DETROIT ARSENAL, Mich — It’s been 51 years since the first Pride parades were held in June 1970 in San Francisco, Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles. The events took place around the first anniversary of the Stonewall riots in New York in June 1969.
Since then, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender communities have made great strides in their struggle for equal rights and treatment making our society a little more diverse and a little more tolerant.
President Barack Obama once said, “When all Americans are treated as equal, no matter who they are or whom they love, we are all more free.”
With diversity, inclusion, equality, and freedom in mind, U.S. Army Tank-automotive and Armaments Command and the Detroit Arsenal hosted a virtual LGBT Pride Month observance on June 22.
The guest speaker for this year’s virtual observance was Phil Gilchrist, Executive Director of the Anton Art Center in Mount Clemens, Michigan and Chair of Macomb County Pride.
Gilchrist shared his coming out journey and how his parents instilled the values of acceptance in him at an early age and the awkwardness about finding out who you are in high school.
“In the late 90’s and early 2000’s being gay was still not widely accepted,” Gilchrist said. “I had not determined my sexuality then, but it soon became apparent where my interests were.”
At the age of 28, Gilchrist finally came out to his family and friends. This was made easier for him, because a few years prior to his coming out, his father and uncle had already declared they were also gay.
“I laugh about it now, because it seemed that everyone already knew and were just waiting on me to say those words,” he said.
Although Gilchrist’s coming out went well, he says that many LGBT individuals don’t have the support from family and friends to feel comfortable declaring who they are.
Over the past couple of years, Gilchrist has been working with other LGBT+ members in the Macomb Country region to institute a Pride Festival and other events to give the community a safe place to be together.
Marion Whicker, Executive Director for TACOM’s Integrated Logistics Support Center, hosted the event and indicated that although the nation has made great strides in LGBT acceptance there’s still a long way to go.
“Conversation’s, like this, will help bring [LGBT acceptance] to the forefront,” said Whicker. “We can help by beginning and welcoming the conversation.”
To find out more about Macomb Country Pride events, go to www.macombcountypride.com
The theme for Pride this year, “Pride in All Who Serve” comes during a year when Transgender servicemembers are gaining the right to serve as laid out in Army Directive 2021-22: “Army Service by Transgender Persons and Persons With Gender Dysphoria” setting another milestone in the gay pride movement.