Group seeks show of community unity for first Pride March in Pointes

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published June 7, 2017

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GROSSE POINTES — Seven years ago, the local Christian group Point of Relevance touched off a firestorm when it hosted a presentation at The War Memorial by conservative activist Linda Harvey, who argued that homosexuality is a lifestyle choice.

When she got up to speak on March 25, 2010, she found herself facing a crowd that included more protesters from the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community — along with straight supporters — than people who believed in what Harvey had to say.

Welcoming Everyone Grosse Pointe — better known as We GP — is putting together the first Pride March in the Pointes in conjunction with National Pride Day. Starting at 10 a.m. June 11, participants will gather in the Grosse Pointe South High School “J” parking lot on Fisher Road for a walk along Kercheval Avenue to Maire Elementary School in Grosse Pointe City. A brief rally is slated to conclude the event at 11 a.m. in the Maire parking lot.

Organizers say the family-friendly event is an effort to draw awareness and show support of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning and ally — or LGBTQA — community in the Grosse Pointe area.

“We’re a community-based organization, and we’re focusing on working in our own community to (make it) a place where everyone feels welcome and supported, so it fits perfectly with our mission,” said Shannon Byrne, of Grosse Pointe Farms, acting president of We GP. “We have a real focus with the Pride March on the LGBTQA youth. They’re more susceptible to bullying and suicide. We want to show them we have tons of unity and solidarity here in Grosse Pointe.”

Andrea Joy, of Grosse Pointe Farms, the LGBTQA Task Force leader for We GP, said that all three local high schools — Grosse Pointe North, Grosse Pointe South and University Liggett — have gay-straight alliances.

“A lot of what this march is about is giving a voice to students,” she said. “Take an hour and show the kids that you’re behind them, that you support them.”

Byrne said a student at South who’s involved in the school’s Gay-Straight Alliance is slated to be one of the four youth representatives on the We GP board; the first elections for We GP’s board are slated to take place in a few weeks.

Joy said studies show that nearly 50 percent of LGBT youths don’t feel accepted by their communities, and they’re twice as likely as their straight peers to be physically attacked at school. That violence and rhetoric doesn’t end as youths grow into adults, as hate crimes like the 2016 mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Florida show, she noted.

Sexual orientation — or perceived sexual orientation — is the second-most common issue that children get teased about, Joy said.

“I’d like to see people talking to their children, at an early age with age-appropriate language, about gay people,” she said. “Love is love. … Sometimes men love men. Sometimes women love women.”

We GP is relatively new, having been founded circa late 2016/early 2017. The group’s first activity was a peace march in January that drew about 1,200 participants, Joy said. She said they don’t know how many will attend the Pride March, but there’s been widespread community interest. At press time, more than 300 had said on the We GP Facebook page that they’d be attending.

“Grosse Pointe is much more welcoming than many people may realize,” Byrne said.

Joy agreed.

“It shows Grosse Pointe as a welcoming community, that we can break the stigma of being exclusive, of not being friendly to people who aren’t Christian (or) straight,” she said of the march. “I hope that people will feel accepted.”

At press time, more than a dozen businesses in and around the Pointes had signed on as sponsors. And the supply of tree ribbons in the Pride movement’s iconic rainbow print — which were being distributed for free at select businesses — had run out as of June 5, according to a We GP spokesperson. Byrne said the local public safety departments “have been fabulous,” and she thanked the businesses as well for their support.

Joy said the Grosse Pointe event was scheduled early in the day so that participants could also show their support for equality at Motor City Pride in downtown Detroit, if they choose. That event starts at noon, and she said that some of the Grosse Pointe marchers will be carpooling there afterward.

In a press release issued the evening of June 4, the League of Women Voters of Grosse Pointe announced that it would be joining WE GP for the Pride March “to show (the League’s) support for this important cause.”

A spokesperson for the LOWVGP could not be reached before press time for additional comment.

“We are encouraging all members of our community, and the surrounding communities, who support the LGBTQ community to show their support and march in solidarity,” Byrne said. “Everybody who supports equal rights is encouraged and welcome, and we hope they will join us. … We are expecting just a joyful day.”

For more information, visit the We GP Facebook page or send email to contact.we.gp@gmail.com. At press time, a website — www.we-gp.com — was in the works as well.