ROCKVILLE — Councilmember Evan Glass kicked off LGBTQ Pride Month with a flag raising, alongside County Executive Marc Elrich, as June 10 began Montgomery County’s first month-long celebration of LGBTQ Pride.
Glass and Elrich raised a rainbow flag in the plaza of the County Council buildings. The flag will wave for the month of June between the Maryland state flag and American flag, which reside in the plaza permanently.
Glass is new to the council this year and is its first openly gay member.
“Members of the community, friends and allies have all been waiting years to see Pride events hosted right here in Montgomery County. Being part of the LGTBQ family is no longer reserved for gay folks who live in D.C. We have a vibrant LGTBQ community here at home, (and) these events reflect that demand,” Glass said when he announced the events.
The events include LGTBQ Family Day at Glen Echo Park and a MOCO Pride party, among other celebrations.
Glass’ kick-off event was meant to be held entirely outside, but rainy weather forced the speaking portion inside the council building.
“What was supposed to be a beautiful day is still a beautiful day, and the rain outside is just Mother Nature’s way of saying that she wants a rainbow outside,” Glass said in his opening remarks.
He noted that 2019 marks 50 years since the Stonewall Riots took place in New York City. The riots began in June 1969, when police officers entered the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village and arrested the bar’s employees and cleared the bar.
At the time, homosexual relations were considered illegal in New York City, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica. The Stonewall Riots are considered the catalyst that ignited the LGTBQ movement.
“Fifty years ago, there were few establishments that welcomed and served the LGTBQ community,” Glass said. “In fact, the FBI and the State Department, the Post Office and even some local and state governments tracked LGTBQ people and shut down establishments where they were serviced and where they congregated just for being gay.”
He explained that until the 1970s, the American Psychiatric Association considered homosexuality a mental disorder.
Events like this one, and the ones planned for later this month, are also important for transgender individuals, Glass said.
“It is especially true and important for members of our transgender community and the LGTBQ community that we have these holidays,” Glass said. “Since 2015, there have been 49 hate crimes reported here in Montgomery County involving sexual orientation or gender bias, and that frequency has only increased over the last four years.”
He noted that transgender individuals are even more likely to experience violence for who they are than the rest of the LGTBQ population.
“The issues that face the LGTBQ community are issues that affect our society, and that’s why it’s also important today to have the rainbow flag and the transgender flag up here today because representation matters in having honest conversations; learning from each other is how we create a truly inclusive community, and it’s how we positively change hearts and minds.”
Glass was joined by the rest of the council members in celebrating the kickoff to Pride Month.
Councilmember Craig Rice noted the importance of creating inclusion for children in schools and in our communities.
He explained that being welcoming and respectful of the LGTBQ community has taken on a new meaning for him as one of his young daughter’s best friends realized she would be more comfortable identifying as a boy.
“I’m so happy to welcome and open my home and ensure that she/now he feels welcomed and loved, and that nothing has changed. He (remains) one of my daughter’s best friends,” Rice said. “That’s what this is about, making sure that we don’t stand in the way of people’s happiness. That is truly about being an embracing and inclusive community.”
Councilmember Will Jawando also voiced his support of Pride events and what they represent.
“One thing we know: if we look around the country and around the world is that freedoms require vigilance. If we don’t continually renew and celebrate the great diversity of people and lifestyles in the county and in this state and in this world, things can be rolled back, and so that is one of the reasons this is so very important,” Jawando said. “It is because of all the work that’s happened over the last several decades, and we need to keep coming back to make sure that we renew and celebrate the diversity of our county.”
Sari Holt attended the kickoff event partially in her capacity as an LGTBQ staffer in Maryland Delegate Kirill Reznik’s (D-39) office in Annapolis, but also to see what LGTBQ representation looks like at a local level.
“With hate crimes still being pretty prevalent, sending the message that all levels of our government see this as an issue and value the members of our community and will not tolerate that at any level is really important,” she said.
Glass’ next Pride Month event is a drag performance at Denizen’s Brewing Company on June 19.