Erika Meland, Francessca Janet Rydock and Marisa Massaria celebrate transgender pride in Ferndale's Geary Park.

Transgender Pride in the Park Sets New Record for Attendance

BY DAVID RYALS

Transgender Pride in the Park on Aug. 12 was a "huge success" according to Rachel Crandall Crocker, executive director and co-founder of Transgender Michigan, who said over 500 people attended to embrace the transgender community and each other.

A mixture of high white clouds and sizzling sunshine greeted the crowds and around 20 vendors in Ferndale's Geary Park.

TGMI is celebrating 20 years as an organization and this year's event was "bittersweet" for Ferndale Mayor Dave Coulter who kicked off the festivities in the park, reminding attendees that the city is committed to a welcoming, inclusive and diverse community.

"A year ago when we gathered here, Barack Obama was our president. We weren't seeing the kind of actions from our federal government that we're seeing now. Make no mistake that the LGBT community, the trans community in particular, is under attack by this administration in Washington," said Coulter.

"It's a different day than it was a year ago, so I'm here to deliver a very simple message to you and that is this - I realize the times that we're living in, the danger we're facing...Even though those attacks feel hateful and personal - across this city, across this state and across this country, millions of people are in resistance mode to the attacks on the LGBT community and we have your backs."

Throughout the day, some visitors packed the open field and picnicked while others enjoyed lounging around the playgrounds. A designated cook was in charge of the grill cooking hot dogs and hamburgers for everyone. Many brought food and drink to share. Everyone conversed against the background music of the Trans Connection. The trio performed acoustic guitar melodies for listening enjoyment.

Zac, Kieran, Tj and Vanessa stand together and embrace who they are at Transgender Pride in the Park.

"My experience was nothing but positive," said Tj Dobbie. "I loved being around people who understood and supported myself and the community. Being somewhere I could discuss my transition and struggles and also have fun, free of being worried about hate, was liberating and helped me. It gave me inspiration and joy like nothing ever has before."

Liam Vella was in the park to promote his new transgender clothing brand, Support the T, which he created with the intention of helping other trans people. Vella said, "I saw too many trans people struggling to afford their transitions. GoFundMe links were popping up on Facebook every other day of another person needing help funding their surgery, and those were only the ones willing to ask for help. I know many people feel bad asking for donations when they have nothing to give back, but I also knew that many of them didn't have the resources or ability to create anything to give back, and I did."

Support the T has gained attention on social media with more than 3,000 followers. Vella and his design crew have helped 12 people fundraise for various surgeries so far.

"I wanted to be there to inspire others as well as be inspired. In today's climate, it's more important than ever to be visible and proud," said Marisa Massaria. "I believe being visible is key in helping educate and disprove the horrible stereotypes. No matter where we identify under the LGBTQ flag, it's important to always be the best version of ourselves no matter what adversity we face in our journey."

Liam Vella, creator of Support the T, at Transgender Pride in the Park. Photo courtesy of Exquisite Exposures

Connect with Transgender Michigan online at http://www.transgendermichigan.org.
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