[edited June 6, 2022]
June is national Pride Month, honoring the 1969 Stonewall Uprising in Manhattan. The riots became a catalyst for the gay rights movement globally and in the United States — with its unique expression in East Texas celebrated through the second Tyler Pride March on the downtown square.
The Tyler Loop asked participants one question: Why are you marching today? A multitude of answers ensued, shining light on the social, personal and religious reasons people attended the event.
“This is my first pride parade, and I’m just really excited.” Breezy Bishop
“I am marching today, because my parents don’t see the light in the LBGTQ community. I need to show them we can be a healthy and friendly community, and there’s no need to be afraid.” Anonymous
“I am marching today because everyone deserves equal representation and equal treatment in our community.” Jeremy Flowers
“I am marching today to let people in our community know we care for you and there are people here who are going to stand by you no matter what.” Azalea Perez
“I am marching today to show a sense of pride in my being as a gay woman. I am just here to be and to live.” Brenda McWilliams
“I’m here because I am trans and I want to support trans people, especially trans youth who are here.” Cloud Burt
“I’m marching for myself and the people before me.” Rose Johnson
“I’m marching for love, happiness, pride and accepting my queerness.” Iris (an alias)
“I’m marching today because it’s important to show the youth there is nothing wrong with them — that they are normal, that their life is not any less valuable than anybody else’s.” Barry Carter of Lonestar Social Services
“We just moved here from Colorado. My daughter is non-binary, and we’re marching for her. Colorado is a lot more open in the area of the LBGTQ community, and we want Texas to be more accepting.” Angela McGregor
“I’m marching today, because I want this to be an area where people feel comfortable being themselves.” Savannah Mack
“I am marching today for my own rights and for visibility. And because it’s very important to me that people understand the difficulties the LBGTQ community experiences.” Brianna King
“I am marching today because love and human rights are real and important.” Allison Hennigan
“I’m marching today because it’s really important for all of us to be seen and be heard and be recognized, and for me that was something I grew up with, not really being validated.
“When I saw that mom over there giving out free hugs, I just ran to her. That wasn’t quite available to me growing up with my sexuality. It’s lovely to have this opportunity to be okay with being yourself and feel comfortable being around other people who are okay with you being you, too.” Kodi Carter
“I’m marching today because I support my daughter and all her choices.” Stephanie Martínez
“For me, it’s because I know so many people who are so scared to be themselves, because their parents don’t support them, or because they’re scared it’s wrong. I’m here to support them and just to be my genuine self.” Meghan Guzman
“The reason I’m marching today is because this is my community, and I love my community, and that’s what it’s all about. I use this as a political statement. There is so much pushback for what I do. I do it for love and for politics.” Eyza Lashay Savant
“I’m marching today, because I want to show my pride for Tyler and Tyler Area Gays and all the other LBGT organizations in Tyler. I want people to know that we’re here and we’re queer and we’re happy.” Jay Hilburn
“I am here to support the community I am a part of and my father is a part of — he’s trans. I want to protect everybody trying to have a good time; it’s something I’m good at.” Christopher Harris
“I’m here as part of my kids and everybody else’s kids. I’m here so that I can be a part of this town showing all of its colors.” Lara Eastburn
“I’m pansexual and believe everybody should be loved. Why should we judge anybody for who they decide to love? Everybody deserves love in their life.” Lindsey Burcham
“I want to support the youth in Tyler. I think there needs to be people who lead by example and give others hope and have visibility in Tyler.” Anonymous
“I’m happy and proud there is such an event in Tyler. It’s much needed, and it makes people on the outside feel comfortable and well-received. But it’s kind of upsetting that the authorities aren’t here to make sure things are in order and people are safe, providing a safe place for the march, blocking off main roads for the event.” Sofie
“I’m marching today for my rights as a trans man and a bisexual man.” Max “Finch” Cunningham
The march also drew detractors. A number of people from the religious community showed up to offer voices of protest. But the LBGTQ and ally community pressed forward with their celebration.
“I’m marching today because I like women, and because Marsha P. Johnson started Stonewall, and I love her so much.” Story
“I’m here because the gay community, the reason we have pride is because we have been oppressed for so long. It brings me a lot of joy, and it makes me so proud to be who I am. I know I am not alone; it’s not just me, I’m not just some weird freak.
“To be out like this, it’s a big win for me. Personally, all this time I thought everything I felt didn’t matter. It was drilled into my head that, ‘These things you’re feeling — they’re not real, they’re just sin.’
“All my life being told I was condemned to hell because of who I love didn’t really click right with me. For me, it’s about finding myself. It means a lot to me.” Apollos Reyes
“I’m marching today to show how proud I am of myself and my community after years and years of not being able to show who I am as a person and being degraded for not being what society wanted me to be. I’m here to support my friends, my newfound family, myself so we can show ourselves and be proud of ourselves.” Samuel Kaiser
“I am marching for myself and my friends to show I’m very supportive of everything they do, and I understand most of what they’re going through.
“When I was 18, I was kicked out of my house, because I was dating someone of the same gender who identified as trans. From that day forward, I never looked back.
“Being an outcast, it’s not fun. It’s nice to have a community where you can come around and give someone a hug.” Alicia Woodruff
“I march for equality, because everybody has their own way of living and shouldn’t be judged for it. It sucks that we live in a society where everybody judges you for being you. It’s good to be open minded.” Triandos Sherrard
Tyler-raised Honor Neal is in her second year of studies in biology and sociology at the University of Connecticut. Of her activities in Tyler, she is most proud of her work as a community organizer to promote social justice.
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