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Michigan LGBTQ+ Non-Profit Leaders on What Pride Means to Them

By Jason A. Michael | June 1, 2023

It’s the most wonderful time of year. No, wait, that’s Christmas. Well, Pride is still pretty special — it’s basically the high holy day of the queer calendar. More than just a gathering, it’s a family reunion, a chance to connect with the rest of Metro Detroit’s LGBTQ+ community and simply be out — fully out — in public. 

In this charged political climate where the queer community is used as bait to get hateful people out to the polls and distract them from real issues, it’s important to connect with one’s tribe and feel the energy that courses through the community when it stands as one.

Our trans community has been taking some of the hardest hits. Our poor, precious beloved drag queens, too. 

While we may be relatively safe here with an LGBTQ-friendly state government, Pride offers a chance to stand in solidarity with our community throughout the country and, indeed, the world. It’s a chance to stand up and be counted. A chance to be seen. A chance to simply be.

But don’t take our word for it. Pride Source spoke to five executive directors of some of our community’s largest and most respected non-profits. Here’s what Pride means to them in their own words.

Angela Gabridge, Executive Director of MiGen

Angela Gabridge. Courtesy photo

1. Recognition. Marching with our community elders in Pride parades the last couple of years is incredibly moving as younger spectators and participants come up to hug and high five our folks and thank them for all they did to get us to where we are today.

2. Vibrancy. Pride season is all about our LGBTQ+ older adults having a chance to live out loud in ways many of them did not get to experience in their youth.

3. Authenticity. Nobody has to hide any part of who they are at Pride. It’s an invaluable experience every time and recharges our batteries for another year pushing forward.

4. Remembering. So many of our 45-plus community members suffered great losses through the HIV/AIDS epidemic, of loved ones who passed before marriage equality, of community members lost at disparately high rates to COVID-19 or to violence. Pride is a chance to come together in community and to remember.

5. Resilience. Every year, we gather and the community refuses to recess to the shadows ever again. Despite attacks, political and otherwise, happening to our communities across the country, the LGBTQ+ community refuses to be cowed. They can keep up their hateful silly business, that’s fine, we’ll be right here with our rainbows and drag queens and a whole heap of love and belonging. Bring it.

Antonio Dave Garcia, Executive Director, Affirmations

Antonio Dave Garcia. Courtesy photo

1. The coolest part of Pride, and especially when we are seeing so many anti-LGBTQ+ pieces of legislation being introduced and passed across the country, is simply being together in such large numbers. It is a show of force and community to all the haters. 

2. I love seeing all the kids and families all around! One of my favorite moments of Ferndale Pride is the kickoff and all the confetti being shot off of Affirmation’s roof. The looks on the little kids’ faces as they dance around in the falling confetti is awesome! 

3. Pride is also important so that our elected representatives can partake and be seen side by side with the community. Last year Gov. Whitmer [attended], and I asked her how she’s holding up. She told me how happy she was to be at Ferndale Pride and surrounded by so many people who love and support her. 

4. Truthfully, Pride season is exhausting! It is, by far, the busiest time of the year for me and my team here at Affirmations. It’s great that so many businesses and orgs reach out to us to come be a part of a panel or presentation for Pride Month. It really is important. 

5. I’ve marched in many Prides from L.A. to Detroit. I’ve spoken at many, and I’ve had my fair share of cold beers and glitter. Still, at every single Pride I’ve ever been to there is always a moment where I find myself looking around at the thousands and thousands of people and thinking about Stonewall and how far we have come. ‘I’ve marched in many Prides from L.A. to Detroit. I’ve spoken at many, and I’ve had my fair share of cold beers and glitter. Still, at every single Pride I’ve ever been to there is always a moment where I find myself looking around at the thousands and thousands of people and thinking about Stonewall and how far we have come. 

Erin Knott, Executive Director, Equality Michigan (EQMI)

Erin Knott. Courtesy photo

1. Togetherness in safe, positive spaces.

2. Seeing people being their authentic selves without fear. Equipping people with the tools to be authentic and proud of who they are by distributing EQMI stickers, resources, etc. that help us spread the message.

3. A reminder that supportive systems do exist — in a world where LGBTQ+ people are increasingly under attack and demonized, it’s a time where you can see community members celebrated and supported, not just by organizations and corporations, but also the people around them. 

4. Connecting with new people who are passionate about our mission and giving them the opportunity to take action on issues that matter to them in a meaningful way.

5. Witnessing teenagers and young adults walk into a Pride festival for the first time and just seeing the glow on their faces. Like they weren’t sure it was possible to be in a space that was designed with them in mind. You can almost tell who is at their first Pride. And it’s a good refresher that we are working to build an entire state where people feel that sense of inclusion and belonging. Not just at one specific location, on one specific weekend of the year, but ALL THE TIME!

Mark Erwin, Executive Director, Ruth Ellis Center

Mark Erwin. Courtesy photo

1. The power and resiliency of our community, even in the face of adversity. With nearly 500 anti-LGBTQ+ bills introduced across the U.S. this year alone, Pride Month reminds us that our collective voices and diverse lived experiences are our greatest assets. When we stand up for ourselves and each other, anything is possible.

2. A time to celebrate the pioneers of our community, the elders that exist in our spaces, and the far too many young lives lost due to transphobia, homophobia, racism and suicide. Let their memories drive our purpose, our values and our vision for a world where all LGBTQ+ people are safe and supported no matter where they live, who they love or how they choose to live their truth.

3. Pride season represents self-discovery and visibility. A time to be uninhibited, free to explore the intersections of what makes you, you. It is a time to explore potential, and the parts of you that you’ve been made to hide from yourself and the world around you. As Ruth Ellis once said, “Let everyone know. Speak up and express yourself.”

4. time to celebrate. We don’t often take the time to acknowledge our achievements before moving on to the next fight. Celebrate all that you have overcome. Celebrate your friends, family and colleagues. No matter how trivial it may seem, every milestone matters.

5. Giving back. LGBTQ+ young people, especially LGBTQ+ youth of color, continue to be disproportionately affected by homelessness, overly represented in the child welfare system, and systematically denied access to the resources they deserve. Let’s change that together.  

Roz Keith-Gould, Executive Director, Stand with Trans

Roz Keith. Courtesy photo

1. Pride is joyful — as in filled with joy. Seeing Pride flags waving and young people expressing themselves in unique ways with ear-to-ear grins brings such immense happiness to me as a community leader and as a mom to a trans man.

2. I love the excitement when a trans youth is selecting the appropriate pronoun button from the basket on our table at Pride. The glee and giddiness is palpable.

3. One of the best experiences for me is when young people stop by our booth to say hi year after year. To witness their growth is a privilege.

4. Pride season is one more way we can be there for the community. Families, allies and trans/non-binary youth need to be celebrated all year long, and Pride is like the icing on the cake.

5. Being able to interact with individuals who are meeting another nonbinary person for the first time, parents who are trying to educate themselves on their child’s experiences, people who see their neopronouns on one of our pins for the first time — these are priceless moments of joyful connection, and they’re a core part of what Pride season is all about. — Logan Harding, Stand with Trans research librarian

A. Nzere Kwabena, Executive Director, LGBT Detroit

A. Nzere Kwabena. Courtesy photo

1. Celebratory gatherings held in late spring and early summer.

2. Liberation, freedoms, self acceptance, exploration and bourgeoning gayness.

3. Safe, brave spaces to organize and connect.

4, Honoring our past, acknowledging our present, and preparing for a better future.

5. Tacky rainbow colored gear and merchandise during marches and at festivals.

Read the original article at Pridesource.

Jason A. Michael is a senior staff writer for Between The Lines and Pride Source Media Group. He has been writing BTL since 1999. Jason is also an Essence bestselling author. He may be reached at