GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — June marked the 50th anniversary of Pride Month, a time that celebrates and supports the LGBT community.
Though COVID-19 concerns canceled many Pride events, that didn’t stop one West Michigan man from still sharing his message.
If you take a walk down Paris Avenue in Grand Rapids, you may notice a trend: Pride flags flying in front of a number of homes.
“I think that over time we’ve seen a lot of progress, but it’s important that we kind of all just stand our ground and get a little bit more comfortable with each other,” said Tom Ryan-Stout, a nearly decade-long resident of Paris Avenue.
It’s a movement taking on a different form.
“‘Pride on Paris’ was kind of started out of quarantine,” Ryan-Stout said.
When most Pride events were canceled due to the coronavirus, Ryan-Stout thought it was still important to show solidarity for the LGBT community.
He bought 130 Pride flags to give to his neighbors between Cherry and Franklin, hoping to make a statement. It’s safe to say he did just that.
“To have, you know, all of my neighbors who I’ve come to love so much over the years just kind of stand with me and stand with the community has been a really beautiful thing,” Ryan-Stout said.
“I think it’s especially important for White, Anglo-Saxon, straight, married, middle-class people to stand up and be counted as being part of the solution and not part of the problem,” said Kim Lucas, a 30-year resident of Paris Avenue. “Being gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, whatever, is not a choice. This is how people are and I would much rather be embracing of their differences.”
Lucas says she hopes people who drive down their street learn a lesson and see that this is a neighborhood that embraces love and not hate.
“I think that this is very important to let the next generation that’s coming up to know that there’s nothing wrong with being who they are,” Lucas said.
Ryan-Stout also encourages people to use the hashtag #PrideOnParis on social media and donate to organizations that support the LGBT community and people of color, such as Black Lives Matter and the Black Trans Advocacy Coalition.