Middletown Pride event’s goal is acceptance and support of equal rights

Hundreds gathered along Central Avenue for the Middletown Pride event Friday, June 25, 2021 in downtown Middletown. The event featured a self guided color crawl, rainbow bar crawl, music, vendors, drag show, and more.  NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

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Hundreds gathered along Central Avenue for the Middletown Pride event Friday, June 25, 2021 in downtown Middletown. The event featured a self guided color crawl, rainbow bar crawl, music, vendors, drag show, and more. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

A Middletown businesswoman who is married to a woman was asked how she will know if this week’s fourth annual Pride event is successful.

“If one person feels more at home than last year, we have done a good thing,” said Melissa Kutzera, owner of West Central Wine and Bandanas Italian Cafe in downtown Middletown. “(These are important) until every kid goes to bed not thinking they’d be better off dead.”

According to a recent survey from the Trevor Project, nearly half of LGBTQ youth (13 to 24 years old) seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year. The Trevor Project estimates that more than 1.8 million LGBTQ youth seriously consider suicide each year in the U.S. and at least one attempts suicide every 45 seconds.

The survey found rising rates of suicidal thoughts and significant disparities among trans youth and LGBTQ youth of color, said Amit Paley, CEO and executive director of the organization.

More than 60% of LGBTQ youth said their home wasn’t affirming, the survey found. Nearly 2 in 5 LGBTQ youth said they lived in a community that wasn’t accepting of LGBTQ people.

T. Duane Gordon, of Middletown, who married Matthew Dixon in New York 11 years ago, wasn’t surprised by the high suicidal rates. He said “attacks” in the media and the “angry talk” damages the LGBTQ youth during a vulnerable time in their lives.

“These attacks just add another layer to their troubles,” he said.

That’s why Pride events are so important, according Otto Bohn, organizer of the event and owner of Spoken Bicycles on Central Avenue.

“It’s about acceptance and we’re still discriminated against,” Bohn said. “We have to get to the point where we have equal rights for everybody.”

Kutzera, who married Diana Arnold and later adopted a bi-racial baby girl, said Pride events are an opportunity for the LGBTQ community to share with others.

“No reason to be afraid here,” she said with a laugh.

Bohn said June, which is Pride month, is an opportunity for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer or questioning (LGBTQ) community to raise awareness, acceptance and create a safe and welcoming environment for everyone, regardless of their sexual preference.

Middletown’s fourth annual Pride event will be 5-9 p.m. Friday in downtown.

He said some of the festivities will include vendors, disc jockey, drag show, a Pride bike ride and “family-friendly” activities that will feature glitter stations. The bike ride starts at 6 p.m. from Spoken Bicycles, 1201 Central Ave., and winds through downtown.

One of the highlights of the evening is the drag show from 7-9 p.m. at Governor’s Square, according to Bohn.

Bohn realizes, like in past years, there will be LGBTQ protestors with bullhorns and signs downtown.

“I try not to waste my energy with those people,” he said. “We are telling people just to ignore (the protesters).”

He said the Pride Patrol, those with rainbow-colored umbrellas, will in a “peaceful way” stand in front of the protesters.

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