Thursday, October 21, 2021

Platts hosts annual pride event

Aleksandra Sidorova

The Adirondack North Country Gender Alliance (ANCGA) hosted its sixth annual LGBTQI+ Pride event Saturday, Oct. 2 at Trinity Park. The event featured live music, tents set up by the event sponsors, raffles and a drag show.

The event opened with a performance by local band, Magnificent Desolation. It was followed by speeches from Kelly Metzgar, co-founder of ANCGA and host of the event, SUNY Plattsburgh Senior Kathleen Watt, Plattsburgh City Mayor Christopher Rosenquest and New York State employees Owen Gilbo and Ron Zacchi. 

The speeches addressed the cancellation of the highly anticipated Pride March from the Kehoe parking lot, on the SUNY Plattsburgh campus, to Trinity Park. City Council and ANCGA were unable to reach a favorable agreement on the use of the city streets, despite both mayoral candidates pledging to ensure ANCGA could host the march, a year prior. 

“Next year, we will continue to support [the work ANGCA does],” Rosenquest said in his speech. “But I also want to remind you that as much as we can celebrate, Pride is protest.”

Some visitors were unhappy with this response.

“Give us the streets!” a protester called out.

Metzgar also addressed the backlash the City Council and Rosenquest faced for the decision.

“What happened was unfortunate — yes, it was,” Metzgar said in a speech. “We have to do some things a little better next year — yes, we do, — but I fully support [the Mayor] and the work he did on our behalf.”

The issue was addressed in-depth in a post made on ANCGA’s Facebook page Oct. 1, the day before the event. In the post, ANCGA wrote that it would have cost the organization $4,000 paid to City Council to close the city roads and have eight police officers supervise the route. Because the organization had no such funding available, it made the decision to cancel the march, and instead limit the event to its traditional festival portion.

“ANCGA will not go back to using the sidewalks,” the post read. “This is an absolute embarrassment for the City of Plattsburgh & ANCGA!”

Other speakers, like Gilbo, shared their stories of coming out, struggle and acceptance.

“I’m 57 now, and I’m proud of that, because I didn’t think I would get to be 57, and I certainly didn’t think that I’d be a man at 57 with a really cool goatee,” Gilbo said in his speech. “I think it’s important for us to be visible though, because all the trans boys out there need to know we’re here, and you can get to be old, too.”

In her speech, Watt shared the story of her 14-year-old brother Kyle, who, a year ago, still wore bikinis to the beach. She emphasized the importance of respecting gender identities and supporting LGBTQIA+ youth. 

“It’s not our job to fully understand, because some may never will, but we have to respect it,” she said. “It’s not our job to fully understand, because some may never will, but we have to respect it,” she said. “And I will do everything in my power to make my brother feel as happy and comfortable in this life as I can. So no, mom, this is not a phase, this is who they are.”

The sponsor tents provided guests with freebies like pins with pride flags and pronouns, stress toys, lip balm and first-aid kits, as well as resources for education, health and emotional support services. Some event sponsors were Planned Parenthood, Clinton County Mental Health & Addictions and the health insurance company CDPHP. The booth set up by the Plattsburgh branch of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) — the UU Fellowship of Plattsburgh — invited guests to participate in a craft by coloring a wooden heart with symbolism of their choice.

“[The Unitarian Universalists] are a community of people who have different spiritual beliefs that come together to support each other and bring in more love into the world,” Reverend Nicoline Guerrier said. “The thing that connects us is that we believe that we were meant to bring love into action, express acceptance of one another, and that all people, together, are one community.”

The UUA has been expressing support for same-sex marriage as early as the 1970s.

“We have been advocating for gender justice for a long time, so that’s why we’re here at Pride,” Guerrier said.

Pride means different things to different people. A guest named Rain, who came from Milton, Vermont, said, “I go to pretty much every Pride event that’s close enough for me to go to, because there are only so many.”

They have attended five Pride events in the past year.

“It’s a place where I can express myself and look however I want, and it’s just normal here. I can meet people like me,” they said.

Metzgar arranged the first ever Pride event in Plattsburgh in 2015, together with a friend, in only six weeks. The original event consisted of eight to 10 organizations tabling, and the list expanded every year since. Over the years, the event has grown to include a more diverse list of sponsors, music, raffles and even a drag show.

“Every year, we try to do something a little different, make it a little better, one way or another, and I think we’ve done that,” Metzgar said. “It’s grown with the planning. It’s grown with the complications, and certainly COVID threw a lot of issues in there too.”

ANCGA was able to host a Pride event last year, despite the pandemic. The solution was a “rolling pride,” where participants drove vehicles decorated with LGBT pride symbolism along the city streets in celebration. Outside of their vehicles, they were encouraged to maintain a distance of 10 feet from each other and wear masks.

This year, while the state’s regulations allowed for a stationary festival to be held, participants were highly encouraged to wear masks as a safety precaution. And most of the guests — over 200 in total, as Metzgar estimated — followed that rule.

She revealed that next year, the ANCGA plans to host the Pride event in the Tri-Lakes area, however, Plattsburgh continues to be the area that is most accessible to guests, many of whom are high school and college students. This is part of the choice to host the event in October. The month of October is also celebrated as LGBT History Month. 

Another reason for hosting Pride in October, highlighted by Gilbo, is protest and visibility.

  “Many believe that Pride takes place every year in June, but we know that Pride is 24/7/365,” Gilbo said.

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