Happy Pride Month!

June is LGBT Pride Month, a time when LGBTQI-plus community members, family, friends and advocates acknowledge and celebrate the gift of diversity that is unique to each of us.

Many municipalities host “Pride parades,” and events where LGBTQI-plus community members outwardly profess their ability to live freely and openly as their true authentic self. This is a time to acknowledge the many accomplishments of LGBTQI-plus members both past and present as well as the strides in our current social/political arenas.

Sadly, in recent months, the U.S. has seen a resurgence of restrictive, faith-based minority rule with a small group of highly ultra-conservative people forcing their beliefs on a much more open and progressive majority population. As a nation, we can never go back to a time when women had no rights over their own bodies, citizens were denied their constitutionally-protected voting rights or voting was made so difficult and problematic that marginalized people were denied the ability and opportunity to make their voices heard.

We cannot regress to a time when already marginalized LGBTQI-plus people lose their ability to live authentically, love and marry whom they choose, have access to affordable medical and mental health care to meet their medically necessary needs, regardless of whether it meets someone else’s deeply held beliefs on sexual orientation or gender identity. Transgender youth should never be denied to opportunity to fully participate in school activities, functions and athletics as any of their other classmates. Transgender youth should never be denied medically necessary medicine to align their minds, bodies and spirits (their sense of their true and authentic selves). Local, state and federal governments have no business regulating our bodies based on their religious beliefs!

Thankfully, here in New York state, we preserve, protect and defend these basic human rights. Still, it only takes one election to undo decades of progress.

June is time set aside not only to commemorate the Stonewall uprising in New York City, to celebrate not only the LGTBQI-plus community but also the diversity of life and living itself. LGBTQI-plus pride is not about waiving multi-colored flags or articles of clothing once a year, but must be celebrated each and every day! It is a time to remember those brave individuals who often risked their lives, families, identities, reputations and their jobs just to be able to live as their true authentic selves.

Participating in LGBTQI-plus pride allows us to come together, to build community with others who share our common beliefs that human sexuality and gender identity exist on a fluid continuum of possibilities rather on only two fixed standard points of self-identification.

Pride celebrations are a way to honor those who came before us, who fought for the right to express their love towards another person on their own terms and not what society dictates as being acceptable or “proper.” It allows us to show our young people that they are perfect just as they are.

Now, some 50-plus years after Stonewall, Compton and other early LGBTQI-plus uprisings, the LGBTQI-plus community is still fighting for our rights in this country and in our state of New York. While much has been accomplished in the past 20 years with numerous state laws protecting our community, there is still much more work that needs to be done going forward!

Still pending in Congress is the Equality Act, a bill that would amend the 1964 Civil Rights Act to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, housing, public accommodations, public education, federal funding, credit, and the jury system. Today, 29 states have not passed anti-LGBTQI-plus discrimination protections for their citizens. The Equality Act seeks to remedy this by applying existing state anti-LGBTQI-plus discrimination laws nationwide. Still one political party has consistently blocked this vital basic human right protection law from being passed in the Senate. They base their restrictive minority rule on the religious views they and other’s cling to. They ignore scientific and medical facts to support their highly biased and repressive beliefs as to how people should live and interact with others in our society.

These should not be progressive, liberal or conservative issues! This is a basic human rights issue! LGBTQI-plus people are naturally created this way prior to birth. We have existed throughout time, history, cultures and civilizations. We exist in the past, the present and will continue well into the future. We only wish to live our truth! Live as our authentic selves!

This year, Adirondack North Country Gender Alliance will hold our first annual Adirondack North Country Tri-Lakes Pride celebration on Sunday, June 26. This is open to everyone in our Tri-Lakes region from all our surrounding villages, towns, and hamlets. The event features exhibits, vendors, raffles, music, throughout the afternoon, along with a fashion show presented by youth at the Saranac Lake Youth Center in collaboration with Main St. Exchange consignment store, (24 Broadway) and a drag show organized by Mhisty Knights, a popular regional drag performer. Owen Gilbo, diversity and inclusion specialist with the Office of Diversity and Inclusion Management, New York state Department of Civil Service is expected to speak at the event, along with several Tri-Lakes community leaders.

ANCGA is also partnering with Romano’s Saranac Lanes (11 Bloomingdale Ave. in Saranac Lake) to offer a pride bowling event on Saturday, June 25 from 4-6 p.m. Proceeds will benefit our Tri-Lakes Pride event. So come, enjoy a time of bowling fun with family and friends while supporting our regional LGBTQI-plus community.

As I’ve stated so many times in the past, the LGBTQI-plus community is not looking for any “more” or “special” rights than anyone else in New York state. We are only demanding the same “equal” rights and protections as currently enjoyed by every other person in this state!

With that in mind, let’s go forward and celebrate — Happy Tri-Lakes LGBTQI-plus Pride Month!

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(Kelly Metzgar is the executive director of the Adirondack North Country Gender Alliance.)

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