Why We Need Gay PRIDE Festival

I have it on pretty good authority that Michigan City is going to have its first gay PRIDE festival this summer. Why this summer? Why now and not years ago? Why do it at all? I mean can’t we just go to Chicago for PRIDE? The answer is simple, yes we can but why would we want to or better yet why should we have to?

PRIDE month means different things to different people, just ask the Michigan City PRIDE committee, a haphazard group of people thrown together to make the impossible possible. A group consisting of a reluctant drag queen, a PFLAG mom, a gay husband and father, a straight alley, a politically incorrect smart ass who thinks he can write and his husband the social worker with little patience for things like committees. I’m the politically incorrect smart ass if you were wondering. I can’t say what PRIDE means to the other committee members, I can hazard a guess, but I can only speak to what PRIDE means to me and why the time has come for Michigan City to let its freak flag fly.

For many years I made it a point to go to Chicago for PRIDE. It started with an ex-boyfriend in 2000 and his friend Jeremy who ironically is now my friend. Jeremy and I always had a sort of frenemies type relationship. We could both be back biting and borderline insulting to each other, at first out of general annoyance of each other but now it’s out of love. It was one of Jeremy’s back biting antics that got me on the Channel 9 news my first year of PRIDE after he had heard one of the last things my mom had said to me before we embarked on that particular adventure was “I better NOT see your ass on the news.” Jeremy saw the news crew interviewing bystanders and quickly called them over screaming “OVER HERE, OVER HERE, SHE WANTS TO BE ON THE NEWS!” That was the beginning of many years of fun and debauchery at the Chicago Gay PRIDE Parade. Over the years my life had changed, but the one constant was going to Chicago for PRIDE the last weekend of June.  Oh, and my mom was not pleased that I ended up on Channel 9.

The last Chicago PRIDE that we actually attended was June 24, 2012. Our best friend came home from Florida. That weekend in Chicago was perfect. We partied all weekend and watched the parade from the street in front of our hotel. It was as if the fates knew that this would be our last PRIDE in Chicago, our favorite band Scissor Sisters played at the Vic (it was to be their final tour) right there in Boystown after the parade. It was the perfect PRIDE at least for me and then I was done, there would never be another PRIDE weekend like that one.

For many years gay PRIDE weekend started out as an excuse for me to party. As the years went on it became so much more. Seeing gay soldiers march in uniform for the first time after Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was repealed or LGBT affirming synagogues and churches march along with PFLAG. Gay parents marching with their children or gay children and their supportive parents. That last year was the first year that I actually watched the parade from start to finish from the street, not on live on TV from inside a bar. I found out that the gay PRIDE Parade was more than just half naked GoGo dancers or dykes on bikes (not that there’s anything wrong with that). For the first time I was actually paying attention, PRIDE was about real people with real lives out celebrating their right to love and marry who they wanted.

Michigan City has always had a large LGBT community most likely dating back to 1861 when Harriet Colfax took over as the Michigan City lighthouse keeper. According to digthedunes.com, when Miss Colfax moved into the lighthouse her friend and longtime companion Ann C. Hartwell moved in with her. They lived there together for the rest of their lives. As I’ve reported before in an article I did a couple of years ago featuring local drag troupe Welcome to the Other Side, the Williams Institute ranks Michigan City fourth in Indiana for the highest percentage of same-sex couples. I like to tell people that I can’t swing a stick in this town without hitting a fellow homo. That being said Michigan City’s PRIDE celebration is long past due and with our town right on the lake and all the other amenities we have to offer we can definitely hold our own when it comes to throwing a party. For those people who are undoubtedly going to try to compare our PRIDE to Chicago’s and say things like “It’s not like it is in Chicago,” I’m going to tell you now that it’s not supposed to be. We’re taking this celebration and making it our own so thank you Chi Town for letting us come over and join you for your PRIDE celebration it’s been fun, but this year we got this.

And that my friends is my view from the other side of the lake. Happy PRIDE!

Michigan City PRIDE Fest is June 30th, 2018 from 1-9pm in the historic Uptown Arts District. 

 

Obama Grants Chelsea Manning Early Release.

photo by Mike Kemp/In Pictures via Getty Images

UPDATE: May 17, 2017

Convicted former U. S. Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning was released from federal prison today. Manning posted a Tweet commemorating her release.  Chelsea Manning @xychelsea  Manning said in a statement after her release, “I am looking forward to so much! Whatever is ahead of me is far more important than the past. I’m figuring things out right now – which is exciting, awkward, fun, and all new for me.” Manning remains on unpaid active duty with U. S. Army and will retain benefits such as healthcare.

January 18, 2017

As one of his last acts in office, President Barack Obama commuted the sentence of Chelsea Manning. The former Army intelligence analyst was found guilty in 2013 for violating The Espionage Act. Manning came out as transgender after she was sentenced to 35 years in prison without the possibility of parole. Manning had been serving her sentence in a men’s military prison in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, where she found it difficult to deal with the unique problems that comes with transitioning while incarcerated and has attempted suicide at least twice. After pressure from ACLU she was at least allowed to start hormone therapy and partly transition to life as a woman. A petition from Manning supporters that called for her release was sent to President Obama and had received over 100,000 signatures.

Manning, was convicted of leaking over 750,000 documents to Wikileaks which included diplomatic files from American embassies around the world along with other sensitive information. Included in the leaked files was a video of an American Helicopter attack in Baghdad, in which two journalists and other civilians were killed. Manning felt that if she were to release the documents it would open a “worldwide discussion, debates and reforms.” It was never proven that the information Manning leaked caused the death of any Americans or military personal.

The decision to grant Manning clemency has garnered President Obama both praise and scorn alike. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R) Called the decision “Outrageous,” and claimed that the President was setting a “dangerous precedent.” Glenn Greenwood, one of the journalists that Manning leaked documents too praised Obama and said via Twitter, “Beyond the whistle blowing, ponder Manning’s courage: she publicly announced her transition in a military prison.” Fellow whistleblower Edward Snowden tweeted to Manning,“stay strong just a while longer.”

Manning is scheduled to be released from prison on May 17, 2017.