Thirty-three years ago I moved to Bemidji in my little blue truck with a rainbow flag and a “practice random kindness and senseless acts of beauty” bumper sticker.

I was told almost immediately it would be best if I took both bumper stickers off so that my truck wouldn’t be targeted as too liberal or gay. I chose to leave them on and never had any problems but got the message that I shouldn’t be too “out” in conservative Bemidji.

So I tried to stay under the radar. As time went on I settled into Bemidji and felt very much at home here. I felt I could be myself with my small group of friends and my welcoming faith community (Headwaters Unitarian Universalist Fellowship).

A lot has happened over the last 33 years that has affected the LGBTQ community. Twenty-three years ago I met my wife here in Bemidji. Trying to court her back then was not always easy. We would go for long walks at the state park where we were mostly alone.

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We held hands as long as we could until we’d see someone else coming down the path and drop them until we were around the bend and could hold hands again.

Fast forward past the right to adopt our now teenage boys and in 2015 the right to marry and be recognized as the family that we are, to Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021, and a full-blown Bemidji Pride Festival!

My heart was full as I watched many teenagers walking around holding hands and proudly wearing pride flag capes. My favorite quote of the day came from a 6-year-old who showed his name tag and proudly said “these are my pronouns!”

It was emotional for many of us to be in such a public space surrounded by vendors and organizations, music, personal stories and kids’ activities. Families, individuals, friends and couples all there to joyfully celebrate identities and love in its many forms. A very heartfelt thank you to the Bemidji Pride committee and all the volunteers that made it happen.

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