LANSING – Tari Muniz remembers when LBGT folks would get tickets for jaywalking across Michigan Avenue in Lansing. All they were doing was crossing the street, as any pedestrian would today, to get to one of two bars for the community – Trammpp’s Disco and Joe Covello’s. That was in the early ’80s, when Muniz first came out.
Muniz, now 50, said a lot has changed since then.
“I think some of the biggest achievements are that we are still here,” she said. “The fact that younger queers feel more comfortable being who they are and being here. We have someone in city hall to again support human rights. It’s so important.”
Muniz says she identified as straight and a feminist until she was 25. That is when she realized she was head over heels in love with her best friend. While that relationship did not last very long, her coming out has proved a lifelong move.
She’s been active in numerous social justice issues, from working to pass the Equal Rights Amendment and working for Michigan Protection and Advocacy Services with HIV-positive individuals, to working with the Lansing Area AIDS Network and with Michigan Equality not only as a board member but also as a transition executive director.
In addition, she has worked on second-parent adoption, something very close to her heart. She has a 19-year-old son who was adopted in another county – in what she calls “the underground” – by a partner.
“I have always been out there campaigning and in the background against mean-spirited proposals,” Muniz said. “I identify as Chicana and as a person of color. I am always bringing up LBGT issues and making sure nondiscrimination work includes sexual orientation, and not just race.”
For Muniz, Pride Month is an important time.
“I think I’ve always been proud of who I am, at least in terms of my lesbian identity. This month in particular, where we get to be who we are, is very empowering and always has been,” she said. “I have missed very few Prides. It matters; it matters (that) we focus our collective energy on being ourselves and having some fun. Because some of the stuff we have to do is not all that fun when fighting the mean people.”
And while she acknowledges there are “mean” people out there fighting against LBGT rights, she sees hope.
“I think that Lansing in particular – and Michigan – is getting better all the time. There are so many ways to be gay now and so many different groups that blend in and out of each other. That is really positive.”