Grab the tacky holiday sweaters and don your gay apparel for the seventh annual Rainbow on ICE, which celebrates our city’s LGBTQ community with ice skating, drag performances and music. The party takes place 7 – 10 p.m. on Friday, December 8 at Discovery Green.
In addition to the skating, crowds can take in the entertainment of Angelina DM Trailz as well as Crawford Nation performing as Britney Spears, Rihanna and Selena. DJ Joe Ross will provide the music, and KPRC's Houston Life co-host Derrick Shore will emcee the evening.
“It’s a way for the community to come together and celebrate each other,” said Barry Mandel, president and park director for Discovery Green. “It’s a couple of days before the holidays get crazy to celebrate all the forms we take: single, looking, couples, married with children…it’s for all of us.”
Of course, it’s not strictly a GLBTQ event. Whether people identify as straight, gay, somewhere in the middle or not at all, everyone is welcome to attend.
“I think part of the Discovery Green magic is the diversity of the audience,” he added. “The way that we have all learned about and from each other is by participating in each other’s events.”
Mandel says the demographics of attendees has shifted over the years.
“The biggest change is how many families show up, and that’s representative of our community. People are adopting children or starting families, and now those children are of the age where they can start learning how to skate,” he says.
The timing of Rainbow on ICE couldn’t be more apt. We’re coming off the heels of World AIDS Day, which was December 1. While the LGBTQ community and HIV/AIDS aren’t exactly synonymous, it is the LGBTQ citizens who unarguably have shouldered the heaviest burden of the disease, and any chance to celebrate life – including a night on the ice rink – is welcomed.
Despite the current political climate with subjects like bathroom bills and removing transgender military members, a few recent events have provided cause for cheer this holiday season for the LGBTQ community. General public attitudes have trended further and further in recent years toward equality, and the country is starting to see its first transgender politicians win elections. Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control recently announced a giant breakthrough in transmission rates for people living with HIV who have “undetectable” viral loads.
A September letter from the CDC said, “Scientific advances have shown that antiretroviral therapy (ART) preserves the health of people living with HIV. We also have strong evidence of the prevention effectiveness of ART. When ART results in viral suppression, defined as less than 200 copies/ml or undetectable levels, it prevents sexual HIV transmission. Across three different studies, including thousands of couples and many thousand acts of sex without a condom or pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), no HIV transmissions to an HIV-negative partner were observed when the HIV-positive person was virally suppressed. This means that people who take ART daily as prescribed and achieve and maintain an undetectable viral load have effectively no risk of sexually transmitting the virus to an HIV-negative partner.”
This major announcement from the country’s leading health authority marks a significant milestone for people who deal with HIV/AIDS and helps eradicate the stigma associated with the disease as well as serves as a point of education.
No one understands that better than Kelly Young, CEO of AIDS Foundation Houston.
“I wish I had the magic word to eliminate the stigma because it’s the most detrimental pieces of this disease. It’s what caused people to take so long to be less judgmental and engage in a positive response,” said Young. “We don’t want to judge people. Instead we should ensure people take care of their health. I wish we had a society where celebrating people was the focus instead of focusing on how someone is less healthy.”
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That’s where events like Rainbow on ICE help everyone to understand the culture and history of the LGBTQ community, including people affected by HIV/AIDS. Because of the assortment of people who attend, it’s impossible to not meet someone new and learn a little about their story.
“You’d be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t know someone who’s LGBTQ,” said Mandel. “It’s hard to discriminate against someone when you know them, and that’s the beauty of Rainbow on ICE. It’s very hard to hate people as you start to get know more and more about them and realize they are much the same as you are.”
Young added, “What’s most important is recognizing that LBGTQ and HIV are part of the Houston community. Although we may celebrate what is important to those communities, we’re all a part of the bigger community.”
Rainbow on ICE takes place from 7 – 10 p.m. on Friday, December 8 at Discovery Green, 1500 McKinney. For more information, visit DiscoveryGreen.com/Rainbow. The event is free, and ice skate rentals start at $14.