Hello OTL Family and Happy Pride! As part of our Pride celebration, we at Off The Lane want to uplift, celebrate and share the journeys of those in our own community. So what does Pride mean? One of our Mentors, Leah Nicole Raymond says “the word itself means to me loving who you are and living in a way that expresses that to others.”
As much as it is a celebration, one that floods the streets with people decked out in every color of the rainbow, Pride Month is especially a tribute to the fight for LGBTQIA+ rights. During the month of June, we celebrate the LGBTQIA+ community and honor those who have fought and continue to fight for their rights. We commemorate the Stonewall Inn Riots of June 1969 that occurred after police invaded a gay night club. Black, trans women Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera were two of the key activists involved and are honored every Pride Month!
When speaking with James Stevko, another Mentor for Off The Lane, he reiterates the importance of knowing the history and reason behind the celebration.
The history of Pride stands as a reminder of how important community is to LGBTQIA+ individuals. From role models to support systems and organizations, the LGBTQIA+ community continues to come together during challenging times and lift each other up. Tristan Raines, an OTL Mentor and School Partnerships Committee Member says, “As members of this community, we are constantly fighting to not be put into “roles” and boxes, so I think its so important to look to a group of people, closer to home and living near to your experiences for inspiration of how you yourself can be a member of this community and continue on your journey.” Tristan and James share more of their thoughts regarding community below:
Broadway Bares is a fundraising event that raises money to help those who receive support from Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, an organization that “men, women and children across the country and across the street receive lifesaving medications, health care, nutritious meals, counseling and emergency financial assistance.” To learn more about Broadway Bares click HERE AND to support James in his fourth year of Stevko Strips, head to his personal donation page, where he’s currently in 8th place!
The arts and entertainment industry is all about storytelling, especially the theatre world. From music and memoirs to films and TV shows, it is extremely beneficial to tell truthful stories about the LGBTQA+ experience and create characters that members of the community can see themselves in. Below, folks from the OTL community share the stories that resonated with them.
When asking Leah about an experience where she felt her identity was accepted most by her community, she said “through high school to the beginning of college, I had a girlfriend and we were only out to a few other queer people we knew. I still wasn’t entirely sure how I identified. But the summer before starting college a few friends were visiting another friend who was doing summer classes and one night as we were climbing the stairs of her dorm coming back from a party. I just got inspired and said “____ is my girlfriend”. They all said we know, and kept climbing. It was the most accepting and loving response I’ve gotten from coming out to someone. It was just what it was, which was what I needed.”
MP5 Mentee Spencer Lawton is a transgender man that identifies as queer. “My queerness has always been a visible part of my identity, and my transition has taught me how to embrace that as a virtue,” he says. Spencer is a theatre major at Saint Louis University and is into acting, directing, producing and dramaturgy. During the pandemic, he helped found Critique Theatre Company in St. Louis and made his debut at the St. Louis Fringe Festival! “Theatre was the first place that welcomed me as a queer individual,” he said.
When asking what advice would you give to someone about living their truth/their journey, Tristan said, “The biggest thing is the journey is yours and yours alone. There is always pressure to “Be” something specific and those things are usually modeled after individuals that are not living the same experiences as you. Take the time to get to know yourself, your community, your journey and do not be afraid to take a new path. If you discover something, explore it. Also, find someone to confide in. You don’t have to come out to the world until you are ready, but having at least one person to talk to WILL be important. We aren’t meant to keep ourselves bottled up. Even a small drip of ones self to another will turn into a flow and a much needed relief when you are ready.”
A huge thanks to our community for sharing their stories and journeys with us this month. We are honored to know you all! We hope you’ve had a wonderful Pride Month, and we look forward to continue supporting everyone in our community in all of their future endeavors.