By McKeeley Shannon

Pride: an event that is a full expression of the LGBTQI+ community. With flare, glitter, sky high heels, and love floating in the air. It is rare to feel such a palpable sense of solidarity in the air at an event where there is such a wide range of self-expression.

Yet, what brings all these people together is a deep awareness of where their community started. The modern LGBTQI+ community being one built upon the foundations laid by transgender people and young adults.

Standing on the sidewalk of Helena, MT with queens, kings, and people of all walks of life filling the streets with their full vividness was not a reality in 1969. The raid of Stonewall in 1969 became one of the most politically sparking moments in the LGBTQI+ community’s history. This six day raid was the literal spark that created the first pride held in New York in 1970, which stretched 51 blocks on its inaugural year.

Saying that Pride is a deeply political event is an understatement; it was started because of politics of the time limiting the expression and acknowledgement of LGBTQI+ people. This is why pride is a deeply moving event. Not only are LGBTQI+ people recognized, but fully celebrated as their fullest selves.

Pride in Helena was a full illustration of the LGBTQI+ community in Montana: veterans proudly wearing rainbow flags, queens dancing down the street, Chicks with Sticks setting the beat, and dogs proudly accompanying their humans.

This was a Montana event through and through. It was pulsing with a Montana heart. Just like Montana, it was a community event with such pride for the place we live, and the people who live here. There was a palpable sense in the air of commitment to maintaining this state we all live in.

People felt such a deep sense of devotion to each other, and to Montana. Some speakers at pride felt this devotion so deeply that they felt callings to run for public office.

Registering voters in this population proved to be a difficult task, and a deeply rewarding one. The LGBTQI+ community present at pride were advocates for their community, for Montana, and for all people. They didn’t need to be told twice voting was important; they have seen the impact it can have on the very people who started their community.

It gives a person great hope when you see others take ownership of their futures. It is hopeful to see young people have a sense of duty to our beautiful state of Montana. Seeing this great sense of responsibility, and drive to preserve this place we all live can’t help but make a person feel especially grateful to live where we do.

So, yes there was every color of the rainbow imaginable, on every person imaginable. It was beautiful. Yet, on a deeper level the most beautiful takeaway was that the LGBTQI+ community is here to create a pathway to the future. A pathway that is filled with spirit, duty, and conservation to our state.

McKeeley Shannon is a FMF volunteer based out of Bozeman.