Voices of Pride 2015

Paul Whyte

A Welcome from Dan Hanger


Hey there, Pride-goers!
Can you feel the Duluth-Superior Pride flowing in the air?!
Just look around you.  Duluth, especially, is a city that’s bursting with new economic development, growing diversity and a fascinating culture of acceptance that is rare for comparable cities of this size.
The Twin Ports is definitely not so-called Minneapolis gay – just yet – but it’s fantastically becoming a solid extension of the gay community there – thanks in part to the thousands of you who visit on Pride Weekend and throughout the year.
It was last year at this time when I wrote a big article in this publication about my coming out story and being the first openly gay main news anchor of a TV station in the Northland.  The response was encouraging. And to this day, I still get random people – gay and straight – who come up to me saying thank-you for being transparent and true to myself.
 My point: This weekend does still matter – even with the freedom to get married.

Dan's article from last year can be found at http://duluthreader.com/articles/2015/09/03/5885_boy_girl_twin_ports_has_come_a_long_way-1
So, cheers to you – from gay to straight!   This weekend is about you, your friends and new friends!
Happy Pride!
Dan Hanger
FOX 21 News Anchor




Alec Schroeder
Actor in Duluth's Hedwig and the Angry Inch

I’ve had a love affair with the character Hedwig since a very early age. Growing up in a conservative small town and coming out of the closet as an early adolescent, there’s the inevitable loneliness and heartbreak you experience that leaves you so vulnerable to depression and suicide.  Seeing John Cameron Mitchell`s performance of Hedwig on T.V. was like a light bulb going off. It wasn’t a bad thing to be a freak.

Hedwig and I have shared all of the asshole men who say they love you but don’t mean it. We’ve been used and hurt for being different, feminine, ostracized by the very community we feel we belong to. We’ve wandered lost just trying to find a place in the world for a freak. But in the end we will survive. Here I am now, successful and happy.

She helped me. My only goal was to spread that same story of acceptance and bravery to someone who needed it. I hope that some young person can see the show and have it inspire them as it did for me, and let them know they are not alone. That is what a struggling LGBT kid needs to hear.

It was a brave director, Robert Lee, who saw potential and took a chance on some chubby untrained singer to give her justice. I am so proud and humbled by this opportunity, it’s breath taking that Hedwig and The Angry Inch spoke to so many people. I will forever be grateful.

Venus DeMars

In the summer of 1970 I finished
fifth grade and my best friend
finished sixth.
We lived on each side of an alley.
Far east Duluth.
Where houses melted to trees.
We spent every summer together.
Two boys wild.
Hiked the trails across the street.
Climbed the cliff behind the
school. Found that broken
cardboard box full of magazines.
Playboys and Blueboys left soggy
in a heap down the gorge
by Lester River.
We discovered that huge structure
lost deep in the forest.
A structure lost a mile past the
old haunted house.
A structure whose ribs loomed
immense all cement-slab and
All weed-busted through.
Like the skeletal remains of a
red-rust giant or the decay of an
 ancient spaceship.
We slept nights in the tree-
A city built by neighborhood kids.
Built on the wooded lot between
our homes.
I remember we slept in the
best one.
The strongest one.
The one we’d built and re-built.
The one we’d designed and
I remember awakening and
peeking through gaps.
Past the poplar-logged floor.
Saw the noisy, foraging skunks
rustle leaves underneath.
I remember sleepy grumbles.
And I remember the words.
Spray-paint scrawled black.
Over every log surface.
Every found-board-planked wall.
Words that weaved between
scrawls of our own two names.
The hand of someone familiar.
A confidant.
A scrawl that caused my best friend
forever to silently turn and walk
towards home.
As I asked what to do.
Scrawls that confused me until
my older sister explained them
as words of hate.
And a world of fear.
Enough to pull down the
tree-house city.
Enough to crack our
unbreakable bond.
Enough to stain.
Enough to change.
Both of us forever.

Allyson Rolph
Brewmaster at Thirsty Pagan

Reader: So Allyson, I notice you are woman. And you are a brewer without a beard.

AR: Interesting, yes. And yes, without a beard.

Reader: I know that you also have a partner and she’s a woman.

AR: It’s true.

Reader: How long have you been living in this area?

AR: A little over 13 years.

Reader: How many of those years would have considered yourself to be a lesbian?

AR: All of them.

Reader: At what time in your life did it occur to you that you were a lesbian?

AR: I started dating women when I was about 20. So, awhile now.

Reader: Was there something in the back of your head before then? Can you somehow describe that?

AR: Oh, absolutely. I think that a lot of people who identify as non-heterosexual, a good way to put it, I think a lot people find,  and as was with me, you find some attractiveness but you’re concerned with social stigma. You’re trying to fit in with your peer group. A lot of people come out in their teens or early 20s.

Reader: This would be the 90s.

AR: The 90s at least were a little easier. Especially on college campuses, my experience was amazingly well supported. Not only the LGBT community had a really strong voice, the women’s community had a really strong voice. It was a much easier time than perhaps when prior generations were coming out. It wasn’t that bad.
Reader: That’s actually okay. Do you feel the Duluth community is an accepting area?

AR: I think that it can be. The Twin Ports area is pretty open, but I would also say that it’s a large enough community where you can find your group, no matter what group you are. You can find people who aren’t accepting or find those who are very accepting.

Reader: So you can find those who follow the Bible for all the wrong reasons or love people?

AR: That’s definitely true. We also run into a lot of issues with a community this size. Whether it’s race or economic disparities and I think that you can always find that group that you can identify with. At least I’ve been able to do that.

Reader: I’ve done interviews before where it has been mentioned that areas away from here can be less accepting. Down south or even other countries might not be so hip as here.

AR: When I’ve traveled recently, it’s been in the Pacific Northwest, being out there for work. Very active brewing communities also seem to be very accepting towards the LGBT community. Places like Portland, Southern California, the Twin Cities metro area, those places have a concentration of breweries.

Reader: So you’re saying that with more breweries, the more accepting an area is?

AR: I’d say that’s pretty fair. *laughs*

Reader: What led to you to who you are today?    

Jerome Aimery
Performance Artist/Musician

Reader: What led to you to who you are today?

JA: A relationship with The Unseen, listening to my own voice as it wasn’t exactly nurtured here. When I was a teen, there was a program here called “Together For Youth.” That was a great outreach program that I loved to be a part of - I saw that I wasn’t alone, which at the time is what I really needed. Who I am today may not be who I am tomorrow but, I look at how I can serve and uplift as a good way to help and heal

Reader: Were there challenges in becoming that person?

JA: Yes. When I came out to my parents, it was not met well. I’ve moved on very much from that time in my life, so there is not much to say on it besides it was what it was, but it was not easy. I remember being one of the people organizing a Diversity Club at East High School in 2002, and there was daily harassment. I am beyond my sexuality and this society so I feel great now about everything that I happened to go through back then and today. It’s a learning process.

Reader: How has the Twin Ports community accepted that person?   

JA: In regards to any of the following topics: gender binary, self-expression, taking a chance on new things - my honest experience with this region is that it seems to be closed off on these topics. I’m optimistic and positive in general, but as of this writing with my life experiences and comparisons living elsewhere, I have returned to where I grew up and definitely feel it. I have mixed feelings. “We like you as long as you don’t stand out too much, because if you stand out too much from the pre-ordained normalcy, that tells us that you are just searching for attention, and we live in the land of Minnesota Nice,” which is actually code for New Yorkers are nicer in many ways.

Reader: What would you tell yourself 15 to 20 years ago?    

JA: I would say thank you for all the things you’re about to do, the chances you will take, going through the pain that you have yet to experience. Do everything exactly as it comes - everyone has a story, and living in one place is certainly not the same as living in another. I would tell that young person not to fear planting yourself where you will grow, and to keep learning as much as possible about ancient history, the earth. Relate with the unseen and dreams. Never stop making music.


Paul Whyte

A South Shore native and University of Wisconsin-Superior journalism graduate. Lifelong musician, and former open mic host. Passionate about the music scene and politics.

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