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"Pride in Portland – rainbows for diversity"
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"Pride in Portland – rainbows for diversity"

David MasengeshoDifferent sexual and gender orientation is an open topic during Pride in North America, writes David Masengesho, 26, a Commonwealth Correspondent from Kigali in Rwanda currently residing in the USA.

Every year in June is a celebration of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer and allied community (LGBTQA).

LGBTQA pride parade, also known as gay pride parade, is an annual event that brings together the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and allied community for promoting and honouring diversity; inclusiveness and unity as well as to celebrate the achievements of LGBTQA movement; recall their history and uplift the awareness of the work that still needs to be done.  It is more common in the northern American and European countries and less common or never happens in African and Asia nations.

In Portland, Maine, the festivity came about on Saturday, June 21, 2014; the date marked the final of 10 days of “Pride Portland” events kicked off on June 13.

Before the parade, an interfaith pride service occurred at the First Parish Unitarian Universalist Church.  Under the sponsorship of the Religious Coalition Against Discrimination (RCAD), the service was observed by First Parish church Minister; Saint Luke’s Episcopal Cathedral Dean and priest; Saint Ansgar Lutheran church priest; RCAD Executive Director; the representative of Soka Gakkai International – A Buddhist Association for Peace, Culture and Education; Interfaith representative; Saint Nicholas Episcopal church pianist and organist; all from Portland or around in Maine.

In their preaching, they declared “For freedom, Christ has set us for free.  We are free to be free.  That freedom is available to all humanity if you want it.”  They proclaimed that people can and should be proud today, but also they worried about those who don’t have freedom to live their lives free.

For starting the march,  folks with rainbow flags; diverse notices and banners; in different costumes, crowded at Monument Square, and they aligned according to their organizations.  Women, men and children around streets, with lots of applause, accompanied the parade that was led by three Grand Marshals : The US congressman Mike Michaud, who is also running for the governor of Maine for this year’s November race; Sarah Holmes, Coordinator of the University of Southern Maine Center for Sexualities & Gender Diversity, Co-Chair of Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN)-Southern Maine and youth advisor for Portland Outright; and The Maines Family – transgender and student rights activists.  A music band praised the parade from the beginning to the closing stages in Deering Oak Park.

In the park, numerous LGBT-centered organizations exhibited their work to everyone around, and individuals could share their feelings as well.  In the booth of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) were Martha and Stephanie.  Martha is a mother of a  gay son in his 30s – “I am proud of my son being open and honest of whom he is, and the rest of the gay community.  I think it is an extended support to be here today,” she stated.

A lot of prejudice, misunderstanding, and health care exclusion are things which need to be addressed, as she argued.

A mother of a transgender, Stephanie pronounced “I am proud of my son who is a reason I am here as an activist.  He came out at the age of 16; he is my inspiration; he talks a lot to me; he is a source of unconditional love.”  She continued saying that while a child is a child, and other things don’t matter, there are a lot of [transgender] children whose parents cannot understand and cannot help them.

Susan occupied the booth of Trans Youth Equality Foundation.  She shared “I am proud of parents who came here to help transgender children. Whereas there are many LGBT working organizations, transgender is a medical and legal issue, so it is different.  Our group is like a focus to learn.  It is a pride that transgender children don’t have to suffer the whole life without help like the old days.  Otherwise we would have high suicide rate.  We are very luck that transgender can access health care, surgery and medicine.”

Elise is the Executive Director of EqualityMaine (EQME) – a non-profit organization working to secure full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Maine since 1984, and a fiscal sponsor of 2014 Pride Portland; she was in the stand of the organization.

She narrated “I am proud that we have a marriage [for same – sex couples] in Maine, and we will have a new governor [hopeful that the gubernatorial candidate Mike Michaud, who came out last year, will win the election] in November”.  She also recognized that there is still a lot of work left to do in making equality real.

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About me: I am originally from Rwanda, currently residing in the USA where I am an ESL instructor working with immigrants and youth at risk. I volunteer with different civil society organizations, mostly working on migration, equality and human rights. Prior to moving to the US I worked as a statistician. I have a degree in Applied Statistics and plan to work in research. My hobbies are travelling, networking, and exploring cultures.

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?

To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/commonwealthcorrespondents/

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