Both the Waters and the Aldrich families made it out to Pride this year. BTL Photo: Eve Kucharski

Michigan Pride: An Outpouring of Love

BY EVE KUCHARSKI

Though there wasn't an actual rainbow in Lansing's ominous, cloud-filled skies last Saturday, Michigan Pride had many of its own. Not least of which from Ashton Chapin, who sported a rainbow flag cape, and all manner of colorful clothing as he attended pride last weekend among the 3,000 or so people who came out to participate in the festival.

"I haven't gone to the Pride festival before and I thought it would be really cool to go," Chapin said.

Chapin, who recently came out as gay, said the positive feelings extended even beyond the limits of Old Town, the parade and Capitol steps.

"I've gotten a lot of support from my school, from my friends and family - it's pretty great," Chapin said.

"The overall vibe was very positive and many festival-goers commented they were happy the festival returned to Old Town and that it returned to the month of June," said Leigha Faith, Michigan Pride public relations director.

According to Kathryn Aldrich, a pride-goer who attended with her family, Michigan Pride is an important part of expanding acceptance.

"This is my first Pride that I've ever attended, but I've been involved in the community kind of on the outskirts for a very long time because I've pretty much known I was bi since I was a kid. But coming out to my family wasn't a thing that could happen," Aldrich said. "I think that Pride is a really important thing for people who maybe didn't have that support growing up, because it allows you to expand your community and expand your chosen family and by providing a lot of other people for you to connect with."

And that familial support wasn't a rare thing. Ada Gilbert attended with her family as well.

"I came out here because I'm a huge supporter and also I'm pansexual, and then all my family was coming too," Gilbert said. "I wanted to come out here and support everybody and hear the speeches that everybody had."

Though the cheers after each speakers' words gave the crowd's emotion away, 14-year-old

transgender rights activist Shane Shananaquet still felt anxious before his speech.

"I said to my mom that sitting in the chair and watching everyone else go was a lot easier and then once I got to the podium it was overwhelming and then it overcame me," Shananaquet said. "But once I felt all the love and all the support, then I knew I was in the right place and I knew I was doing the right thing and it was so miraculous and marvelous. It was just wonderful to feel all that."

The event also won the support of many allies as well.

"I have a number of friends who are in the community and so being out and supporting, showing that it doesn't matter who people are, what they're like, just go and enjoy one another and don't worry about it," said Mark Waters.

Even the young ones, like Tori Aldrich, who said, "I went here mostly because my mom went here but another part is because I believe that we should all care for each other no matter who we like or whatever we do unless it's a bad thing."

"We would like to say thank you to the community for supporting Michigan Pride," said Faith. "We are an all-volunteer organization and we appreciate the people who take the time to help us make Pride happen."

This year, more than 75 volunteers helped to keep the festival running smoothly, according to Faith. While a date has not yet been set for a 2018 Michigan Pride event, she said there will be an ongoing discussion to plan for next year's festival. The organization would like to have an area dedicated for children's activities, more vendors and exhibitors. Additionally, an American Sign Language interpreter will be invited to increase accessibility for all in attendance.

Faith said, "More volunteers are always needed and we encourage the community to sign up to volunteer and be a part of the change they would like to see."

Follow Michigan Pride online at http://www.michiganpride.org, on Twitter @MIPride or on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/MichiganPride/.
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