Community thoughts on Pride

by Anya Jaremko-Greenwold

The Durango Pride Festival kicks off this week (running from June 22 to 26). We asked community members to share their thoughts and feelings about why Pride matters, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender visibility in Durango and how the tragedy in Orlando might resonate in our little mountain town.

“It’s important to remember where Pride came from, the Stonewall riots of 1969. Pride was birthed by overcoming fear. Pride has never been about celebrating despite tragedy and oppression, it’s about embracing love in the face of it. To anyone struggling with understanding, accepting and loving themselves, please see past the tragedy and fear. There is so much love and light. It is so much bigger than the hate. I promise. This is why being an out member of Durango’s community is imperative to me, especially as a high school teacher. There’s no place for fear in my life, and if I can inspire that in someone struggling with understanding who they are, I can’t imagine a greater gift to give.”

– Ben Mattson “Wouldn’t it be just as important as having a Veteran’s Day Parade, or something like that? It’s another group of people getting together and celebrating their lifestyle. I’ve lived here for 16 years, and I’ve never really done anything with these guys [Durango Pride], but I just moved back from Oklahoma and figured I should get involved in the community a little more. I think it’s changed quite a bit since I was a kid. People are nicer and accept it a lot more.”

– Brandon Caldwell “My brother lives in Tampa, and if he hadn’t had to work he would’ve been there that night (of the Orlando shooting) with his husband. It is so important that we just embrace each other with love, because we’re all unique but we’re all the same. I don’t care who people love. (Someone close to me) explained that she doesn’t fall in love with the outer person, she falls in love with the person underneath. And that actually made sense to me, as someone who had never understood bisexuality. I finally understood it.”

– Kylene Jones “From my point of view, Durango is not just tolerant. It’s accepting. Though I’m sure there’s another side of this town that I’ve never experienced. And it’s getting more hip, since there’s more young people moving here. This hits close to home; I know Orlando is really far away, but it could’ve happened here. A couple years ago there was homophobic graffiti in a bathroom on campus.”

– Stella Acquisto “I’ve lived in Durango since 1999. There are still people here that don’t quite understand what it is to live a life of not just homosexuality, but a life that is very difficult to live in general. As we have unfortunately just experienced, we have a long way to go as an entire society. The word “tolerance” is no longer something that should be said. We don’t TOLERATE people. This is America, we are Americans, no matter where we come from. Obama did take that first amazing step of attempting equality for all people. I’m very proud to live in this time, but we still have work. People are dying. It goes beyond guns and religion, into the heart of a society. People in Durango, we’ve taken amazing steps since I’ve been here. I feel we can do a little bit more. More events for not just our community, but for people to become aware and have information. Pride isn’t necessarily about the gay community. I think Pride is to be proud of being human toward one another. And that exchange is necessary. Tragedy should not happen to bring people together.”

– Victor Chalepah

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