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Just like most long-running events, Transgender Pride in the Park got its start as a small gathering, a picnic to be exact, in Lansing. That was 20 years ago, and though the event still features food today, it’s evolved into something more: a gathering spot for transgender people across the state, and even outside of it, to congregate safely. Attendees can also expect a variety of local transgender-affirming vendors providing everything from accepting health services to vacation getaways.
This year, Pride is no different and will be held on Saturday, Aug. 10, from noon to 6 p.m. at Martin Road Park in Ferndale. Looking back on her 20-year involvement with the festival, founder Rachel Crandall-Crocker said that she’s learned the value of a space like this one.
“I’ve learned that people really need a place where they can be themselves and that it’s all trans. And that people will come from all over for it. And that people come to this event that don’t come to any other event all year,” she said. “A lot of people don’t realize that this Transgender Pride is really the very first place that transgender people will come all dressed. And that’s one reason why it’s really special. A lot of people aren’t ready to go to an LGBT community center or a support group, however this attracts people because they can just come and watch if they want. And they don’t have to introduce themselves to anybody if they don’t want to.”
This event draws the involvement of hundreds of people each year, and Crandall-Crocker said part of the reason for this Pride’s popularity is that it doesn’t require a long-term commitment from its attendees unlike many other services for the transgender community.
“Walking into a community center or going to a support group is kind of like making a commitment,” she said. “I talked to people who said that they came to one years ago and they just watched from afar and that really helped them. [And] I talked to someone who said they were never planning on coming out of their house and they were never planning on letting anyone see them. However, they came and now they think they’re ready to go to a support group.”
It’s that kind of positive impact that Crandall-Crocker said makes her proud to host the event annually. And this year, she’s especially excited for the participation of the former owners of the Common Language Bookstore in Ann Arbor. Though the store itself doesn’t have a physical location any longer, Crandall-Crocker said that Martin Contreras and Keith Orr still describe themselves as “gentleman booksellers.”
“People who don’t have access to any books are going to be able to say, ‘Oh my God, I want that one and that one and that one and that one!’ They will realize, ‘Hey, there really are safe spaces. And if I could come out here, maybe I could try to do some clothes shopping at Meijer later on,'” she said with a laugh. “People think that it isn’t safe to come out of their homes and it really is. … And I hope that this will give people confidence.”
Martin Road Park is located at 1900 Orchard Ave. in Ferndale. Find out more about the event and Transgender Michigan online at transgendermichigan.org.