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June 1, 2013

Hear Me Out:
Visions of Equality for Gay Pride Month

BY
GREG R. BAIRD

June has arrived and that means we are now celebrating Gay Pride month. I am wondering what that means for so many of us. I am writing this after a very sad and disappointing day in Springfield, IL yesterday in what should have been a vote for marriage equality. It has left our community completely frustrated and angry as we now ask... what's next? We seem to get closer all the time to securing our equal rights that we can't give up. It is not the end of our work in the LGBTQ community; it is merely a continuation of the struggle. The failure of the Religious and Marriage Fairness Act is a setback. I really believe this is an example of why our country must have the Supreme Court rule in favor of full marriage equality so that current and future families are not left fighting, but living and loving their lives as they want and should.

Visions of Equality for Gay Pride Month
Marriage equality is not the only work we need to do. We can't forget that we are fighting for equal rights in housing, employment, healthcare, Trans issues, bullying and homeless gay youth. It's a lot to cover, but we need to keep our goals close to benefit all of us. We all know what it feels like to be treated as second class or forgotten. You don't have to be a politician or celebrity to make a difference in world. We need to value and support the gay and lesbian families in suburban, middle and rural America who are changing America one person and neighborhood at a time. It is the people in our own community, at work, schools, that are changing the hearts and minds. That is the real change.

Visions of Equality for Gay Pride Month
You can start now during Gay Pride month and share your story, vision, and legacy of what you want for your community. Your words may just inspire and open another person's mind and heart. When we celebrate each person in our community and share those stories, great things emerge. This month is meant to recognize the impact Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender individuals have had on the world. It's your turn to share your impact, big or small. It all matters.

But really why do we celebrate gay pride in June? In June of 2000, Bill Clinton deemed the month of June, "Gay and Lesbian Pride Month." The month was chosen to remember a riot in 1969 at the Stonewall Inn in Manhattan that is thought to be the beginning of the gay liberation movement in the United States. The month was set aside for LGBTQ art exhibits, dances, festivals, films, lectures and parades. It is a great month to celebrate with our LGBTQ brother and sisters and come together as a community. To tell who we are!

My very first experience with celebrating gay pride came when I lived in Northern Michigan. A small group of friends organized a gay pride picnic. The backdrop was a wonderful farmhouse with a beautiful manicured lawn owned by a local and out gay couple. For privacy, as many were not out of the closet, the event was communicated through a phone tree, e-mail and friends telling friends. The event was inclusive to all and provided a safe, fun and community orientated atmosphere.

The small band of gay men that put this on was part of a larger group called, Friends Up North. Different people had different roles in bringing this picnic together. Some lead games, others tended to the barbeque and pot luck area along with the early morning set up. I was asked to bring a sound system and DJ/emcee the event. When all was said and done 200-300 people came out and were free to be themselves for an afternoon on a beautiful lawn in Northern Michigan.

Pride is the single biggest party of the queer calendar. It is our Christmas, our Fourth of July and our Halloween all rolled up in one. It's the one day or weekend we get to take center stage and have ourselves a big festival like you have never seen. You may celebrate it by a huge parade, music event with drinks, food, friends and togetherness. However you are doing it, be inclusive and keep the momentum of pride alive within you, your loved ones and community. Share your stories, the good and the challenging ones, for those are the ones that shaped you as a person. The more we are out there voicing who we are and sharing our lives as LGBTQ people, the better opportunity we have in securing equal rights and a better future for all.

 
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