SAINT PAUL, Minn. — Thursday, several Metro organizations are coming together to throw the first ever Saint Paul Seniors Pride in the Park event. The event will take place June 16 from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Phalen Pavilion at 1600 Phalen Drive in Saint Paul.
Tezekiah Gabriel, a 74-year-old community activist who identifies as gender fluid and uses she/her as well as they/them pronouns, hopes the event will be an opportunity for LGBTQ people of all ages to feel included--not just young people.
“Being able to come together as seniors is a special kind of privilege,” Gabriel said. “I think that often seniors don’t feel included in one way, shape, or form in some of the other events. Maybe they’re not accessible, maybe the programming isn’t geared towards them, maybe there hasn’t been a special invitation that has targeted them.”
Gabriel grew up in Roseville and lived a “heterosexual lifestyle” from childhood all the way through her 18-year marriage.
“Most of my life in rural Minnesota was around not being out…being closeted,” Gabriel said. “In the culture at the time, it just wasn’t acceptable for me to be who I was. I just accepted a heterosexual lifestyle.”
She said it was during her work in the anti-violence movement in the 80’s that she came across powerful, professional, and out lesbian women.
“Then I realized that I didn’t really have a choice and that I needed to change my life to be able to be who I was,” Gabriel said. “At that point I left the marriage and went through the process of grieving my heterosexuality and moving to loving an honoring and accepting and being with women as my intimate partners.”
She said her children were very supportive.
“That wasn’t true for most,” she added. “In many ways, I had far more privilege.”
Now, Gabriel recognizes the strides the Gay Rights movement has made, including marriage. However she still knows things are far from equal. In 2020 and 2021, hate crimes against the transgender community increased.
“And so we need celebrations with Pride,” Gabriel said. “And we need, as seniors, the kind of celebration that is coming up. Because the isolation, the discrimination is increasing.”
Gabriel hopes everyone in the community -- not just seniors or those who identify as LGBTQ -- show up.
“The need for allies has never been more important. I’m really hoping and believing that as many people as would like, will join us,” she said. “If they do, I think what they’ll find on Thursday night is a joyful celebration, is love.”
According to the event page, organizers include East Side Elders, NE Seniors, and Como Park/Falcon Heights Living at Home Block Nurse Program.
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