VOICES: For Pride, make allyship with the LGBTQ+ community a priority

My name is Michael Knote, and I am the volunteer executive director Have a Gay Day, Inc., a Dayton-based LGBTQ+ non-profit. Being part of the LGBTQ+ community has come with its challenges. I’ve been kicked out of church and walked to the door. I have couch-surfed, lived in my car, in a shelter, and in a boarding house. Being part of the LGBTQ+ community has also shown me how kind and resilient we can be.

Pride Month in the Miami Valley, at its core, is the LGBTQ+ community coming together to celebrate the resistance to discrimination and violence against us for simply existing. If you visit these events, you will find the occasional unicorn and the smiles of people surrounded by friends and family (some chosen). You will see drag queens and kings, rainbows, people holding hands, kissing in the streets, and even an occasional protestor against people living authentically.

Many towns will make proclamations and have rainbow flags fluttering in the wind. These things will be signs of promises that we should no longer have to be afraid to say we love, we live, or we exist. You will see a community of people of every background who live and strive to thrive here. We unify as a group of people that has fought to have these events and moments as ourselves. We are friends, families, neighbors, teachers, and caregivers — and we are also your community.

While there is celebration, you must know that the fight for our rights to exist is still prevalent today. Stonewall might have had its riots in 1969, and the parades may have started throughout the 1970s, but still, to this day, the work to live without being dismissed continues. We are still going to statehouses asking to not be criminalized for existing. You might have heard us speaking at schools, libraries, or board meetings recently, where people in the Miami Valley had the energy to get up and speak against other community members for four hours at a time. It’s a painful reminder that not every community is fully kind. If you ever see someone protesting pride, just remember they had a choice to be there. For people who oppose our existence, they are committed to showing up, just to tell us they don’t want us to exist.

The best way you can advocate for us is by understanding our humanity and resilience, and by educating yourself and those around you about what connects us instead of what divides us. We are a community that is diverse, beautiful, and complex. We’ve had a history long before we had safe representation. We are still looking for spaces that are safe and kind, and we hope that happens for all of us.

If you want to actively make a difference, below are some places to start:

  • Sit down with us for a cup of tea and listen to our stories
  • Advocate for inclusive policies that are mindful and intentional
  • Attend and support Pride events this month and throughout the year
  • Volunteer or collaborate with one of our local LGBTQ+ organizations, like Have A Gay Day (www.haveagayday.org/volunteer)
  • Invite LGBTQ+ organizations to the events you host in the community

Whatever you do this Pride season, make allyship with the LGBTQ+ community a priority, and remember: Be careful who you hate, it could be someone you love.

Michael Knote is the volunteer executive director Have a Gay Day, Inc.

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