Guest columnist Mariel Addis: A Pride Month commentary

  • Athena Stylos of Northampton waves a Pride flag along Main Street in Northampton, May 7, in commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the LGBTQ Pride March through the city. FOR THE GAZETTE/Sabato Visconti/FILE PHOTO

Published: 6/22/2022 9:21:51 AM
Modified: 6/22/2022 9:19:28 AM

America feels pretty yucky right now, and I don’t like saying that as I try my best to keep a positive attitude.

Here we are two years out and still battling COVID-19, there’s massive inflation and sky-high (for the U.S. anyway) gas prices. It has been about a year and a half since Trump left office, and we are still dealing with his interference in our country’s politics. And the internet, which we love for its ability to connect us with our friends, help us shop, and deliver us streaming movies, is also a conduit for massive amounts of hate speech and criminal activity.

We’ve known there are hate groups in this country for a long time, but Trump gave them the so-called “legitimacy” they had always lacked. Now, they feel empowered to disrupt the lives and activities of wide swaths of the population without a second thought. These folks are not patriots as they claim, they are terrorists, plain and simple.

I always feel blessed to live here in the Northeast, an area of great tolerance, generally cool heads, and generally progressive politicians and social organizations. As a transgender woman, this is particularly important to me, although at times I do run into some mild issues with less open-minded or socially-educated elements of the population. I write this, as I know there are parts of the country I would not want to be caught dead in, because, well, that might just be how I’d end up.

June is, of course, Pride Month, a happy but sometimes bittersweet time of the year for the LGBTQ+ community. This year saw neighboring Springfield hold their very first Pride Parade. There was also a wonderful one in Greenfield as well. I was not able to go to either, but did my own, very personal, Pride-themed activities with friends and members of my church.

Since 2016, I marched three different years in the Northampton Pride Parade, a wonderful event that sadly didn’t occur this year — I am hopeful it will return next year. Marching in that parade was a remarkable experience, and the feeling of love and support I got from participating is hard to describe. That said, I am now very wary of participating in these sort of activities, or if I do, I plan to take some special precautions. Why you might ask? I am frankly concerned that hate groups will do their best to disrupt them, likely not caring much if participants are injured or worse.

Now, I am a proud person and refuse to get shoved back into the closet, but I am a practical person who is highly concerned with her personal safety. It pains me to even have to write a piece like this in the United States, a country that prides itself on free speech and free expression, but these days we just can’t be too careful.

While I flatly refuse to play into the hands of these hate groups, they have absolutely no problem going out looking for trouble. They spare little personal expense when it comes to utilizing their own funds and time to spread hate, willing to drive long distances to pick fights with, injure, or sometimes even kill, people they don’t like. This just happened last month in a supermarket in Buffalo and a hate group from multiple states, that had packed themselves in a U-Haul van, were just arrested as they were getting ready to start a riot at a Pride event in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. Some of those involved had driven from as far away as Virginia to take part. While we watch the hearings of the January 6 Committee, viewing videos of a riot that Donald Trump clearly inspired, we are still dealing with all fringe hate groups whose activities he rubber-stamped through his vitriol.

I am hopeful that tips from good-hearted people and excellent investigative work by law enforcement will crack some of these groups, and that laws can be written to regulate, hopefully end, the dangerous hate language in our media. Lies and hatred should not be an element of American Free Speech, and it should not be protected.

Mariel Addis is a native of Florence. She left the area for 16 years but returned in 2013 and loves being back in the Valley.


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