Acadiana handed out bottled water. Beausoleil Books hosted speakers, panels and a drag show. Wendy raffled off dozens of donated items, the proceeds going to Louisiana Trans Advocates and Lafayette’s chapter of PFLAG, and many shops along Jefferson painted rainbows on their storefront windows.
Most importantly, folks came out. Wendy was especially pleased to see so many young people with their parents, friends and allies.
“That’s my hope,” she says. “That people would see such a large community and not be able to dismiss them.”
The wheels are already in motion for next year. “I wouldn’t be surprised if there was some kind of parade,” Wendy says.
Ultimately, the turnout has convinced Wendy that Lafayette has begun to outgrow some of its more dated attitudes toward her community.
“I still hear a lot of ‘it’s always been that way’ in Lafayette,” she says. “But the support I felt on the day itself just showed me — and hopefully everyone — that Lafayette is ready for a change.”