Friday, September 29, 2023

'It's what we fight for': thousands gather in Lansing to celebrate Pride

June 18, 2023
<p>Vendor booths and festival goers at Lansing Pride on June 17, 2023.</p>

Vendor booths and festival goers at Lansing Pride on June 17, 2023.

Photo by Henry Szymecko | The State News

On June 17, thousands of Michiganders flocked to Lansing to attend this year’s Pride celebration in Old Town.

One of those people, Howell resident Mat Brown, drove over 30 miles to attend the event. This was the first time Brown had ever attended a Pride event, and though they were surprised by the event’s size, they said they instantly felt safe

“Honestly, it's just a gathering of a lot of acceptance and love throughout,” Brown said. “Just walking here, you can feel it. It's like a wall, you just walk through it, and it feels safe. It's the acceptance that really drives people to want to come. It's very heartwarming.”

This feeling of welcoming is why Justice C decided to attend Lansing Pride. According to Justice, having the space to celebrate each person’s identity is what makes Pride so important to the LGBTQ+ community

“I think it's important for queer and trans people to feel celebrated and to have a space to feel welcome,” Justice said. “More often than not, a lot of spaces are not safe and welcoming for us … It's important just to have a safe space and to know that we are loved and celebrated.” 


Throngs at the Lansing Pride Festival on June 17, 2023.

Like Brown and Justice, many members of the LGBTQ+ community enjoy pride because of the freedom to express themselves without judgment.

Lansing resident Jaden Jones said this freedom drew them to the event. Jones said they had never felt a more welcoming atmosphere than the one at Pride

Jones added that they did not have many queer people in their life, so Pride gave them the opportunity to be around others who understood their experiences

Their favorite aspect of Pride, Jones said, was seeing everyone express themselves through their clothing, such as drag and rainbow-themed outfits. Jones wore an outfit with rainbows that they had purchased for last year’s Pride. However, they said they were too scared to go last year and didn’t get the chance to wear it. Now, Jones said finally attending their first Pride felt “amazing.” 

“I think my favorite part has to be just seeing everybody dressed up and seeing everybody wearing their pride outfits, just seeing the different ways they express their pride,” Jones said. “Everybody here is being who they are, and I love it … It honestly feels like a breath of fresh air.”


A scene from the Lansing Pride festival in Old Town on June 17, 2023.

Though this was the first Pride for some, 67-year-old Chuck Valentine has been to many Pride events throughout his lifetime. Valentine traveled from Detroit to attend Lansing Pride, which he said he especially liked because of all the informational and educational booths

Valentine said he’s seen Pride change throughout his lifetime, and this year was no exception. With the recent proliferation of anti-trans legislation and drag bans across the country, this year’s Pride held an additional significance, Valentine said.

“It's our roots,” Valentine said. “It's what we fight for … I'm 67 and I remember ‘Act Up’ and fighting for these rights, and now they're trying to take them away … (Pride shows) what we need, what we want and what we deserve.” 

Brown said certain aspects of Pride addressed the issues many LGBTQ+ people face. For example, they said the information booths could help educate people who are misinformed about the community. Other booths had safety equipment for protection. Most of all, Brown said, Pride itself was a way to push back against legislation and rhetoric that they said dehumanizes the community.   

“Us gathering together, showing that we have a collective voice to announce that we are here (and) we are valid, it's good,” Brown said. “Because then we can push back against the hate of ‘it's not a real thing.’ (By) doing this, we can show them it is. It really matters.” 


Pride flags adorn the rail at the Lansing Pride Festival on June 17, 2023.

Additionally, Justice said seeing thousands of people at Pride was a reminder to everyone, including themselves, that the LGBTQ+ community was a strong and supportive group

“You can't silence and suppress queer and trans people,” Justice said. “We're always going to be here. We have always been here. Having events like this is kind of a middle finger to people who are trying to make these laws and suppress us … we get to come together ... feed off of each other's energy and remind each other there's always gonna be someone that has your back.” 


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